The talk that I was given as a reference is “Receiving Divine Assistance through the Grace of the Lord” by Elder Gene R. Cook, Of the Seventy. Bishop Argo highlighted parts of this talk, one of the first things that he highlighted was Elder Cook saying: “How many of us, at times, try to resolve life’s challenges ourselves, without seeking the intervention of the Lord in our lives? We try to carry the burden alone. As some are faced with trials and afflictions, they say, “Why won’t God help me?” Some have even struggled with doubts about their prayers and their personal worthiness and say, “Perhaps prayer doesn’t work.” Others who have suffered with sickness, discouragement, financial crisis, rejection, disappointment, and even loss of loved ones may say, “Why won’t the Lord heal me or help me? Or help me with my son? Why didn’t He prevent her death? Does life have to be this unhappy?”
This is not an uncommon concern from our church leaders, Elder Bruce C. Hafen said: “Some Church members feel weighed down with discouragement about the circumstances of their personal lives, even when they are making sustained and admirable efforts. Frequently, these feelings of self-disappointment come not from wrongdoing, but from stresses for which they may not be fully to blame.”
And W. Craig Zwick In his talk, “The Lord Thy God Will Hold Thy Hand” said: “The great plan of happiness includes a proverbial roller coaster of challenging times along with the most joyful times. Yes, we all have our moments of difficulty and heartbreak. Occasionally, they are so difficult for us that we just want to give up. There are times when our steps are unsteady, when we feel discouraged and even reach out in desperation.”
In Elder Cook’s talk he shares principles that may help us obtain divine assistance. As I did research on this subject I found some other great talks that also had suggestions of keys to help us find that divine assistance we may be looking for. I put all those principles and keys together and came up with three to focus on.
When I first started therapy many years ago I told my therapist that I really didn’t understand the scripture “Men are that they might have joy.” I knew life was a test and that we are here to learn. I had so much on my list to do each day. I had so much on my list of things to perfect in my life so that I could return to my Father in Heaven. Life was hard, frustrating and demanding and so I just didn’t see where joy fit in or why Heavenly Father would even worry about us having joy in life.
Years later I was at therapy and I was telling my therapist about a beautiful day I had with my kids at a beach in Hawaii when we went to get my son settled into BYU Hawaii. I described a particular moment to her, Megan was playing in the sand next to me, Adam was in the water with his new roommate, the sky was just starting to go dusky with stars beginning to appear, the ocean was gently lapping at the beach and I felt such a moment of openness and peace. It was such a beautiful feeling, so much so that my therapist suggested we give that feeling a name. She said, “let’s call it joy.” I started to cry and I said, “is that what joy is?”
Ronald E. Poelman in his talk, “Adversity and the Divine Purpose of Mortality” said:
“Happiness,” in the words of the Prophet Joseph Smith, “is the object and design of our existence; and will be the end thereof, if we pursue the path that leads to it.” Often that path includes affliction, trials, and suffering—physically, mentally, and even spiritually.
Not too long ago on one of Kate Arrasmith’s and I scrapbook days we were talking about something she did that made her really happy and I said, “I think we underestimated the importance of happiness.” And it was in that moment that I truly understood why it is that our Heavenly Father wants us to have joy, because the power of joy, of happiness lifts us from the darkness of this earth life, from the daily living in a temperal existence. Happiness reminds us that we are children of a loving Father in Heaven, it reminds us that there is more to life than whatever adversity may be in the moment.
I remember watching a tv show where a doctor was panicking about the surgery he was just about to perform and he gave himself 10 seconds to panic and then he was going to get to work. When we are feeling, what my husband calls, the boulders of adversity, it is ok to feel the pain, frustration, anger, sadness or fear of it, but we should do our best to only give ourselves a short time, probably longer than 10 seconds, to feel all of that, but then at some point we need to get to “work” so to speak.
