Saturday, June 7, 2008

Shingles! (of the non-roof type) and Thoughts on Enduring Well

Yup. That may explain why I have been feeling so yucky as of late. The rash appeared after a couple of weeks of the yuck (more than my usual yuck). This will come out sounding almost unkind, but I'm grateful that my sister-in-law had shingles a month or so ago, because I then knew that you have to get diagnosed early in order to take the antiviral drugs. (Tender mercies coming via other people's trials? Yeah, I think sometimes it works that way!) I'm keeping my fingers crossed that the residual effects will be minimal.

Thanks to all who have expressed concern and support the past while. I find that chronic illness brings with it layers of opposition; it can affect one spiritually, emotionally, mentally, socially, and, of course, physically. Adding this acute illness has on one level been a blessing (at least I could point to some reason why I was feeling worse!) but also a sort of added level of trial. It's been hard not to want to just say, "Can't I have a BREAK?" :)

But, you know, life isn't all about the stuff of life, about getting things done. It's about facing opposition with grace and faith, about enduring well. That's where I am. That's what I am working on.

I can't imagine facing the trials of life without an understanding of the plan of salvation, of the Atonement.

Trying to comprehend the trials and meaning of this life without understanding Heavenly Father’s marvelously encompassing plan of salvation is like trying to understand a three-act play while seeing only the second act. Fortunately, our knowledge of the Savior, Jesus Christ, and His Atonement helps us to endure our trials and to see purpose in suffering and to trust God for what we cannot comprehend.

Revealed truths reassure us that we are enclosed in divine empathy. As Enoch witnessed, we worship a God who wept over needless human misery and wickedness (see Moses 7:28–29, 33, 37). Jesus’ perfect empathy was ensured when, along with His Atonement for our sins, He took upon Himself our sicknesses, sorrows, griefs, and infirmities and came to know these “according to the flesh” (Alma 7:11–12)....

The Apostle Paul spoke from considerable personal experience when observing that “no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous” (Heb. 12:11). You and I are not expected to pretend chastening is pleasant, but we are expected to “endure it well” (D&C 121:8). Only afterward is “the peaceable fruit of righteousness” enjoyed by those who “are exercised thereby” (Heb. 12:11). But what demanding calisthenics!

Moroni said that only “after the trial of [our] faith” do we receive certain assurances and blessings (Ether 12:6). Taking Jesus’ yoke upon us really does help us learn of Him as we personally experience His special love for us (see Matt. 11:29). We also come to appreciate more His meekness and lowliness.

- Elder Neal A. Maxwell

In my recent post about "digging deep," I wrote rather vaguely, but these are the types of truths I have been mulling over. As a person who has always tended to thrive on 'getting things done,' for the past several years, I have had to learn more about 'enduring things well.' I know I'm not a special case with this exercise; I believe we all, at some point or another, will have our heart- and soul-stretching trials.

...President John Taylor said he heard the Prophet [Joseph Smith] say, "You have all kinds of trials to pass through, and it is quite as necessary for you to be tried even as Abraham, and other men of God. God will feel after you, he will take hold of you and wrench your very heartstrings, and if you cannot stand it you will not be fit for an inheritance in the Kingdom of God (Journal of Discourses, 24:197)" (Harold B. Lee, Conference Report, April 1963, p.88).
Have you felt your heartstrings pulled, stretched, even wrenched? When we feel pushed to the limit, it's an opportunity to deepen the roots of faith, to remember the eternal purposes of God, to remember that if we endure well, eternal blessings can be ours.
...[P]eace be unto thy soul; thine adversity and thine afflictions shall be but a small moment;

And then, if thou endure it well, God shall exalt thee on high; thou shalt triumph over all thy foes. (Doctrine and Covenants 121:7-8)
This is what I am working on -- deepening those roots, trying to endure well what for me is a difficult time.

The restored gospel not only teaches us why we must be tested, but it makes clear to us what the test is. The Prophet Joseph Smith gave us an explanation. By revelation, he was able to record words spoken at the Creation of the world. They are about us, those of the spirit children of our Heavenly Father who would come into mortality. Here are the words:

"And we will prove them herewith, to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them” (Abr. 3:25).

That explanation helps us understand why we face trials in life. They give us the opportunity to prove ourselves faithful to God. So many things beat upon us in a lifetime that simply enduring may seem almost beyond us. That’s what the words in the scripture “Ye must … endure to the end" (2 Ne. 31:20) seemed to mean to me when I first read them. It sounded grim, like sitting still and holding on to the arms of the chair while someone pulled out my tooth.

