(This article is adapted from Rescuing Wayward Children. Follow this link to learn more.)
Faith in God is the stuff that produces miracles. When a wayward child needs rescuing, we must summon faith, and often we discover that our faith is lacking. It is one thing to believe that God exists, but it is quite another to believe who he really is. Here is an exchange of letters that speak to the subject of faith.
Dear Brother Barkdull,
I won’t be able to write much because of the tears following down my face.
I have one brother who has been excommunicated after joining an apostate group, a brother who has removed his name from the records of the Church, and one brother who is totally less-active. All of them have been through the temple, and is a returned missionary. My parents’ hearts are broken, but they continue on faithfully with good cheer and great hope. They are my heroes and examples. I never thought I would be living through their experience.
Last year, my son was disfellowshiped and left the Church. Within the last few months, my son-in-law has become less-active. Again, both had been through the temple, and one is a returned missionary. My heart is broken, but trying to follow my parents’ example, I attempt to move forward with good cheer and great hope, and I try my best to be faithful.
Your messages each week lift my load and my heart. Thank you for your spiritual words. They always help, but today when I read one of your articles about the Savior’s sanctifying himself to arrive in a more powerful position to rescue others, I began sobbing with gratitude. My husband and I are trying so hard to be worthy so we might be instrumental in helping ‘save’ these sons of ours.
Writing Through Tears
Dear Writing Through Tears:
I am overwhelmed when I contemplate that the Father calls us parents to become saviors on Mount Zion, representing in every way the Savior, doing in proxy what he would do: “Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils.” Representing Jesus is a weighty responsibility. In a remarkable manner, we become to Jesus what he is to his Father: “As my Father hath sent me, even so send I you.” Admittedly, we need an infusion of faith for such a commission. Obviously your parents are people of great faith, as are you and your husband. Great faith produces great miracles.
Allow me to ramble a bit.
Who Is God, Really?
In Lectures on Faith, the Prophet Joseph Smith stated that faith pivots on our hope and belief that God possesses certain characteristics in absolute perfection. We would say the same of the Savior. In times of urgency, we hope that God has the power to help, we hope that he is aware of us, and we hope that he loves us enough to rush to our rescue. We reach out to him and plead for his help because we believe that he has both the ability and the disposition to grant our request. Therefore, when we search our faith and find it lacking, we might ask, “Which of these characteristics do I believe that God does not possess?”
Here is an abbreviated, personalized list, which I created to help me through the hard times:
POWER. God is all-powerful. Otherwise, how could I believe that he could help me if I imagined that something was beyond his ability? Nothing is too hard for him. He can do anything, in any situation, at any time, in my behalf.
KNOWLEDGE. God possesses all knowledge about everything, including past, present, and future events. Otherwise, how could I believe that he could anticipate and solve my problems if there was something that he didn’t know, or if his attention was momentarily diverted away from me, or if I thought he had forgotten me? He intimately knows and “foreknows” me and is constantly aware of my thoughts and my circumstances.
LOVE. I am God’s child. In some remarkable manner that I do not understand, I receive all of his attention all of the time. He loves me completely. He is merciful, compassionate, kind, comforting, patient, gracious and abundant in goodness. Otherwise, how could I seek his help to face unbearable situations or to take the difficult steps of change if anything I was going through or had done could distance me from his love? His love for me is unconditional and continual and is the consistent motivating force in his interactions with me.
CONSISTENT. God is perfectly unchangeable. What he did yesterday he will be doing today and tomorrow. Otherwise, how could I anticipate the whims or circumstances that could change his mercy for me to reproach or his love for me to disdain?
JUST. God is perfectly equitable and no respecter of persons. Otherwise, how could I believe in him if I thought that he played favorites? If God’s laws specify blessings and consequences, I can count on his justice prevailing and his judgment to be correct.
TRUTH. God cannot lie. He does not make promises casually. Otherwise, how could I believe that my future with him is secure if I thought that he didn’t mean what he said, or might seek an out, or might change his mind? He will keep his word in his own way and in his own time
Ultimately, our faith in the Father and the Son is strengthened or injured according to our trusting in their divine attributes of character-all of which define who they really are.
Faith is Trust
I can think of three reasons to not trust someone:
1) I don’t know you well enough.
2) My past experience with you was disappointing or inconsistent.
3) I don’t think you can do it.
When we feel our trust waning, we might ask ourselves which of these reasons is retarding our hope in Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ?
Love is like a 4-legged Stool
If we have truly faith in God–not only faith that he exists but faith in who he really is–we trust him.
Trust, I have learned, is one leg of the four-legged stool of love. In order for love to be true love, it must consist of loyalty, sacrifice, patience and trust–and trust is often the hardest of all.
We say that we love God, but we fail to trust him; we accuse him of disloyalty, and we think that he is not doing enough for us. However, if we would examine our lives honestly, we would be forced to admit that he sacrifices and has sacrificed everything for us, he is and has been perfectly loyal, and he is and has been completely trustworthy. That is to say, he gives himself totally to us–his time, ability, and all that he has and is; he never divides his affection; he never, ever lets us down. In every way, he is the beloved Bridegroom, and we are his adored “bride.” The question of love, therefore, might be asked of us, not of him.
The Time of Decision
Somewhere along the way, we have to make up our minds if we really love and trust the Savior. Elijah asked the people in his day to stop vacillating back and forth and make a decision: “How long halt ye between two opinions? if the Lord be God, follow him: but if Baal, then follow him” (1 Kings 18:21). The same could be asked of us: “How long are we going to go on declaring our faith in God on the one hand, while discounting his perfect attributes and characteristics on the other? If the Lord be God, trust him; if something else is your God, trust that. But stop trying to mix the two.”
We must decide once and for all if he really exists and what he is really like. When we stop comparing him to mortal men, accusing him of inattention, inability, indifference, incompetence and ignorance, then we can get back to basics and love and trust him.
If we truly have faith in God, we will have faith in Jesus Christ. We will really believe in the Atonement. We will really believe that the Savior anticipated our present circumstance, paid a terrible price to resolve it, and now holds the keys of deliverance. Turning those keys seems to be linked to our personal sanctification and divine timing. Our sanctifying ourselves and waiting in faith for him, are how we show our love for and trust in him. Remember, God showed his love for and trust in us by sending us these children. We are partners with him in their personal plans of salvation. Their present waywardness is our opportunity to get into the trenches with the Father and the Son and learn the invaluable principles of redemption that will benefit us in our eternal work. Who else would they trust with such a job?
I testify that you are greatly loved and trusted, and the work that you have been called to shoulder is on a course of success that you cannot presently perceive.
Note: This article is adapted from Rescuing Wayward Children. Follow this link to learn more.