Sunday, November 3, 2013

When Sore Trials Come Upon You

In The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints we sing a familiar hymn, "Did You Think To Pray?"

Click the link and listen to the combined BYU choirs sing a Mack Wilberg arrangement. The words of the last verse have been playing again and again in my mind this weekend. I hope you will enjoy the spirit of the video as much as I have for the comfort it has given me:

Ere you left your room this morning,
Did you think to pray?
In the name of Christ our Savior,
Did you sue for loving favor,
As a shield today?


Oh, how praying rests the weary!
Prayer will change the night to day;
So when life seems dark and dreary,
Don’t forget to pray.

When you met with great temptation,
Did you think to pray?
By His dying love and merit,
Did you claim the Holy Spirit
As your guide and stay?

When your heart was filled with anger,
Did you think to pray?
Did you plead for grace, my brother,
That you might forgive another
Who had crossed your way?

When sore trials came upon you,
Did you think to pray?
When your soul was bowed in sorrow,
Balm of Gilead did you borrow
At the gates of day?

During our mortal lives sore trials may come upon us in an instant. Most often these trials come as unwelcome guests and they appear in a variety of ways. Sometimes it is the death of a loved one. Often relationships once filled with promise and hope sour and become bitter. Divorce in marriages can result when spouses grow apart and the once raging bonfires of love and devotion to one another dissolve into smoldering embers and turn stone cold.

The vicissitudes of life are seemingly countless. When employment disappears overnight in a downsizing, and loyalty and hard work seemingly mean nothing to an employer you once loved and admired, bitterness sometimes results. One wonders if the universe has singled them out for particularly harsh treatment, because no one could have been dealt with as harshly as they were.

Health, once taken for granted and never second guessed, can suddenly evaporate with a cancer diagnosis. The worldwide financial meltdown of 2008 wipes out life savings. A well-planned retirement suddenly evaporates overnight. 

There seems to be no end to the possible scenarios, does there? 

Our family was struck with this reality of a "sore trial" this weekend. A routine intrauterine ultrasound diagnosis revealed one of our little granddaughters has a birth defect known as anencephaly. Her parents were in shock. When they informed us, our hearts were burdened with sorrow over the diagnosis, knowing all too well the feelings of having to bury a little one when our youngest daughter Adrienne died unexpectedly of SIDS at seven weeks of age. This year marked the twenty-first anniversary of her birth and death. Perhaps the only thing worse than having to live through these traumatizing experiences yourself, is to have to live them vicariously, knowing so well what our children are now facing. In seeking to produce a posterity of our own, it should not be surprising when we are called to pass through Abrahamic tests not unlike those of our noble progenitor.

So the words of the hymn keep replaying in my mind - "When sore trials came upon you, did you think to pray? When your soul was bowed in sorrow, balm of Gilead did you borrow at the gates of day?"

We have been forced to our knees as we have fasted that they might be comforted through the weeks and months of uncertainty that lie ahead. 

Seeking to comfort our family this weekend, I sent out an e-mail:

Words are hard to come by in expressing our feelings. . . 

The hardest questions to answer in this life are all the "Why?" questions. Those will have to wait awhile as our faith is tested and galvanized in the fiery furnace of affliction here on earth. Jake quoted Nephi, in answer to the question if he (Nephi) knew what the "condescension of God" meant. Said Nephi: "I know that he loveth his children; nevertheless, I do not know the meaning of all things." (1 Nephi 11:17). 

His love for us rarely shields us from the randomness of an imperfect and fallen world, but it is always in evidence when our hearts ache as they do today.

Because Christ descended below all things on this earth, including every conceivable human condition, He is able to succor us in our sorrow, grief, doubts, guilt, anxiety and every other human emotion we feel. Alma summarized Christ's role in our lives when tragedy strikes and "sore trials" come upon us: "And he will take upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people; and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities. Now the Spirit knoweth all things. . ." (Alma 7:12-13, emphasis mine). 

Allie called this morning, heartbroken over this news. She sobbed, "What can I do? I would do anything for them." The answer is the same as it has always been - love them and love one another. 

Love and blessings,

Dad & Mom

I testify from these pages that Christ is our never-failing balm of Gilead in times of traumatizing knee-buckling tragedy. He will heal us of all our infirmities as He promises, when we turn to Him for comfort. There is nothing in the human condition He does not know intimately, having suffered in Gethsemane at at Golgotha for EVERYTHING that threatens our peace and our joy. 

Wherever we are in our lives presently, no matter what fiery trials we are currently passing through, He is an ever-present and willing participant in all our outcomes. He answers with the calm assurance we need when we turn to Him in our anguish.

Prayer really can change the night to day.

We open prayer in the name of our Heavenly Father because it is He to whom we address our prayers. We thank Him for all the blessings we enjoy because we know He is our Father who loves us. We ask Him specifically for the help we need, whatever form our "sore trial" may be taking, and we close our prayers in the name of Jesus Christ, our Savior and Redeemer, who makes all the answers possible because of His atonement. Prayer is available to all of us. We are all brothers and sisters, children of the same God.

We just need to remember to pray when the sore trials come. . . I pray we may always remember.

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