I got to spend some time getting to know one of my neighbors better today. We just sat and talked. And talked. And talked. Before I realized, four hours had passed! It was wonderful to have a chance to hear some of her story and share some of mine with her. We see the world and spiritual things very differently, but also there is so much we seem to have in common. I have thirsted for a friendship like this. There is strengthening that comes from having friends with similar viewpoints, but I think we also need the stretching that comes from having friends who don’t always see things the same way.
We’ve lived just two doors away from each other for four years and because we’ve both had some serious struggles over that time, we just weren’t able to make the effort to do much more than chat with each other during our neighborhood 4th of July party. It was so nice to have some conversation without accompanying explosions of fireworks.
Our conversation brought to my mind some of the many times I’ve felt like I was following what God wanted me to do, and then things seemed to go painfully wrong. It’s easy to feel abandoned by God in those times, but looking back I see growth and shifting in the direction of my life that brought so many subsequent blessings.
I’ve been reading in the Book of Mormon about Nephi and seeing how he is so careful to do what God tells him, and then his brothers beat him up, or tie him up and leave him in the desert for animals to eat*, or try to throw him off a cliff, or his bow breaks and he can’t hunt for food for his family. It’s just so clear that having God with you is no guarantee of a trauma-free life, and having trauma is also not a proof that God is not with you. Having God with you through trials just means that you can heal – forgive maybe – and not carry the trauma forward. Having God in your trouble means that you can grow closer to Him during your suffering, in spite of your suffering, and that you can grow to become better rather than bitter. He can send peace even though we have to face an impossible reality. (*edit: Try to tie him up and leave him…)
I’ve seen this in a friend who is enduring treatment for breast cancer. I’ve seen it in a friend who abruptly lost her husband in an accident. I’ve seen it in family members who have to adjust to employment curve balls. As the Book of Mormon is repeatedly showing me, and as the Bible also shows, our God is trustworthy and faithful to bless when we try to keep His commandments. Thankfully, we don’t have to be perfect at it, progress is sufficient for God. He knew we’d mess things up sometimes, that’s why He sent Jesus.
This week I have learned the scriptural meaning of the word prosperity and the word cursed.
In scripture, prosperity means being blessed by the strengthening power of God’s presence.
To be cursed, means cut off from the strengthening power of God’s presence.
The ONE THING that determines whether you or I have God’s strengthening power is our obedience to His word – our CHOICES.
I found this quote and it shows up in my journaling this week if you watch for it (though I don’t know who wants to pour over my photos that closely). Here’s the quote:
Our Heavenly Father’s goal in parenting is not to have His children do what is right: it is to have His children CHOOSE to do what is right and ultimately become like Him.
-Dale G. Renlund, “Choose You This Day” 10/2018
Here are some of the Book of Mormon journal pages that I’ve done this week. This week’s study has LOADS of examples of how opposition is necessary in our lives. Without it – that continual push-pull to choose good over evil – and the consequences of happiness or misery that come as a result – Lehi says we may as well be dead. Whoa! Strong word there. I learned so much about my own inner struggles and strengths by thinking deeply about his words. I have a new level of respect and gratitude that God has given us the ability to choose and learn from our choices.