I think this ties into a discussion going on at Segullah blog (hence the Hmmm part of the title of this post -- see Justine's title). Is it possible that we might 'ask for it' when we think we are ready for growth, or even ask to develop a character trait (and then discover that trials come)? I tend to think that the trials in our lives really are (or at least can be) these kinds of opportunities for spiritual growth -- not as evidence of how awful we are (although we all are fallen -- there's a difference!), but as evidence of God's interest in our eternal progression (and of the fact that we really can't comprehend His ways or His thoughts). I suspect that what feels like the ultimate of difficulty or betrayal or trial to our mortal brains really would take on a different meaning in the eternal realms and if the veil was lifted from our minds.
So anyway, to me, it seems that Elder Christofferson is saying that if we ask how we should improve, we might (or will!) be shown how we need to! And that might leave us shaking in our boots if we were to know what might be required. Just before being called to the First Presidency, then-Elder Eyring came to our stake and said something similar. He invited us to ask for guidance on how we could improve, but then warned us to be ready to do what was asked. I can't help but wonder if sometimes the 'answer' to such questions could come in the form of trials.
Even when we don't deliberately ask, I do feel that trials come as the Lord sees we can handle them. I think they also come into play in ways that we can't see or comprehend, as our lives really are all intertwined. We often think so linearly, in time and also in experience ("x must have happened so I could learn y") when in reality, I think the broad view and the Eternal Now of God means to me that nothing can possibly be that simple. Therefore, in theory, I don't think we should be afraid of confessing the Lord's hand in all things, even our trials. In practice, I know that is a whole different ball game.
Since we are told that we won't be given more than we can handle, it seems to me impossible to deny that God is involved in some way in every aspect of our lives, even if that means to sit back and let the stuff of life unfold and happen as it will sometimes, without miraculous intervention that we might desire at the time.
I dunno...I'm just mulling thoughts over in my head. I'd be interested in yours. (It might be good to add comments over at Segullah -- I don't want to take away from that discussion. But this quote was too long to include over there, and I have wanted to share it for a while anyway, and here I can sort through some of my thoughts a little more. Just more mulling and musing. :) )
During that Last Supper with His Apostles, the Savior said:
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman.
“Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit” (John 15:1–2).
What form that purging may take, what sacrifices it may entail, we probably cannot know in advance. But if with the rich young ruler we were to ask, “What lack I yet?” (Matt. 19:20), the Savior’s answer would be the same: “Come and follow me” (Matt. 19:21); be my disciple as I am the disciple of the Father; become “as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon [you], even as a child doth submit to his father” (Mosiah 3:19).
President Brigham Young spoke understandingly of our challenge when he said:
“After all that has been said and done, after he has led this people so long, do you not perceive that there is a lack of confidence in our God? Can you perceive it in yourselves? You may ask, ‘Brother Brigham, do you perceive it in yourself?’ I do, I can see that I yet lack confidence, to some extent, in him whom I trust.—Why? Because I have not the power, in consequence of that which the fall has brought upon me. …
“… Something rises up within me, at times[,] that … draws a dividing line between my interest and the interest of my Father in heaven; something that makes my interest and the interest of my Father in heaven not precisely one.
“… We should feel and understand, as far as possible, as far as fallen nature will let us, as far as we can get faith and knowledge to understand ourselves, that the interest of that God whom we serve is our interest, and that we have no other, neither in time nor in eternity” (Deseret News, 10 Sept. 1856, 212).
Surely we will not be one with God and Christ until we make Their will and interest our greatest desire. Such submissiveness is not reached in a day, but through the Holy Spirit, the Lord will tutor us if we are willing until, in process of time, it may accurately be said that He is in us as the Father is in Him. At times I tremble to consider what may be required, but I know that it is only in this perfect union that a fulness of joy can be found. I am grateful beyond expression that I am invited to be one with those holy beings I revere and worship as my Heavenly Father and Redeemer.