Thursday, August 31, 2006

Musings on Suffering and Submission (and Sacrifice)

With the chronic fatiguey stuff I deal with, I never know how I will feel from day to day. Yesterday was a rough day. By the end of the day I was so spent, so discouraged. I read this, and found myself on the verge of tears. (Sidenote -- that is a stunning article on sacrifice. I suggest you go read it now before even finishing here!) The irony of being a mother of young children with limited energy (and being willing but currently unable to subject my body to another being-pregnant-and-taking-care-of-an-infant experience) sometimes seems like more than I can bear. And there just seems to be no end in sight to this relentless, foggy fatigue and the pain and discomfort that often accompany it. It's. Not. Fair.

Weighed down by these thoughts, as I did dishes last night, I finally slumped over the sink and began to cry. The gift of that article, however, must have allowed an image to form in my heart and mind. In that instant, I pictured the Savior also slumped over, in Gethsemane, pressed by the "infinite and eternal" weight of the sins and afflictions heaped upon His soul.

That image enabled me to stand up a little straighter and dry my eyes. "I am trying to be like Jesus," right? Somehow, I must summon the strength to bear this trial gracefully. Even the Savior wanted His cup to pass, but, in the end, He submitted. "Thy will be done."

Irony is the hard crust on the bread of adversity. Irony can try both our faith and our patience. Irony can be a particularly bitter form of such chastening because it involves disturbing incongruity. It involves outcomes in violation of our expectations. We see the best laid plans laid waste.

Amid life’s varied ironies, you and I may begin to wonder, Did not God notice this torturous turn of events? And if He noticed, why did He permit it? Am I not valued?...

Irony may involve not only unexpected suffering but also undeserved suffering. We feel we deserved better, and yet we fared worse. We had other plans, even commendable plans. Did they not count?...

In coping with irony, as in all things, we have an Exemplary Teacher in Jesus. Dramatic irony assaulted Jesus’ divinity almost constantly.

For Jesus, in fact, irony began at His birth. Truly, He suffered the will of the Father 'in all things from the beginning.' (3 Ne. 11:11.) This whole earth became Jesus’ footstool (see Acts 7:49), but at Bethlehem there was 'no room … in the inn' (Luke 2:7) and 'no crib for his bed' (Hymns, 1985, no. 206.)

At the end, meek and lowly Jesus partook of the most bitter cup without becoming the least bitter. (See 3 Ne. 11:11; D&C 19:18–19.) The Most Innocent suffered the most. Yet the King of Kings did not break, even when some of His subjects did unto Him 'as they listed.' (D&C 49:6.) Christ’s capacity to endure such irony was truly remarkable.

(Neal A. Maxwell, “Irony: The Crust on the Bread of Adversity,” Ensign, May 1989, 62

Though stretched by our challenges, by living righteously and enduring well we can eventually become sufficiently more like Jesus in our traits and attributes, that one day we can dwell in the Father’s presence forever and ever. By so living now, our confidence will 'wax strong in the presence of God' then (D&C 121:45). Confirmingly, the Prophet Joseph declared, 'If you wish to go where God is, you must be like God, or possess the principles which God possesses' (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, comp. Joseph Fielding Smith [1976], 216).

Again, our experiences surely do not approach those of Jesus, yet the same principles and processes apply. His perfected attributes exemplify what can be much further developed by each of us. There is certainly no shortage of relevant clinical experiences, is there?

(Neal A. Maxwell, “Apply the Atoning Blood of Christ,” Ensign, Nov. 1997, 22)

1 comment: