A shipwrecked mariner washed up on the shore of a deserted island, barely clinging to life. Upon recovering some of his strength, he managed to salvage a few things from the derelict ship and built a crude shelter to protect his scant belongings and for refuge from the elements. He prayed and prayed for rescue but it didn’t come.
One day, as he usually did, he gathered driftwood from the beach and built a small fire in front of his little hut in order to cook the fish he had caught. In an unguarded moment, the fire spread to his shelter. It became a roaring inferno that burned his little home to the ground taking with it nearly all of his earthly possessions. He was devastated. He raised his voice to the heavens in protest for such shabby treatment. He cried out to God saying, “How could you allow this tragedy to befall me? I have exercised faith in you. I have petitioned you with all the fervency of my soul for relief and instead of answering my prayers, you destroy everything I possess. Why? Why? Why?”
He had no sooner opened his tear-filled eyes when he saw a ship on the horizon heading straight for his little stretch of beach. Overjoyed, he asked the captain how he had come to find him on such a tiny remote island in the middle of the trackless ocean. “Oh, it was quite easy,” came the reply. “We simply navigated toward your signal fire!”
Sometimes I think we fail to recognize the source of our blessings, especially in hard times, and we often do not give credit where credit is due.
As a struggling undergraduate student in college, one particular semester I overloaded my schedule with too many difficult, time consuming courses. At the end of the semester I found myself having to study for multiple exams and having to submit several research papers, all due nearly at the same time, which counted heavily toward my grades. I managed to get most of the papers completed but I knew there was no way I could meet the deadline for getting the final one turned in.
The ship on the horizon came to my rescue in the form of my roommates and some of their girl friends. Keep in mind that this was before personal computers, spell-check and the internet. Each page had to be hand typed on a manual typewriter with extensive footnotes and bibliography. I had done the research and had gathered the information but it was hand-written on a stack of index cards and had to be organized and put into print form that met the stringent standards of the time with a minimum of errors in spelling, punctuation and grammar.
My friends laid aside their own needs to stay up most of the night to help me write that paper in order to make the next day’s submission deadline. Not only did I meet the deadline but I actually received an excellent grade. To this day, I wonder why they did it. Would I have done the same thing for any one of them? I don’t really know; yet they did it for me in my time of need. Their sacrifice on my behalf was akin to their lighting a signal fire for me to navigate by. I have tried to pay their gift forward and to help others who stand in need.
A great prophet had been imprisoned without benefit of trial and was forced to spend many months in a cold, dreary prison deprived of adequate food, clean water, warmth and, most importantly, the association of friends and family. He cried out to God to know why he had to endure such injustice. He was given the following reply:
“My son, peace be unto thy soul; thine adversity and thine afflictions shall be but a small moment; and then, if thou endure it well, God shall exalt thee on high; thou shalt triumph over all thy foes. Thy friends do stand by thee, and they shall hail thee again with warm hearts and friendly hands…Know thou, my son, that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good. The Son of Man hath descended below them all. Art thou greater than He? (D&C 121 & 122).
In due time, The Prophet was released from prison and returned home a better man for what he had been forced to endure. Sometimes we just have to be patient in our troubles and, through the exercise of our faith and hope, unbeknown to us; a signal fire will be lighted in our behalf that will bring the much needed relief.