(Hehe. That is such an image, and describes how I sometimes want to react to my trials. Apparently, I'm not alone.)
It can surely seem that way to a family depending on crops when there is no rain. They may wonder, “How long can we hold on?” It can seem that way to a youth faced with resisting the rising flood of filth and temptation. It can seem that way to a young man struggling to get the training he needs for a job to support a wife and family. It can seem that way to a person who can’t find a job or who has lost job after job as businesses close their doors. It can seem that way to a person faced with the erosion of health and physical strength which may come early or late in life for them or for those they love.

But the test a loving God has set before us is not to see if we can endure difficulty. It is to see if we can endure it well. We pass the test by showing that we remembered Him and the commandments He gave us. And to endure well is to keep those commandments whatever the opposition, whatever the temptation, and whatever the tumult around us. We have that clear understanding because the restored gospel makes the plan of happiness so plain.

Then-Elder Eyring reminds us in this talk that we simply can't do it alone. Trials give us the opportunity to turn to God for strength beyond our own (the talk is entitled, "In the Strength of the Lord"). Even as I type, I am reminded of the need to seek His help and strength more, to take times like this as an opportunity to deepen my faith and expand my experience with the power of the Atonement.

There. I feel better already.

If you feel like sharing, I'd be interested in hearing what scriptures, quotes, etc. help you hold on and hunker down when life gets hard and your faith is tested.


  1. My sympathies. I got hit by shingles just about a year ago; the attack was just about right over my heart and wrapped around to my back. I didn't connect the rash (which I passed off to cutting down some weeds a few days earlier) with the deep pain (which I was beginning to worry might be heart-related or that I had somehow broken a rib).

    Fortunately, two days after these symptoms started, I mentioned the chest/rib pain to my home teacher at church, who immediately asked, "Do you have a rash there as well?"

    Turns out he had gone through a very nasty bout with shingles some years earlier. He told me to call my doctor that day. I did, described the symptoms to my doctor -- who said, "Yep, that's shingles!" and called in an antiviral prescription for me to pick up and start taking that afternoon.

    If it's any comfort, I've had very few aftereffects in the past year; a few periods of aching, but that's been it. ..bruce..

  2. Bruce, thanks. It's a weird kind of pain...I thought I was having another kidney stone develop (mine is under my ribs on the back) and it still feels that my skin is hyper-sensitive to even the lightest a sunburn, all the way around, just on that one side.

    I do appreciate hearing that your aftereffects were minimal. I'm hopeful. Thanks for the sympath.

  3. Ouch! Hope the medicine gives you some relief very soon.

    Thanks for pulling together some great quotes on this subject. My adult daughter and I recently saw the movie about Emma Smith. As we watched the continual round of sufferings that Emma went through, we realized that our trials were relatively minor--at least at the moment.

    But we also talked about how we can never truly compare pains and sufferings, because each of us is different. What one person can bear relatively easily, can be a crushing burden to someone else.

    I really liked Elder Eyring's description of what enduring well means: "to endure well is to keep [God's] commandments whatever the opposition, whatever the temptation, and whatever the tumult around us." We can only do that when we are humble enough to constantly seek the help of the Lord, and stop trying to do it all on our own. Sheer will power and "positive thinking" are definitely not enough. But with the Lord, all things are possible.

    You quoted my favorite scripture on this theme: D&C 121:7-8.

    When things get dark in my life, I also remember 122:7-8: . . . know thou, my son, that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good. The Son of Man hath descended below them all. Art thou greater than he?"

  4. RoAnn, thank you for your thoughts. I also love that scripture in D&C 122. I appreciate the support and love of friends who help me stay focused on faith!

  5. A wonderful man in our ward (former Bishop and Stake Presidency Counselor) lost an adult daughter unexpectedly - freak surgical accident. During a lesson in HP Group one day, we were talking about "things I've learned" - sharing an open discussion with the entire group. (One of my favorite lessons EVER, btw.)

    When it came his turn to mention what he had learned, he said the following - to the best of my recollection:

    "I have learned that you can draw incredibly close to the Lord during the times of your greatest trials. I am SO grateful for that lesson . . . but I wish I hadn't had to learn it the way I did."

    My thoughts and prayers are with you, and I am glad you are learning what you are learning - even as I wish you didn't have to learn them this way.

  6. Hope you're on the mend quickly.