Does My Life Have a Purpose?
I had often asked myself whether my life had a purpose, but now this question was very serious to me. Although I was only 22, my legs had suddenly become extremely weak. “Perhaps they have just grown tired from dancing in the local discos,” I thought. “Maybe they have gone on strike.”
I went to a doctor, who thought I had a muscle disease and immediately sent me to a clinic. Thus began a period of going from clinic to clinic throughout my native Germany. I underwent many tests, but none of them showed any problem. Still I was in severe pain and had no strength. It was almost unbearable. Because the tests were all negative, everyone thought I must be pretending. I felt alone and could find no purpose in life, although I longed for one.
About this time I was sent to a clinic in Koblenz, Germany. When I arrived I met a young woman about my age who seemed different from the other patients. She seemed to have a positive attitude about her life, even though she was seriously ill. I saw her in the hall one Sunday. She was wearing a Sunday dress, and I asked her why she was so dressed up. She answered, “I was at church.”
I had not had any interest in religion for a long time. Although I had been raised in a Protestant faith, I felt religion was a lot of empty talk. I knew there was a God, but I didn’t think much of organized religion here on earth.
“Church?” I said, swallowing hard. Then I asked her which church she belonged to.
“The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,” she answered. I blanched. “What was that? A strange sect?” I wondered. I asked her many questions about her church. Even though she had been through a great deal, she did not doubt. She prayed to and trusted in her Heavenly Father. That fascinated and frightened me at the same time.
My new friend gave me a Book of Mormon, and I began reading it. The missionaries in Koblenz soon taught me the first discussion. Then because of an illness I contracted, I was transferred to a different clinic. My friend visited me often. I had the Book of Mormon with me, and I continued to read. I had learned a great deal about life, and for the first time I had found a true friend.
On a leave from the clinic, I visited my friend and her family in Solingen. They were the dearest people I had ever met, and on Sunday I attended church with them. When I returned to the clinic, I could not stop thinking about the Church. I had known there was something true about the Book of Mormon, but now everything became much clearer. One thought was on my mind: “Should I join the Church?”
When I was finally released from the clinic, I returned to my home in Fulda. Then I received another invitation to visit my new friends in Solingen and was welcomed even more heartily than before. I learned more about the gospel and decided to be baptized. When I returned home I found the missionaries in my area, and they taught me the remaining discussions in Fulda. I had finally found my purpose in life, and I was baptized.
I thank my Heavenly Father with all my heart for helping me find His gospel and Church. My legs are back to normal now. The doctors never found out what caused the pain, but if I had not become sick, I would still be searching for purpose in my life. What a loving Father! He doesn’t give up on anyone.
I used to wonder what I was supposed to learn from my illness. Now I know.
With Fasting and Prayer
When my son Elard Manuel was baptized in 1990, he had a job in a grocery store where working Sundays and holidays was mandatory. The economic situation in Peru is quite difficult. There are few jobs, and many people are out of work. It seemed virtually impossible for my son to change his employment.
“I’m going to pay my tithing,” he said. “I have faith in the Lord, and somehow I’m going to get a job with Sundays off.”
When my son married a young woman who belonged to another religion, our family hoped that someday she would become a Latter-day Saint. To my surprise, as I was getting ready for church one Sunday, she said to me, “I will go to your church with you.”
The missionaries started teaching her the discussions, and in 1997 she was baptized. On 10 September 1998 my son and his wife, Katya, were sealed in the temple for time and all eternity, and on 12 October 1998 their beautiful baby boy was born.
During these years my son continued to try to find a job that wouldn’t require him to work on Sunday. Our whole family prayed and fasted and asked the Lord to help him find a new job so that he could hold a Church calling.
Finally my son decided to work for one more month and then quit his job—whether he had a new one or not. We were quite worried because people everywhere were losing their jobs. But my son said, “I have faith in the Lord, and I know He is going to help me find a job with Sundays off.”
The grocery store he worked for has a huge warehouse where all the merchandise is brought before being distributed to the stores. It is quite far away, but the employees there have Sundays off. To our joy and surprise, my son was able to transfer to that warehouse. Our Heavenly Father had heard our prayers. And my son did receive a Church calling—as a counselor in the bishopric.
When we asked the Lord with faithful hearts and with fasting and prayer, He answered us with blessings.
It was a beautiful day for a walk in California’s San Bernardino Mountains. Our seven children found walking sticks, and my husband, Mark, took the lead. We stopped to marvel at a spider meticulously spinning its web. We looked at the tall pine trees, stretching their branches to heaven. It seemed the birds were singing just for us.
At last we reached the perfect spot for a testimony meeting. We all sat on some old tree stumps forming a circle. Mark started by expressing his love for me and our children and by bearing his testimony of the truthfulness of the gospel and the blessings of our temple marriage.
After I bore my testimony, each of the children, starting with the oldest, expressed love for us and for each other.
Finally it was time to hear from four-year-old Lynette, who had sat patiently for almost an hour with her thumb in her mouth. I asked, “Lynette, what are you thankful for?”
She looked up at me with her clear blue eyes and confidently answered, “I’m thankful for Jesus, because He loves me.”
We were all taken aback. For an hour we had expressed our love and appreciation for all we had, but we had failed to acknowledge that it is through the love and sacrifice of our Savior that we receive our blessings. Little Lynette, with the directness and innocence of a child, had cut through to the core of our beliefs.
Later I thought of the Savior gathering the little children about Him and saying, “Behold your little ones” (3 Ne. 17:23). How well our little one taught us that day!
Linked by Suffering
For many years, my mother has courageously struggled with health problems, the most difficult of which are recurring migraine headaches. While her pain has occasioned beautiful priesthood blessings and has increased our family unity, it has also required much faith, patience, and long-suffering while we have waited for the promised healing.
My perspective on my mother’s health struggles broadened after I returned from serving a mission to Panama. At that time my 17-year-old brother was also battling intense migraine headaches that left him debilitated.
Late one night I heard him crying out in pain. I approached his darkened doorway, only to pull back as I heard my mother’s soft voice from within his room. She spoke to him reassuringly, trying to soothe his cries of fear and pain. Standing outside the door, I heard his voice tense with a suffering incomprehensible to me. “Mom,” he asked, “am I going to die?”
I slowly backed away, his question tearing at my heart. But then I heard my mother, who knew exactly what he was experiencing, crying with him and telling him he would be all right.
That moment touched me, but its greater significance struck me some years later when I was preparing a lesson about the Atonement. Reflecting on the Savior’s vicarious suffering, I recalled my mother’s compassionate ministrations. My mother was better able to comfort my brother because she had felt what he was feeling; she understood his suffering. Linked to him by the pain they both had felt, she stayed ever near as he passed through his trial.
Likewise, our beloved Savior has descended below all things to an absolute understanding of our trials (see D&C 122:8). Not only has He suffered for our sins, but He also took upon Himself “the pains and the sicknesses of his people” (Alma 7:11). Through His perfect Atonement, He knows every sickness, every affliction, and every trial we pass through. And to what end? “That his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities” (Alma 7:12).
Observing my mother and learning of the Atonement taught me a valuable principle: sorrow and pain can teach us to nurture others in compassion and love. My mother’s example of compassion that night inspired in me a greater appreciation for the suffering our Savior went through. And in my own trials, I feel the unfailing presence of His Spirit comforting me “according to [my] infirmities”—just as my mother comforted my brother.