Trials, Disappointments, and Heartache

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Question: Can trials, disappointments, and heartache be a blessing in our lives?

Answer: As part of Heavenly Father’s plan of redemption, all people experience adversity during their lifetime. Trials, disappointments, sadness, sickness, and heartache are a difficult part of life, but with the help of the Lord they can lead to spiritual growth, refinement, and progress.

Adversity comes from different sources. Trials may come as a consequence of a person’s own pride and disobedience. These trials can be avoided through righteous living. Other trials are simply a natural part of life and may come at times when people are living righteously. For example, people may experience trials in times of sickness or uncertainty or at the deaths of loved ones. Adversity may sometimes come because of others’ poor choices and hurtful words and actions. Suffering may also come through a loving Heavenly Father as a tutoring experience.

Although some of the responses to adversity will vary, one response should be constant—trust in Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. The prophet Alma taught, “Whosoever shall put their trust in God shall be supported in their trials, and their troubles, and their afflictions, and shall be lifted up at the last day” (Alma 36:3). (Gospel Topics, “Adversity”)

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2 Corinthians 1:3-7

3 Blessed be (praised be) God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort;

4 Who comforteth us in all our tribulation (trials and troubles), that we may be able to comfort them (others) which are in any trouble, by (because of) the comfort wherewith (with which) we ourselves are comforted of (by) God.

5 For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us (we are persecuted because we believe in Christ), so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ (we receive much comfort from Christ as we go through persecutions).

6 And whether (if) we (Paul and his associates) be afflicted (are persecuted), it is for your consolation and salvation, which is effectual in the enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer (it helps you endure similar suffering because of your faithfulness to Christ): or whether (if) we be (are) comforted, it is for your consolation and salvation (it helps to comfort you).

7 And our hope of you is steadfast (we have full confidence in you), knowing, that as ye are partakers of the sufferings, so shall ye be also of the consolation (knowing that just as you suffer because of your loyalty to Christ, so also you will be comforted and strengthened by him).

2 Corinthians 4:17

17 For our light affliction (the little suffering we are called to endure), which is but for a moment, worketh for us (prepares us) a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory (exaltation in the kingdom of God);

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President Henry B. Eyring, First Counselor in the First Presidency:

...I bear you my testimony that God the Father lives. He set a course for each of us that can polish and perfect us to be with Him.

With all the differences in our lives, we have at least one challenge in common. We all must deal with adversity. There may be periods, sometimes long ones, when our lives seem to flow with little difficulty. But it is in the nature of our being human that comfort gives way to distress, periods of good health come to an end, and misfortunes arrive. Particularly when the comfortable times have gone on for a while, the arrival of suffering or the loss of material security can bring fear and sometimes even anger.

The anger comes at least in part from a feeling that what is happening is unfair. The good health and the serene sense of being secure can become to seem deserved and natural. When they vanish, a feeling of injustice can come. Even a brave man I knew wept and cried out in his physical suffering to those who ministered to him: “I have always tried to be good. How could this happen?”

That aching for an answer to “How could this happen?” becomes even more painful when those struggling include those we love. And it is especially hard for us to accept when those afflicted seem to us to be blameless. Then the distress can shake faith in the reality of a loving and all-powerful God. Some of us have seen such doubt come to infect a whole generation of people in times of war or famine. Such doubt can grow and spread until some may turn away from God, whom they charge with being indifferent or cruel. And if unchecked, those feelings can lead to loss of faith that there is a God at all.

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My purpose today is to assure you that our Heavenly Father and the Savior live and that They love all humanity. The very opportunity for us to face adversity and affliction is part of the evidence of Their infinite love. God gave us the gift of living in mortality so that we could be prepared to receive the greatest of all the gifts of God, which is eternal life. Then our spirits will be changed. We will become able to want what God wants, to think as He thinks, and thus be prepared for the trust of an endless posterity to teach and to lead through tests to be raised up to qualify to live forever in eternal life.

It is clear that for us to have that gift and to be given that trust, we must be transformed through making righteous choices where that is hard to do. We are prepared for so great a trust by passing through trying and testing experiences in mortality. That education can come only as we are subject to trials while serving God and others for Him.

In this education we experience misery and happiness, sickness and health, the sadness from sin and the joy of forgiveness. That forgiveness can come only through the infinite Atonement of the Savior, which He worked out through pain we could not bear and which we can only faintly comprehend.

It will comfort us when we must wait in distress for the Savior’s promised relief that He knows, from experience, how to heal and help us. The Book of Mormon gives us the certain assurance of His power to comfort. And faith in that power will give us patience as we pray and work and wait for help. He could have known how to succor us simply by revelation, but He chose to learn by His own personal experience. Here is the account from Alma:

“And he shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people....”

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Even when you feel the truth of that capacity and kindness of the Lord to deliver you in your trials, it may still test your courage and strength to endure...I have seen faith and courage come from a testimony that it is true that we are being prepared for eternal life. The Lord will rescue His faithful disciples. And the disciple who accepts a trial as an invitation to grow and therefore qualify for eternal life can find peace in the midst of the struggle.

The scripture goes on to praise those of us who prepared for adversity in the more prosperous times. Many of you had the faith to try to qualify for the help you now need, before the crisis came...

I bear you my testimony that God the Father lives. He set a course for each of us that can polish and perfect us to be with Him. I testify that the Savior lives. His Atonement makes possible our being purified as we keep His commandments and our sacred covenants. And I know from my own experience that He can and will give us strength to rise through every trial.

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Sources: Come, Follow Me–For Individuals and Families, p. 143; The New Testament Made Easier, Part 2, Volume 3, by David J. Ridges, 188, 196; Excerpts from General Conference, April 2009, “Adversity,” by President Henry B. Eyring, First Counselor in the First Presidency.