The emergency room doors banged open and a father, closely followed by his sixteen year-old son, ran through cradling the unconscious form of his eight year-old boy. The ER personnel responded quickly and whisked the boy away into the bowels of the big hospital leaving the two to pace back and forth in the waiting area.
The boys had left Mom at home to go on a weekend outing with their Dad to do some camping and fishing and to just spend some quality time together in the great out-of-doors. They had enjoyed the food their mother had prepared for them and they had taken full advantage of the rare opportunity to enjoy each other’s company unhindered by the myriad requirements of normal days in the city.
On the trip home the younger boy was sleepy and opted to ride in the back of the pickup where he could stretch out. Wrapped snuggly in his sleeping bag against the cold, he was soon fast asleep. Apparently neither he nor his Dad noticed the smell of gasoline that leaked from a can and had soaked a corner of the sleeping bag. When the father stopped to check on the boy he could not wake him. It didn’t take long for him to realize that something was terribly wrong.
Unable to resuscitate the boy, the doctors gave the father and his son the bad news. As the two, grief-stricken, embraced each other in tears, a nurse overheard the father ask his son, “How are we going to tell Mom?”
I think a common misunderstanding among people is that if we live a good life in accordance with God’s will, nothing bad will happen to us. It is true that much suffering comes as a direct result of making unwise choices but other challenges come as a natural result of mortality and the world in which we live.
My wife and I attended a funeral not long ago of a fine man whose children are successful, independent and God-fearing. One of his daughters confessed to us that when her beloved father passed away, at a ripe old age I might add, she “cursed God” for taking him away from her. Let’s face it, we are mortals with bodies that will age and may become ill or injured and, for sure, will die. Adversity will come, often through no fault of our own.
Larry Richman said, “If we blame ourselves for things that are not our fault, we make a bad situation worse by seeing ourselves as bad people who deserve bad things . . . We can choose to feel sorry for ourselves and ask, ‘Why me?’ or we can grow from our trials, increase our faith in the Lord, and ask, ‘How can I be faithful in the midst of this trial?’” (Ensign Magazine, March 2010, p.28)
Orson F. Whitney (1855-1931) said that “No pain that we suffer, no trial that we experience is wasted. It ministers to our education, to the development of such qualities as patience, faith, fortitude and humility. All that we suffer and all that we endure, especially when we endure it patiently, builds up our characters, purifies your hearts, expands our souls, and makes us more tender and charitable…and it is through sorrow and suffering, toil and tribulation, that we gain the education that we come here to acquire.” (Faith Precedes the Miracle by Spencer W. Kimball, p.98)
“Sometimes we are ‘healed’,” said Dallin H. Oaks, “by being given strength or understanding or patience to bear the burdens placed upon us.”
Spencer W. Kimball said suffering is not always a result of sin. He said that it has a larger purpose. “Is there not wisdom in His giving us trials that we might rise above them, responsibilities that we might achieve, work to harden our muscles, sorrows to try our souls? Are we not exposed to temptations to test our strength, sickness that we might learn patience, death that we might be immortalized and glorified?
“If all the sick for whom we prayed were healed, if all the righteous were protected and the wicked destroyed, the whole program of the Father would be annulled and that basic principle, free agency, would be ended. No man would have to live by faith.”
“If joy and peace and rewards were instantaneously given the doer of good, there could be no evil—all would do good but not because of the rightness of doing good. There would be no test of strength, no development of character, no growth of powers, no free agency…there would be little or no suffering, sorrow, disappointment, or even death, and if these things were not, there would also be no joy, success, resurrection, nor eternal life…” (Faith Precedes the Miracle, p.97)
I like the saying attributed to Natalie Wood: “Everyone in life has a burden to bear but it is not the burden that is important, it is how we carry it.”