Friday, February 29, 2008

Why We Suffer

Jesus was a man of sorrows and well acquainted with grief (compare to Isaiah 54). That is part of the Lord God Almighty’s plan. The great plan of happiness would be frustrated without it. I feel like Paul the Apostle to rejoice in my weaknesses and sorrows for then I am made strong (2 Corinthians 12:10; see also Romans 8:17). My faith could grow no other way. Charity—the pure and perfect love of Christ—could be bestowed upon us in no other fashion but through our trials, struggles and sorrows. Indeed, all terrible things shall be for our benefit and good.

In speaking of the most horrific trials, Joseph Smith, the founder of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, declared, “The Son of Man hath descended below them all. Art thou greater than he?”

It is a blessing from heaven to have endured the crosses of the world. I think of the Savior who arose from being beaten 39 times with a multi-thonged whip into whose leather bands were woven sharp bones and cutting metals. Many died from the scourging alone, but he arose to suffer a crueler death upon the cross that he bore.

Jesus carried his own cross until he collapsed from the weight and the trauma he had endured. That’s when Simon, the traveler, carried it for him. Then the Savior of the world was nailed to the cross upon which he died.

What does it mean then to endure the crosses of the world or to suffer our own private Gethsemane? I submit that nothing can be so terrible that He has not endured it. He alone can understand our pains. When we have faith and take our sorrows before the Lord, when no one else can or has power to, He can bear our burden, ease our sorrows, succor or lift us up, and shall wipe away all tears from our eyes (see, e.g. Revelations 21:4).

But, according to the wisdom and tender mercies of God, these comforts might not come immediately, for that would rob us of the opportunity of faith, to develop empathy towards others, and the blessings which come to those who are obedient to the commandments, laws and ordinances of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

These painful adult lessons are sometimes not grasped or learned at all. But after living through the hell I have here—my own private Gethsemane—I can now say with Paul,

“When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things” (1 Corinthians 13:11).

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