"Therefore, let your hearts be comforted; for all things shall work together for good to them that walk uprightly." (D&C 100:15)
Sisters who have some blessings withheld for a time can find peace by trusting the Lord and serving others.
Trusting in the Lord Brings Peace
You know the importantce of a temple marriage and long for an eternal companion, but you have had no worthy opportunity for marriage. You have been commanded to multiply and replenish the earth, but you are childless. Your husband is less active now than when you married him. You desire to serve, but physical handicaps restrict you. You and your family are in the celestial room of the temple, but some of your children are missing.
Unfulfilled expectations - we all have them. As ppainful as these situations can be, they need not defeat us. We can find the peace and comfort that only the Lord has to offer. As we stretch our souls, learning to place our lives in His hands and to trust Him and His plan for us, we can find joy in our lives regardless of our circumstances.
Most of us have a vision of what our life should be - a vision that includes receiving certain opportunities and blessings. Sister Ardeth G. Kapp, for example, as a young girl "envisioned living in a small white house with a picket fence. I thouught I would just take care of the flowers, be active in the Church, friendly with my neighbors - and have lots of children" (quote in Karen T. Arnesen, "Ardeth Greene Kapp: A Prairie Girl, A Young Woman Still," Ensign, Sept. 1985, p.38). For Sister Kapp the blessing of children never came just as for many of us our expectations are not fulfilled. We may never have married; we may have been through divorce; we may have suffered infirmity or some other disappointment that has pulled us from the course we have charted.
Some of us may be troubled by certain promises in patriarchal blessings that are obviously missing in our lives, such as marriage and posterity. President Thomse S. Monson said: "A patriarchal blessing literally contains chapters from your book of eternal possibilities. I say eternal, for just as life is eternal, so is a patriarchal blessing. What may not come to fulfillment in this life may occur int he next. We do not govern God's timetable. "For may thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord.
"'For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts' (Isaiah 55:8-9)" (in Conference Report, Oct. 1986, p.82; or Ensign Nov. 1986, p. 66).
What do we do when our life's plans are not realized? Some, unable to have the life they desire, might become bitter or angry with the Lord and His plan. A better choice, however, is to seek teh Lord and His guidance. "It's the soul-rending experiences that bring us to God," Sister Kapp said. "Trials lead you into a diligent search; they make you ask questions that only the Lord can answer. You have to turn to Him and one day the peace comes that compensates for all the yearning" (Arnesen, "Ardeth Greene Kapp," p. 38).
The scriptures teach us to trust the Lord, not our own understanding, as explained in Proverbs 3:5-6. Such a trust does not come easily. Butt it enables us to give up our expectations for our lives and accept the Lord's plan for us, a plan that will make it possible for us to return to His presence and receive all He has (see D&C 84:38). This acceptance is not mere resignation; it is a full trust that allow us to grow in righteousness and joy in whatever path the Lord leads us along.
Patience, too, is necessary - patience with ourselves as we learn to trust, patience with others whose concern and questions sometimes deepen our pain, and patience with the Lord as we wait for him to give us the desires fo our hearts.
If the solutions to our problems were simple, we would not have to stretch our souls. We would not have to yearn after our Father and finally learn to love and trust Him enough to give up all our doubts, knowing that "all things sall work together for good to them that walk uprightly" (D&C 100:15).
As we learn to trust in the Lord, peace will fill our hearts. For most of us, this peace "which passeth all understanding" (Philippians 4:7) will not come all at once. We may feel it once, then struggle to feel it again. Or we may be in a testimony meeting and know that part of our testimony includes a knowledge that the Lord's will is being done in our lives. We may be pondering one day and realize that it has been many months since the old pain has troubled us. In whatever way the peace comes, we may feel confident that as we live faithfully and prayerfully, it will come, as promised in Doctrine and Covenants 59:23.
We Can Grow As We Learn to Reach Out to Others
As we learn to trust God, our love for Him grows. Loving Him helps us to love others and to reach out to them even when our own unmet desires might tempt us to turn inward. To help others in the midst of our own pain, said Elder Neal A. Maxwell, "is like the generosity of Jesus on the cross. Empathy during agony is a portion of divinity...[So many of our sisters] do not withhold their blessings simply because some blessings are now withheld from them" (in Conference Report, Apr. 1978, p.14; or Ensign, May 1978, p. 11).
This empathy contains nothing of bitterness or martyrdom. It is a forgetting of self that leads to reaching out to others. But, like trust, it may not ocme without some soul stretching. "As I look back," said Sister Kapp, "I think often that it really might have been easier to remain depressed and despondent and full of self-pity, thinking that the fact that we didn't have children wasn't our fault anyway so why should we have to go out and serve (talk given to a married students' stake at Brigham Young University, Oct. 1981).
But Sister Kapp did not give in to such feelings. She concentrated on putting others' needs before her own. As she did so, she discovered that while self-pity might have been eaiser, serving others was more rewarding.
Concentrating on the purpose of life rather than our own desires will help us reach out to others. One sister said, "One day I realized that the Lord wanted me to want something in addition to marriage. I had spent so much time hoping for marriage that I had lost sight of the real purpose of this life - to live so as to return to our Father. Although marriage is necessary for exaltation, faith and charity and a host of other qualities and began to work on them, my anxiety lessened. I knew that if I remained faithful, the other blessings would come."
President Gordon B. Hinckley identified ways in which we caan serve: "There are so many out there whose burdens you can lift. There are the homeless, there are the hungry, there are the destitute all around us. There are the aged who are alone in rest homes. There are handicapped children, and youth on drugs, and the sick and the homebound who cry out for a kind word. If you do not do it, who will?
"The best antidote I know for worry is work. The best medicine for despair is service. The bst cure for weariness is the challenge of helping someone who is even more tired" ("To Single Adults", Ensign, June 1989, pp. 72-73).
To serve in this way - to reach out to others when our own arms are empty - may take more than we have to give, but it will not take more than the Lord has to give us. He has "descended below them all" (D&C 122:8), and He can lift us up. As we allow Him to touch our hearts, we will be more able to reach out to others, for He "comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God" (2 Corinthians 1:4). He who gave His life for us can help us give our lives to others.
Suggestions for Teachers:
1. Read Proverbs 3:5-6. Ask: Why is it sometimes difficult for us to trust the Lord in the guidance of our lives? How can we increase our trust?
2. You may want to ask a sister to discuss how an unfulfilled expectation has helped her learn to trust the Lord.
3. Read Philippians 4:6-7 and Doctrine and Covenants 59:23. Ask the sisters to share their testimonies of the peace that the Savior gives even at times when blessings are withheld.
4. Read 2 Corinthians 1:4 and President Hinckley's statement. Ask: How can we gain the strength to reach out to others when all of our own needs are not met? What blessings can result from this service?