My wife was stuck on the highway on Friday this week for a few hours, when the check engine light came on and the the van engine died on her while driving home from a visit to Brigham's house. Then the engine refused to turn over for her, despite a boost AND having gas in the tank. Hmm. As a result, our van is now sitting in Lethbridge at the repair shop waiting for diagnosis and, hopefully, a quick and inexpensive repair.
One way of looking at it: O, woe is me! Life is unfair and hard. The only luck I ever have is bad luck. Why do bad things happen despite our trying to do what is right and good?
Bonnie D Parkin (Apr 2007 General Conference): “A Spirit-Filled Principle”
Gratitude requires awareness and effort, not only to feel it but to express it. Frequently we are oblivious to the Lord’s hand. We murmur, complain, resist, criticize; so often we are not grateful. In the Book of Mormon, we learn that those who murmur do not know “the dealings of that God who … created them.”3 [ 1 Nephi 2:12.] The Lord counsels us not to murmur because it is then difficult for the Spirit to work with us.
Gratitude is a Spirit-filled principle. It opens our minds to a universe permeated with the richness of a living God. Through it, we become spiritually aware of the wonder of the smallest things, which gladden our hearts with their messages of God’s love. This grateful awareness heightens our sensitivity to divine direction. When we communicate gratitude, we can be filled with the Spirit and connected to those around us and the Lord. Gratitude inspires happiness and carries divine influence. “Live in thanksgiving daily,” said Amulek, “for the many mercies and blessings which he doth bestow upon you.”4 [ Alma 34:38.]
Mercies and blessings come in different forms—sometimes as hard things. Yet the Lord said, “Thou shalt thank the Lord thy God in all things.”5 [ D&C 59:7; emphasis added.] All things means just that: good things, difficult things—not just some things. He has commanded us to be grateful because He knows being grateful will make us happy. This is another evidence of His love.
When I was about 10 years old, on a dark BC highway, a drunk driver made a mistake, crossed the line and collided head on with the blue station wagon my Dad and Mom were travelling home in. My father was killed at age 36, but the rest of the passengers, including my mom survived with minor injuries. These things also happen. Today my mom is 82 and preparing to go on a mission to Nauvoo. Her grandchildren and great-grandchildren (of which a good number are my children and grand-children) have them as examples as they start their journey in life.
Sister Parkin continued, saying:
In 1832 the Lord saw the need to prepare the Church for coming tribulations. Tribulations are frightening. And yet the Lord said: “Be of good cheer, for I will lead you along. The kingdom is yours and the blessings thereof are yours, and the riches of eternity are yours.
“And he who receiveth all things with thankfulness shall be made glorious.”8 [ D&C 78:18–19; emphasis added.]
The kind of gratitude that receives even tribulations with thanksgiving requires a broken heart and a contrite spirit, humility to accept that which we cannot change, willingness to turn everything over to the Lord—even when we do not understand, thankfulness for hidden opportunities yet to be revealed. Then comes a sense of peace.
When was the last time you thanked the Lord for a trial or tribulation? Adversity compels us to go to our knees; does gratitude for adversity do that as well?
President David O. McKay observed, “We find in the bitter chill of adversity the real test of our gratitude … , which … goes beneath the surface of life, whether sad or joyous.”9 [Pathways to Happiness, comp. Llewelyn R. McKay (1957), 318.]
Over time, we begin to see the bigger picture, the one our Heavenly Father already sees. He sees the family as it will be and as can and as it has become, because of the trials and faithful examples we have had to follow. He sees us as we can and should be, after the trials of this life are met and won.
I have been pondering lately about the premortal war in heaven and the 'campaign' promises of our brother known then as the 'Son of the Morning'. He promised that we could come to this world and become perfected without problem and without pain. Everyone would be saved, or so he promised. This is the same being who told Eve, “you shall not die” by partaking the fruit, when Father had specifically told them otherwise. He claimed to be the “God of this World” and that you could buy anything you wanted with money. He is now known as the Father of All Lies (and of misleading partial truths). He does not and could not do any of what he promised. He promised to save everyone no matter what we did and without any real effort on our part. He cannot save us in our sins or from trials and trouble in this life. It is the overcoming of trials and troubles that makes us stronger. It is through exercise of faith in the Lord that we grow. As we start to see the big picture, we realize that what we first thought was a heavy tribulation will in reality be a great blessing in disguise.
If we had more time I could tell you more about my blessings in disguise sitting in the driveway at home. The 'tithing van' we aquired for $500 at a yard sale several years ago that is still running – except for the wind shield wipers stopped working .. The old red van that the transmission stopped working on, that we now keep as a storage unit .. and the decal on the rear window with names of our 6 beautiful daughters and 2 cats (now long gone). The 'Bomb' .. inherited for the price of a set of new tires which while old still runs, which Adrien believes will be her car when she turns 16 later this year. The red sports car that my brother donated to me at the turn of the millenium that kept running for several years for us past it's best due date. The gold Ford my grandfather saved for me on return from my mission, which eventually died and sat out at the farm .. with a shaving cream heart etched into the hood from the day my sweetheart and I were married.
Life is much like cars. Stuff happens to cars. That is life. They start out shiny and new and then one day, they don't start or start to fall apart or they get wrecked. Be thankful for what you have now and for the ability to repair them or replace them and continue on. Our most profound gratitude should be for our Savior .. an obedient Son, who did all that His Father asked and atoned for every one of us. Thanks to him, we can and will be perfected in spirit and in body one day. As we remember Him and acknowledge His goodness, and desire and work to be like Him those blessings he has prepared for us will come. May we be blessed to feel of His love in our lives daily.
“Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift.”10 [ 2 Corinthians 9:15.] In His sacred name, Jesus Christ, amen.