Years ago when I was deep in my depression I was talking to one of my sisters and she said that I just needed “to do the dishes.” Of course, at the time, I thought she was crazy, but then I began to understand what she meant, to just do the most basic of what you can, what I call my widow’s mite. So what is our bare bones basics of reaching out for divine assistance, the dishes so to speak? Of the categories that I chose, I believe that seeking and listening to the Spirit is the most important.
Seek and Listen to the Spirit (prayer) and Scripture Study (learn)
To quote Brother Poelman again, he said:
[W]e should follow the counsel of Amulek: “Let your hearts be full, drawn out in prayer unto him continually for your welfare, and also for the welfare of those who are around you.” (Alma 34:27.) Next, our prayers should be accompanied with daily scripture study. The eternal perspective attained thereby reminds us of who we are, what the true purpose of this mortal experience is, and who placed us here. The availability of divine help is repeatedly reconfirmed.
I remember reading in a book on depression about how many people suffering from depression feel as if their pleas and prayers to Heavenly Father seem to stop at the ceiling. I’m very grateful that I never experienced this, and if this is how you feel whether because of depression, trials or challenges, then take that next step, which in my mind is, to seek out a priesthood blessing. If you feel like Heavenly Father and the answers you seek are far away from you, then do everything you can to get close to Heavenly Father. Go to the temple often, and I don’t just mean once a month, to really seek Him, go weekly or more if you need to. If you don’t have a temple recommend, go to the temple grounds. In my youth I found myself often on the Provo Temple Grounds, I felt peace there, I felt closer to my Heavenly Father, I got answers there. Pray, not just for a few minutes, but pray for as long as you can, maybe even set a timer to keep you on your knees. And when you pray, spend as much time listening as you do talking. Read your scriptures, study them, look up footnotes or words in the dictionary, look up past talks and articles online, pretend like you are preparing a talk on the subject, delve into it, truly seek in all sense of the word.
When Taylor got home from her mission, we met with President Rodarte for him to release her as a missionary. During our conversation Taylor stressed several times that to stay close to our Heavenly Father you needed to do three things, pray, read and go to church which leads me to my next category which is to keep the commandments, or more basically, be obedient.
Keep the commandments (obedience)
I love the story that Bro. Gunn shared with us about making the decision once to go to church every week. I know we talk to our youth about making certain decisions when they are young, like never having alcohol. Making the decision once or before you are even in a certain situation, takes the drama out of it, it’s done, it's over, you have decided. A decision of mine is that I want to return to my Father in Heaven, and not only to return to Him, but to reach the highest Degree of Glory in the Celestial Kingdom. I don't remember making this decision, I must have made it at a very young age or maybe I just came with it already in my head. This decision is so strong that it has carried me through many of my life’s challenges and obstacles.
Elder Holland reminds us that the “symbol of the cup that cannot pass is a cup that comes in our life as well as in [the Savior’s]. It is in a much lesser way, to a much lesser degree, but it comes often enough to teach us that we have to obey”.
I have shared many times one of my favorite quotes which is that “we need to accept that what we are going through is the only way for us to learn what we need to know to progress spiritually.” When I read this quote from Elder Holland, it made me realize how many times in our lives, during our challenges, we too have done what the Savior did, asking our Heavenly Father to “let this cup pass from us,” but how often that cup does not pass, but we know we will not be left alone in these times, we will be supported, we will be strengthened and we will overcome. Which leads me into my next category which is doing all we can in our own power.
Doing all in your power
So what does it mean to do all we can in our own power? I think it means to seek our Heavenly Father’s help, but then we do everything we possibly can to solve the situation ourselves. I’m always telling my kids that when they are seeking guidance, but feel like they aren’t getting any, then they need to keep moving forward in the best way they can until they get a no or direction to go a different way. Elder Cook said:
[T]o pass successfully through the trials we encounter, we must keep our eyes and our hearts centered on the Lord Jesus Christ. We should have great hope in knowing, however unworthy we may feel or weak we may be, that if we will do all we can, He will come to our aid and provide for us whatever we may lack. “For we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do.” (2 Ne. 25:23.) Thus, unless one has done all in his own power, he cannot expect the grace of God to be manifest…. it is not based just on what we know, how strong we are, or who we are, but more upon our giving all that we can give and doing all that we can do in our present circumstance.
