Have you ever had so many problems and trials at one time, that when you pray you actually forget to enlist the Lord’s help with a couple of them? It’s as if your mind can’t recall eleven major crises and you need to make a list, right? You’re not alone. We all have times when life seems to serve up hardships in crashing waves, and it’s almost more than our brain can process. Maybe you’re praying for comfort in your grief, a better job, financial help, patience with a neighbor, inspiration for a wayward child, the ability to forgive a cruel relative, strength to serve in a difficult calling, marital harmony, and on and on. And then you end your prayer and realize you had completely forgotten to ask for healing after an upcoming surgery.
It’s almost funny, if we weren’t in such real tribulation. And so you pray again-a P.S. Your problems seem nearly insurmountable, definitely bigger and more numerous than the challenges of others you know. But at least you’re smart enough to realize that you can’t cope with this much adversity alone; you absolutely must get help from the Lord.And he’s there, with all the answers. He knows exactly what is best for you, what would bless you and teach you the most (which is why some of our prayers are answered “no.”) If we’re super smart, we don’t ask for him to remove our problems, but to help us find ways to cope. We pray to find out what we can actively do, and we try to bring our desires into line with God’s. We pray for faith, for confirmation of our best ideas, for patience in our long suffering.
And so it somewhat surprises me to encounter members who have huge trials, yet do not pray. I was chatting with a less active girlfriend, recently, who is battling health issues, job difficulties, and some heavy family drama. As she spoke it was clear she was trying to solve everything single-handedly. So I asked, “Why are you doing it the hard way?” I told her I couldn’t imagine tackling those tough issues without Christ. When you have the best advocate and helper in the universe, why wouldn’t you take advantage of that?
Amazingly, she said she likes doing things the hard way. “Well, okay,” I told her. “You’ll be giddy with delight, then, because hard is exactly what you’ll get.” And, though I did not say this, she will also get a Ph.D. from the School of Hard Knocks, because many of the solutions she thinks up with her mortal mind will be precisely the wrong choice. She will stumble and fail, agonize and suffer, and all for no good reason except that by keeping her life in turmoil she can maintain an endless loop of complaining. But as for actually solving anything, or really making some headway towards happiness, she’s playing a game of Pin the Tail on the Donkey. She’s blindfolded, she’s wildly off target, and she’s going to do this for a very long time without ever reaching the goal.
And if we do not solicit our Savior’s help, if we do not pray for guidance, we are right there with her. We are doing it the hard way, when a much easier way is right within our reach.
It’s the same thing with church attendance. How many times have we heard someone say, “I can read the scriptures on my own/commune with nature/be a good person without coming to church”? They’re kidding themselves. They’re trying to have a spiritual experience, or meditative insights, and doing it all on their own minus Christ’s help. Are there good people who don’t attend? Of course.Would they be even better, and of more service to others, if they did attend? Without question. Will a testimony grow if you don’t bother to attend? Never has. Will it have a better chance of growing if you come back? Absolutely. Will you be able to repent and renew your baptismal covenants if you elect not to attend? No way. Will you be able to enjoy that “just baptized” cleanliness every week when you do attend? Yep. (Obviously bed-ridden members and others who physically cannot attend, can have the Sacrament brought to them.)
To me it’s a no-brainer that life is infinitely better if we reach out to Christ and pledge our hearts to him. He has already purchased us with his infinite atonement, and by opening that knocked door and letting him in, we accept his gift. We can only benefit when we include him in our decisions. People who think it’s harder to be active are 180 degrees wrong. It’s much harder to be inactive, and flail along through life without a guide. It’s like little kids who say it’s hard to keep all the rules. Well, see how hard life gets if you break them. And this applies with equal accuracy to scientific rules of physics or to God’s laws for happy living.
A close relationship with Christ is paramount at any time, but especially at times of adversity, when we have so many worries we can’t count them all.And so, yes, it puzzles me when someone is metaphorically paddling their boat with their bare hands instead of using the oars. And the oars are right there! Is it some grand victory to make it to shore six hours after everyone else? Is it wonderful to know you did it all on your own without a single tool? Or is it embarrassing to be so proud that you can’t utilize the implements that could make it so much easier?
If you find yourself in torment the next time you’re immersed in difficulty, stop and ask yourself if you’ve involved the Lord enough. Too often people fret and pace alone, coming up with their own plans of action and then going off, half-cocked, without running their ideas by the Lord. They behave as if he doesn’t even exist, and isn’t intimately interested in our lives. They barge ahead in some direction of their own invention, and then pound the ground when it doesn’t work out. Instead, ask yourself these questions: Have you really taken your burdens to him? Have you reasoned out a solution and then presented it for his approval? Have you gotten a needed Priesthood blessing, or conferred with a trusted Priesthood leader? Or are you just muddling through as if there’s no lifeline whatsoever, and no one who cares enough to help you? Have you taken the time to read the scriptures and listen for answers and inspiration? This is often when they come, you know. There’s a hard way, and there’s an easy way. To turn a phrase, smart is as smart does.
Joni Hilton’s book, “FUNERAL POTATOES-THE NOVEL” (Covenant Communications) is in LDS bookstores everywhere.
Hilton has written 20 books, three award-winning plays, and is a frequent public speaker and a former TV talk show host. She is also the author of the “As the Ward Turns” series, “The Ten-Cow Wives’ Club,” and “The Power of Prayer.” Hilton is a frequent writer for “Music &The Spoken Word,” many national magazines. She is married to TV personality Bob Hilton, is the mother of four, and currently serves as Relief Society President in her ward in northern California.
She can be reached at her website, jonihilton.com, Twitter:@JoniHilton, and Facebook: Joni Hilton