One of the good things about experiencing trials (our own and others’) is that they cause us to become keenly aware of love – God’s love and our love for each other. There is no question that one of the purposes of hard times is to help us turn to our Father in Heaven, call upon Him and discover the depth of His love for us. This infinite love is often made manifest through the actions of others in our behalf or our actions in behalf of someone else, causing us to develop a level of love we had not yet known.

Through some personal experiences we have been made more aware of how this works. We have seen first hand what love does.

In Marriage

GARY: Recently we both have been afflicted with physical challenges we have not previously experienced. Not that we haven’t had our share of health problems before; we have.  But this has been a little different. First, one of us was stricken and then the other, with the one not being completely well before the other needed help. It seems only fair that in marriage one spouse ought to always be well to care for the other and surely the other should be fully recovered and well before the other becomes ill.  In other words, there should be no overlap.

The problem is, it doesn’t always work that way. We’ve given up the notion of fairness and have, instead, employed the principle of faith as related to the exercise of love. So we came up with a philosophy: Whoever hurts the worst gets the attention. It’s amazing how a person can mentally rally from an illness when someone they love is in greater need. That’s when the faith part enters in and we pray, “Help me have the strength to help my loved one.” 

Your own suffering can be put on a back burner when someone you love is worse off.  The Lord’s love makes that possible. He can give people an inner strength they didn’t know they had. We can be infused with His love, which then reaches out to our loved one through us. 

An Example in Alaska

JOY:We saw an example of this kind of love a few months ago when we visited my brother and his wife in Alaska.  He has been diagnosed with a terminal illness and the love we witnessed between these two was deeply inspiring.  We were not surprised because we’ve seen them giving tender loving care to each other since their marriage several years ago.  They had both lost their first spouses to death and had been blessed to find each other. 

But now one of them is dying and the other is not in the best of health herself. As she sees to his needs and does her best to cheer him up and stay positive, all the while allowing him to feel what he’s feeling about this whole new experience, we’ve seen love in action.

He cannot say enough about how much he loves and appreciates her and all she is doing for him  While I was alone with him he asked me if I would write a song that expressed his love for her.  The song would be something that would serve as a lasting reminder of his gratitude for her now and after he’s gone. He kept referring to her as “my angel.”  He hoped the song would be finished in time for him to give to her before leaving this life.  His is a lasting example of the scripture to “Love thy wife with all thy heart.”  (D&C 42:22)

I asked him to tell me all the things he loved about her and then went to work prayerfully writing the lyrics, finishing before leaving so we could discuss them and make sure I was on target. I was grateful that he gave me this opportunity to show my love for them. Then I called my cousin Janice Kapp Perry and asked if she would put it to music. I knew she would – she loves them both, too – and she did.

When we returned we did a simple home recording of it with Janice playing the piano accompaniment and Gary singing it. We emailed it to their son who lives near them.  He downloaded it on a CD with photos of them on the label (his unexpected special touch – another act of love), and took it to them.

It thrilled us to hear the report of how much this meant to both of them. She’s a beautiful example of compassionate marital love, and so is he in wanting her to know the depth of his gratitude and love for her.  Their life together is an example of what love does.

A Bad Day for Both

GARY:Years ago I remember coming home from work exhausted and burdened. It had been a particularly discouraging day. What I didn’t know was that my wife had had the same kind of day. 

JOY: I could hardly wait for Gary to come home that day so I could unload all my woes and get some help and sympathy from him.  I felt so very discouraged that particular day.  But when he walked in the door I could see he was not doing well. In fact, I thought What’s wrong?  He looks awful. Then something happened inside of me.  I realized that he was at least as bad off as I was or maybe worse, and my unloading on him would not be a good idea.

GARY:She switched gears and said, “Honey, what’s the matter?” I told her I had had a really rotten day.  She kissed me, took me by the hand, led me into my quiet study and sat me down.  In a minute she was back with a glass of apple juice, which she knows I enjoy. Her loving care was like a balm from heaven.

JOY: I just happened to have seen the need first. A little while later he asked me how my day had gone.  He was all relaxed now and I felt I could tell him.  He patiently listened, then put his arms around me and held me for awhile.  That, too, was a balm from heaven.  We were the weary comforting the weary.

What I discovered that day was that when the need is greater for the other person, you can rally to the cause.  Somehow love kicks in and takes over.  I think we’ve pretty much tried to do that for each other many times, not always perfectly, but we keep working at it.

