I recently viewed a brief video depicting the experience of Jesus Christ and some of His disciples in a small ship on the Sea of Galilee (available with other excellent videos on lds.org) After sharing a number of parables with a large group of followers from this ship near the shore, the multitude was sent away, and His disciples set sail while Jesus was “in the hinder part of the ship, asleep on a pillow.” A significant storm arose which caused a great deal of fear for those on the ship, while Jesus continued to sleep. One finally awoke him and asked, “Master, carest thou not that we perish?” He then rose, rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, “Peace, be still,” which was followed by “great calm.” He then questioned his followers about their own personal faith.
I believe this event teaches us again that storms, health issues, challenges within our communities and individual families will always be part of our earthly experience. Those who have faith and rely on the Lord’s ultimate plan for us survive, sometimes with immediate worldly relief as was the case on the Sea of Galilee, but often with the requirement that we exercise faith in Him for long-term solutions.
A leader in the LDS Church, Evan Schmutz, reminded us recently with a quote from Revelations 21:4 that “God shall wipe away all tears.” When we can endure our trials well with faith in ultimately positive outcomes, we become refined and as Peter said when we become capable of accepting life’s realities, and when we learn to “suffer for righteousness sake, happy are ye.” – 1 Peter 3:14.
Every one of us experiences in this life some degree of despair, loneliness, grief, pain or sorrow. In Elder Schmutz’s talk, he shared the heartbreaking experience of Daniel Apilado during a visit to the Philippines. Daniel and his wife and five children suffered great losses when a fire erupted in their home. Daniel was pulled to rescue by an older son, who returned to save his mother and siblings. Unfortunately, all of them except Daniel perished in the fire.
The purpose for telling the story was a recounting of the intense faith of Brother Apilado, who maintains trust in the Lord, and who believes that “families can be together forever” if we have faith, positive attitudes, and truly trust in the Lord.
Too often, many of us after pleading with our Heavenly Father to relieve our suffering, assume when that suffering is not relieved, that the Lord either doesn’t listen to our prayers or doesn’t care. It is my personal testimony that there are usually reasons for allowing our afflictions to continue, but He helps us bear them. In a highly reflective statement from the Apostle Paul, he speaks of an unnamed “thorn” in his flesh that caused him great pain and brought him several times to his knees, begging the Lord to take it from him. The Lord’s answer to Paul’s plaintive calls was not the removal of the thorn, but rather He spoke peace and gave understanding to Paul’s heart, saying, “My Grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.” This experience caused Paul to then say, “Most gladly therefore will I ... glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” (2 Corinthians 12:7-9)
Both Daniel Apilado and Paul suffered significantly during their lives. As to Paul, he knew persecution, trials, sorrows, and pain through the many challenging experiences he had during his earthly life. He was beaten with stripes, stoned, suffered shipwreck; often he was put in peril of death by drowning, by robbers, and even by false brethren; he suffered weariness and pain, hunger and thirst, and was imprisoned in the cold and in nakedness. (2 Corinthians 11:23-27), and despite all of this, he endured in faith to the end.
A former apostle with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Neal A. Maxwell made a profound observation about suffering. He said, “Part of enduring well consists of being meek enough, amid our suffering, to learn from our relevant experiences. Rather than simply passing through these things, they must pass through us ... in ways which sanctify us.”
I leave my personal words of encouragement to suffer our challenges with nobility by quoting a present apostle of the LDS Church. Elder Jeffrey R. Holland taught us about the “brightness ahead,” when he suggested that “there really is light at the end of the tunnel. It is the Light of the World, the Bright and Morning Star, the light that is endless, that can never be darkened. It is the very Son of God Himself.”