Remember it says, “all that we can do,” not more than you can do, not less than you can do. This is where I want to stress again, this is your widow’s mite. Just as the widow looked at what she had to give, make sure you look at what you have to give and give appropriately. Elder Hafen said:
A constant public emphasis on grace might encourage some people to ignore the crucial “all we can do” in that two-part process. The Savior himself was not concerned that he would seem too forgiving or soft on sin. Said he, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. … For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matt. 11:28, 30). . . . His yoke is easy—but he asks for all our hearts. His words do not describe an event, but a process. He does not request the answer to a yes-or-no question, but an essay, written in the winding trail of our experience. As we move along that trail, we will find that he is not only aware of our limitations, but that he will also in due course compensate for them, “after all we can do.” . . . A sense of falling short or falling down is not only natural, but essential to the mortal experience. But, “after all we can do,” the Atonement can fill that which is empty, straighten our bent parts, and make strong that which is weak.
The“doing all we can do” part can get a bit sticky. I believe there is a very fine line between “doing all we can do” and putting our trust and faith in our Heavenly Father to take care of things for us. One of my favorite songs is, “Which Part Is Mine,” by Michael McClean. The end of the song says:
Which part is mine?
And God, which part is yours?
Could you tell me one more time,
I'm never quite sure.
And I won't cross the line
like I have before.
But it gets so confusing sometimes.
Should I do more, or trust the divine?
Please, just help me define which part's mine,
and which part is yours.
Did you hear me?
I can feel you near me.
It is the answer
that I've been longing for;
just to know you hear me,
after I've done my best,
and to feel you near me.
I know you'll do the rest.
It is the answer that I've been longing for!
It is in that surety that after we have done our best that God will do the rest. Elder Cook said:
Jesus taught that we pass through all these trials to refine us “in the furnace of affliction” (1 Ne. 20:10), and that we should not bear them unaided, but “in [the] Redeemer’s name” (D&C 138:13). In spite of our feeling, at times, that He has forgotten us, He testifies, “Yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee … “Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands.” (1 Ne. 21:15–16.)
What a great image that is, that we are graven upon the palms of His hands. He will not forsake us no matter what our trials are.
I feel like that sometimes getting divine assistance during our trials feels like a guessing game, am I asking my questions the right way, am I doing the right things and so on. The key is to get closer to Christ and our Father in Heaven, not distancing ourselves. I just read in an article this morning that by “separating ourselves from gospel living limits our opportunities to receive such inspiration. As a result, we are left open to the negative influence of Satan, which can cause us to look “beyond the mark” (Jacob 4:14), weakening our testimonies.”
I know that Heavenly Father and our Savior will not lead us astray. If the answer is no, you will know it. You will receive a very strong no, or it will be a challenge every step of the way and it is time to do something different than you have been doing, open up yourself to the Lord’s will, let go of what you are clinging to and trust that He has something better for you than you can even imagine.
If it is a maybe or a not now requiring us to be patient is when it seems to be most challenging. Like I said, move forward in the best way that you can. I am definitely one of those people who like to see the whole map ahead of me and really life doesn't work that way, it is little by little that the way lights up. If you trust God and take that first step, you will then be able to see the next step and from there the next step and so on. Putting your life in God’s hands completely can be really scary, it is so worth it, the blessings He has for us are so great, and once you have put your life in his hands and received those blessings you will be able to do it again and again.
I would like to close with a quote from Elder Hafen:
Each of us will taste the bitter ashes of life, from sin and neglect to sorrow and disappointment. But the atonement of Christ can lift us up in beauty from our ashes on the wings of a sure promise of immortality and eternal life. He will thus lift us up, not only at the end of life, but in each day of our lives. “Hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God … giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength. … They that wait upon the Lord shall … mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint” (Isa. 40:28–31).