GARY: That’s what love does.  Love works at it.

If we find ourselves lacking in the love needed we must remember that it is attainable. Moroni teaches us that “Charity is the pure love of Christ, and it endureth forever;” Then he admonishes us to “pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that ye may be filled with this love, which he hath bestowed upon all who are true followers of his Son, Jesus Christ;” (Moroni 7:47-48)

When we feel His love we are much more able to bestow love on others.

  So if we don’t feel it we need to pray to feel it.

In Parenting

JOY:The same principle applies to parenting.  It’s easy to love a sweet, adorable little child, but what of the hormonal young teen whose behavior seems self-designed to make your life miserable?  While our children were still young and adorable, a wise woman told me, “When they become teens they will at times do and say things that will hurt you deeply.  Don’t take it personal!  Just ignore it and love them anyway.” 

Oh, is it hard to not take it personal. But it pays off to look past it and show the child how love really works.  And it does, as we mentioned, take work. We are reminded that “charity (love) suffereth long, and is kind… is not easily provoked… beareth all things… endureth all things. (Moro. 7: 45)

So what if a child says something horrible like, “I hate you!”  How do you look past that?  Just calmly reply, “I’m sorry to hear that.  I love you anyway.”  Keep in mind that comments like this are motivated by frustration and the inborn desire to be independent. They have little to do with their real feelings for you.

Just the other day one of our teenage grandchildren was pouring her troubles out to me on the phone and she said, “Grandma, I just hate it when Mom and Dad are right.”  I’m glad she couldn’t see my silent chuckle.  I was thinking, “Well, how bout that.  She’s normal.”  I continued listening to and validating her frustrations, then said a silent prayer for them all. I think that’s what love does.

A Single Mother in Action

GARY: We must not be derailed in our goal to help our children grow up appropriately. It takes a thick skin and loving follow-through.

We saw a great example of this many years ago. A woman in our ward with four young children had lost her husband to cancer. The task to teach and care for these children was overwhelming, but she was determined.  Love is determined.  When her son was sixteen he tested the waters, as most of them do.  She said, “He pushed the limits, particularly regarding curfew time.  When he didn’t come home at the agreed-upon time one night I simply found him and brought him home.”

However, the following weekend he broke the rules again.  When it was past time for him to be home she said, “I decided I had to be a little more creative this time if I was going to get the point across.”  He was at a video party at a friend’s house and it was well past his curfew. She said, “I went after him again, only this time I went looking real ugly.” 

She put on her worst looking robe, old bunny slippers, added a few rollers in her hair, took off all makeup and went to the party.  She walked right to him, in front of all the kids, and simply said, “You were to be home at midnight.  Come home now!”  She was not mean, nasty or disrespectful, just simply in charge. 

She said, “He jumped up and followed me out immediately. He had to get me out of there quick. And he was never late again.”  That’s what parental love does.  It doesn’t sit around and stew, get angry and yell awful ultimatums.  It goes into action in a kind, loving and determined manner. Because our children are worth it.

JOY:Many years later Gary and I were speaking at a stake fireside in a different state and to our delight, guess who one of the counselors to the stake president was?  You’re right.  It was this same boy, all grown up and righteous.  I love how love works.

Hardcore Rebellion

GARY: It isn’t always that easy.  Some children can press us almost beyond our endurance, but still we must hold on.  Love holds on. What of the child who was taught and nurtured in the gospel and completely rebels?  What then?

JOY:A few years ago we received a call from a mother of one such teen.  She said their sixteen-year-old son, the youngest of five children, had turned against the Church and the values they held dear.  She said, “All our other kids were straight arrow and faithful, but this boy challenged everything we believed.”  She said they prayed and prayed and tried everything they could think of to bring him back, but every action seemed to push him further away.

The reason she was calling us was to say that she had seen our book I Don’t Have to Make Everything All Better reviewed in their local newspaper and thought reading it might help them reach their son.  She said, “As soon as my husband and I started using the validating principles discussed in the book, our son started to soften and change.”  With a tear in her voice she said, “Thank you. These principles gave us back our boy.”

GARY: The reason we mention this is because these parents are an example of not giving up.  They were willing to hold on and try every avenue that might help their son, even learn a new way of communication. 

