25 November 2010

On Peace and Pain

What happens when your happiness no longer relies on external circumstances? When no amount of personal discomfort or inconvenience can detract you from what you know you have to do? What happens when crisis and trial have gotten to the point where they seem hollow to you, and the trust that you live by is no longer a question?

I've just had the experience of being driven through a snowstorm, and finding it beautiful and peaceful. The image of red sins of scarlet being turned white like snow has never seemed more real to me as it did when visibility was nonexistent, and we were surrounded in whiteness.

I realized my life is a lot like this right now. I have a million things to do, places to go, I'm not the driver, I'm not making good time according to the timetable I'm only vaguely aware of, and yet I'm perfectly content to be at peace with everything exactly the way it is because I've realized I'm doing everything that I can to play an active role in it. I don't always have to be the driver or the leader in everything. I don't always have to have all the answers or fix every problem, or even be capable of fixing every problem I have.

Why? Because I'm not the only one working on it. I never will be. I trust it'll get worked out somehow. If there's anything I need to do, I trust myself to figure it out. If I don't figure it out, I trust God to bring me that clarity. He's done it before, and I trust Him to do it again. I've been through enough storms, decisions, turmoil, despair, and hardships of enough kinds that it just doesn't make much sense to me anymore to get worked up, frustrated, or to do anything other than to handle the situation appropriately and to live peacefully, no matter what happens.

I guess that's an involved way of saying that I'm happy despite the apparent circumstances and problems in my life. I'm content with my allotment and portion of both my blessings and trials. I'm surrounded by good and loving people, and I don't want for anything. Well, maybe my mission call. But I'm working through that steadily, and I know that no matter how long it takes me, I will eventually arrive at that destination.

Is struggle a necessary part of our earthly experience? To work through something patiently--to be content with my efforts and their results, to be content that God will be in and throughout everything I will ever face, guiding me as long as it takes. I see no reason for struggle in that. In fact, I'm coming to the theory that if I am struggling, it's probably because I'm doing something wrong. My perception is either incomplete, or I've made the wrong choice, or I'm choosing to be frustrated when it isn't necessary--but I simply don't see why peace can't exist in every circumstance there is--why the peace I feel right now should be reserved only for times of ease.

In Matthew 11, we read:

29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.
30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

I admit, there was a time when I didn't believe this. In the midst of trials which were not few in number, or weak in intensity, I've had occasions to wonder if difficulties would ever cease, if that promise was true for everyone except me. I've wondered, like many other Christians, what I had ever done that was so wrong that I deserved to suffer so bitterly, and whether that ease would not come simply because I didn't deserve it anymore.

But now I'm beginning to understand that my suffering is a reaction that will continue for as long as I choose it. Despair and suffering have no necessary connection to the troubles of my life--only in how I decide I will react to them. While there is a place in every life for grief, and even pain, there is also a place for the only healing that is the lasting balm for that anguish.

I think learning to be at peace despite pain and struggle is at the very heart of Christianity, and to navigate that contradiction is one of the most important things I can learn in this life. I think the ability to recognize and embrace it is an invitation to come to know the mind and heart of the Prince of Peace--for surely He was never without struggle. But I also believe that crucial to being the Only Begotten Son, He was always at peace--at peace with the Father, at peace with His plan, and at peace with His role in it.

No one who wasn't could have said, facing the infinite and eternal sacrifice of the Atonement "O my Father, if this cup may not pass away from me, except I drink it, thy will be done." (Matthew 26: 42)

He paid a great price to know the totality of human experience--the pain and the peace of our lives. To see that the real peace of life is our confidence in God and in ourselves, instead of in bountiful circumstances requiring no effort--it's a lesson worth taking with me.

I know that Jesus Christ is the Savior and Redeemer of the world, and of my life. I know He loves me, and in every way is mindful of what I face every day--of the choices I make and of the ways in which I'm progressing. He's a wonderful teacher and a kind friend. He has endured with me through every hardship, and it's because of Him that I am now at peace. In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

4 comments:

  1. I clicked over from Segullah and I'm so glad I did. I loved your thoughts on the topic discussed, and your post from Thanksgiving is likewise thoughtful and inspiring.

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  2. I clicked over from Segullah as well. I don't have time to read your post now, but will keep it up for later after the kids are in bed. Just wanted to say, though, that I heard someone once, and I believe it was a general authority or that type of speaker, say that it is a myth that Christ ever said anything like: "He never said it would be easy, only that it would be worth it". It is helpful to me to know that...

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  3. Thank you sisters. That means a lot to me :)

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  4. Wow, I sure needed this post today. Thank you for reminding me that my frustrations are often self-inflicted. If I would only learn to take the peace that if offered to me. Thank you for that reminder.

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