Isaiah was called to a difficult task. He was the prophet for the people of Judah when they lived in apostasy and, for the most part, followed the leadership of wicked rulers. It was a time of oppression of the poor, increased idolatry, and transgression of moral laws as the kingdoms of Judah and Israel faced the advancing armies of hostile neighbors.
Isaiah’s counsel to the people was to repent, believe in the coming Messiah, and “trust ye in the Lord for ever: for in the Lord Jehovah is everlasting strength” (Isaiah 26:4). When the people listened, they prospered. But Isaiah watched in sorrow as the covenant house of Israel ultimately rejected divine counsel. Moved by inspiration, Isaiah prophesied of the destruction and scattering of Israel and lived to see the captivity of the ten tribes of Israel and the approaching end of Judah’s power and prosperity.
But in his great prophetic calling, Isaiah also saw us, the covenant people of the latter days. He received comfort in knowing that not only would the kingdom of God again be established on the earth but that Saints in the latter days would seek and live worthy of the blessings promised to the house of Israel. “Yet now hear, … Israel, whom I have chosen: … I will pour my spirit upon thy seed, and my blessing upon thine offspring” (Isaiah 44:1, 3).
The words of Isaiah are preserved specifically for us. They are referred to throughout the scriptures. The Book of Mormon prophet Jacob reminds us: “There are many things which have been spoken by Isaiah which may be likened unto you, because ye are of the house of Israel” (2 Nephi 6:5). How do the teachings of Isaiah apply to us? How can we liken his words to each of us individually?
Just as Isaiah and the people of his day lived on a political and moral battlefield, we do too. When Isaiah entreated his hearers to trust in the Lord, he was also talking to us. How do we seek the direction, strength, and protection of the Lord and then recognize and acknowledge His hand in our lives?
Great blessings become available to us as we make and keep covenants. Specifically, when we are baptized and confirmed, we are given the gift of the Holy Ghost. As we keep our covenants and renew them every week when we take the sacrament, we are promised that we may “always have his Spirit to be with” us (Moroni 4:3; D&C 20:77). The promises of the Lord are sure. We will recognize His guiding hand in our lives as we live worthy to receive the promptings of His Spirit and then as we act upon those promptings.
In addition to the scriptures and guidance of living prophets, I have found at least three ways that the Lord can give direction to our lives:
We can receive answers to specific prayers.
The Lord will often influence our thoughts, words, and actions even when we have not sought specific direction.
When we face adversity and think we have been abandoned by the Lord, He will bless us with the strength to learn the important lessons of life.
It is a privilege and a blessing to seek the guidance of the Lord as we come to Him in prayer. We seek His will for us in the diverse circumstances of our lives: when we are deciding whom to marry and when; what education or career to pursue or where to live; when we are seeking to know how to serve in a calling, how to help in family matters, or how to assist a neighbor or a child; and when we need to know what lessons we should learn from adversity.
Most of the time my prayers on matters such as this are answered specifically. At other times I am left to make a decision with my own best judgment. Sometimes the Lord has a different timetable in mind for me, but I gratefully acknowledge His hand in my life as He answers my prayers.
I have also discovered that the Lord is generous and will often guide us in matters for which we have not sought direction. Some time ago one of our children had run for an elected office at the junior high school she attended. It was the day of the election, and I was home, busy with the routine of the day. Suddenly, it came clearly to my mind that our daughter had lost the election and I needed to go early to the school to pick her up. I watched the clock, and when I knew it was time for the election results to be announced, I arrived at the school. As I walked through the front door, all the youth who had participated in the election were seated in the front hall. They were listening to the results before they were announced to the other students. Our daughter was grateful for an early ride home in order to collect her thoughts, emotions, and priorities before meeting her friends the next day. I am grateful that the Lord, who created the universe, will also guide a mother to comfort the heart of a child.
I have felt the promptings of the Spirit at other times when I have not sought specific direction. It has been there to warn me. It has helped me when I didn’t know what to say or do in my efforts to “mourn with those that mourn … and comfort those that stand in need of comfort” (Mosiah 18:9). It has confirmed the truths taught in a lesson or a talk and has directed my response when my children have had questions or doubts or when they felt desires to follow the world. I have discovered that often the necessary words to say or actions to take “shall be given you in the very hour” (D&C 100:6).
As we each face adversity, there may be times when we wonder if the Lord is mindful of us. Isaiah teaches us to trust the Lord even then:
“And though the Lord give you the bread of adversity, and the water of affliction, yet shall not thy teachers be removed into a corner any more, but thine eyes shall see thy teachers:
“And thine ears shall hear a word behind thee, saying, This is the way, walk ye in it” (Isaiah 30:20–21).
Adversity often makes us more receptive to the promptings of the Spirit. And we “shall return even to the Lord, and he shall be intreated of [us] and shall heal [us]” (Isaiah 19:22). When we trust in the Lord during adversity, we open the door to His strengthening and healing power.
I know that as we liken the teachings of Isaiah to our own lives, we will rejoice in his counsel to “trust ye in the Lord for ever.” As we make and keep covenants and as we follow the promptings of His Spirit, the hand of the Lord will guide our lives and we can be sure of promised blessings.
“He will swallow up death in victory; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from off all faces. …
“And it shall be said in that day, Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, and he will save us: this is the Lord; we have waited for him, we will be glad and rejoice in his salvation” (Isaiah 25:8–9).