Incidently, the validating principles are simple.  In a nutshell, it’s listening without preaching.  Too often we are so worried about a child’s behavior that we continue hammering him or her with gospel truths and as a result drive them further away.  These parents learned to listen in an effort to gain understanding of what he was going through.  It doesn’t mean they agreed.  You can listen without agreeing or disagreeing – just listening and using validating phrases like, “Hmmm” or “That’s interesting,” without ending with your sermon or point of view. It helps the child feel that you really care, and that opens the door for change.


JOY: We watched as good friends of ours agonized over their daughter being incarcerated for a crime that seemed impossible to them. Only their love for her and their faith sustained them. Prayer helped them survive and have hope.  And it helped them develop the Christ-like quality of “his patience, and his long-suffering towards the children of men;” (Mosiah 4: 6, 11)

They became familiar with “long-suffering.” For several years they visited her in prison every week and gradually watched her grow into the spiritual person they had faith she could become. 

An early parole allowed her to live a normal life once again. Thanks to the glorious blessing of the atonement and their continual love for her, she blossomed spiritually, beyond their fondest hopes. Their love sustained her and God’s love sustained them. They had learned the power of holding on.  That’s what love does, it holds on.

In Other Relationships

GARY:We have witnessed so many examples of love from others.

  The world is full of them.  Right in our own neighborhood we have been recipients of those who believe and live this admonition: “See that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently” (1 Peter 1:22).

Our neighbor was aware of a home improvement project I was involved in.  He was worried because he knew of the physical challenge I was experiencing at the time.  Some digging needed to be done before the contractor could finish the job.  I started it and then we had to be out of town for a couple of days. While we were gone he came over and finished all the digging, preparing it for the contractor.  It was no small job.  We knew who had done it. He was the one who had been over checking on what we were doing.

JOY: I was so happy to see what this kind neighbor had done when we returned.  You see, my husband thinks he’s still 30 years old and can do what he used to do.  It annoys him that he has to be more careful now.  I love it when someone gives him a helping hand.  And many good neighbors have through the years, as he has done for them.

Another very kind thing happened when I was recovering from surgery a few months ago.  The sisters in Relief Society lived up to its name.  They brought relief in the form of food.  Food is a sweet manifestation of love.  They also gave us their prayers and other expressions of loving concern. We felt we were being loved with a “pure heart fervently.” 

And they weren’t the only ones.  My cousin fixed a big pot of their favorite cabbage patch stew1 and brought it to us.  Oh, how we love that stew! I think love makes stew.  That’s what love does.

GARY: Love comes in so many different forms, but always so easily identifiable.  We suggest you look back in your life and you’ll see the many faces of people who have reached out in an effort to express their love for you. 

In our looking back we remembered a very difficult time in our life.  Joy had had some medical complications that revealed that she could never give birth to a child. It was a very low point in our young lives. We were devastated by the news. One of her brothers called us and said, “We’ve been saving to buy a home and we want to give you all of our money to help you find medical help for your problem.”  It was a sizable sum. We wept at their loving generosity.  However, no amount of money could change the situation, so we expressed our gratitude and declined, but we never forgot what they were willing to do for us.

JOY: That’s when our prayers changed from praying to have a baby to being guided to find the baby we should adopt. During this time we felt the loving arms of the Lord around us, buoying us up. And we were blessed. Within a few months we held in our arms our beautiful little baby boy.  That’s when we discovered what parental love feels like.  It was consuming.  Since then we have felt that same overwhelming love for our other four children, and now the adorable grandchildren they have given us.  Love begets love in more ways than one.

In Conclusion

It has become obvious to us that our trials have been the means the Lord has used to reveal the magnitude of His love for us. Without them we might never be able to feel His love to the extent that we need to in order to successfully traverse this mortal journey and reach our eternal goal.

It’s so comforting to know that God has not left us alone here.  He has given us the ability to directly communicate with him. We can be in touch with Him at every turn.  All we need do is pray. 

And He answers. No matter what, He answers. Elder Robert D. Hales said, “When we want to speak to God, we pray.  And when we want Him to speak to us, we search the scriptures; for His words are spoken through His prophets.  He will then teach us as we listen to the promptings of His Holy Spirit.” (Gen. Conf., Sept. 30, 2006)

Through the scriptures and these quiet promptings, He is with us always.  His love will bring us comfort. Thus fortified, we in turn can bring comfort to others. That’s what love does.

1. For the Cabbage Patch Stew recipe, go to https://www.lundbergcompany.com/blog/, and scroll down.

Gary and Joy invite you to join them at their next Marriage Retreat.  For more information click here (https://lundbergcompany.com/blog/seminars/marriage-retreat/).