At times it can feel as though the windows of heaven are shut as we await the fulfillment of a righteous desire. Some struggle and wait for career opportunities to open up or to find a compatible, temple-worthy spouse. Others wait for a wayward child or another family member to return to the gospel. In the case of my wife, JulieAnn, and me, we are waiting for Heavenly Father to bless our family with children.
This has been a long and sore trial for us. Everywhere we go, we are reminded of what we are missing. When I drive through the neighborhood and see a father flying a kite with his daughter or playing catch with his son, I wonder if that dad realizes how blessed he is.
Without doubt, Sundays are among the most difficult days for my wife and me. We live in a ward teeming with young families. In sacrament meeting, we smile and wave at the children surrounding us. Many well-meaning brothers and sisters ask when we plan on having children of our own. I want to tell them that we cannot put into words how much we long to have our own children sitting next to us. I wish I could tell them that year after year, we have pleaded, begged, and petitioned our Heavenly Father for this blessing. Instead I smile politely and respond, “Hopefully soon.”
When we are striving to live a righteous life and are still deprived of the blessings we desire, it is difficult not to ask why? The example of the Book of Mormon prophet Nephi has helped me to more fully trust in the Lord. When Nephi was hunting in the wilderness to feed his family, his bow broke. He was pursuing a righteous goal of providing for his family. He had been obedient to the Lord’s commands and counsel up to that point. How could the Lord allow something like this to happen? But Nephi didn’t blame the Lord or become bitter. (Imagine the long-lasting consequences if he had!) Instead, Nephi dusted himself off, fashioned another bow, and asked his father to inquire of the Lord where he should go to hunt for food. (See 1 Nephi 16:18–32.) He was blessed to think of other options to solve the problem and obtain food.
Latter-day prophets have also shown how adversity can stimulate growth. Elder Richard G. Scott of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles has said: “May I share some suggestions with you who face . . . the testing that a wise Heavenly Father determines is needed even when you are living a worthy, righteous life and are obedient to his commandments[?] . . .
“When those trials are not consequences of your disobedience, they are evidence that the Lord feels you are prepared to grow more (see Proverbs 3:11–12). He therefore gives you experiences that stimulate growth, understanding, and compassion which polish you for your everlasting benefit. To get you from where you are to where He wants you to be requires a lot of stretching, and that generally entails discomfort and pain.”1
Another question that comes to mind in facing difficulty is How long? Joseph Smith asked this question while suffering in Liberty Jail. In the first verse of section 121 of the Doctrine and Covenants, he supplicates the Lord and wonders, “O God, where art thou? And where is the pavilion that covereth thy hiding place?” (verse 1). Even a prophet felt alone and forgotten. Elder Robert D. Hales of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles encourages us not to despair when enduring our own version of Liberty Jail: “As we put our faith and trust in the Lord, we must battle our pain day by day and sometimes hour by hour, even moment by moment; but in the end, we understand that marvelous counsel given to the Prophet Joseph Smith as he struggled with his pain of feeling forgotten and isolated in Liberty Jail:
“‘My son, peace be unto thy soul; thine adversity and thine afflictions shall be but a small moment;
As my wife and I wade through these waters of affliction alongside many others, faith takes on a new meaning. It’s no longer an expectation that the Lord will always grant us what we want. It still involves believing in and trusting Him when a cherished dream goes unfulfilled. Rather than getting bogged down with Why? and How long?, should we instead choose to say, “I will wait upon the Lord . . . and I will look for him” (2 Nephi 18:17), perhaps in a moment when we’re not expecting it, we will find Him.