Trust in the Lord Can Light Up the New Year
by Darla Isackson
“O Lord, I have trusted in thee, and I will trust in thee forever.” (2 Nephi 4:34)
The year 2001 has brought surprising challenges-to me personally and to the world in general. Paul’s words seem appropriate to summarize how I want to feel about it all: “We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair;” (2 Corinthians 4:8-9) Some days I admit to distress, but my knowledge of God’s infinite loving care have kept me from despair.
Pondering the pending New Year, I am glad I have no specific knowledge of what it might bring. Had I stood on the threshold of 2001 and been shown all at once what the world and I would have to deal with, it would have been supremely difficult to muster the courage to face it. However, “sufficient to the day is the evil thereof” and one day at a time, with the Lord’s help, 2001 has been a year rich in love and learning.
I have absolute trust that whatever might happen in 2002, no matter how difficult, will “be for our good and bring us experience.” How have I come to this level of trust? Through many hard experiences that have been for my good.
Helen Keller learned a great deal about trust in her life through her difficult challenges and experiences. She learned to trust people, herself, and God, and lived a highly productive life in spite of her multiple handicaps.
She suggested four great things to learn in life:
. To think clearly without hurry or confusion;
. To love everyone sincerely;
. To act in everything with the highest motives;
. To trust God unhesitatingly.
Trust, such a small word, makes such a big difference. I have “caught” the truth that I’m not here on earth to prove I can learn life’s lessons by myself, but to be brought to the position of trusting in God to help me. The greatest lesson of all is our insatiable need for the Lord’s help. We can achieve self-mastery only by turning to the Master. We can find sufficiency only by turning to the One who is sufficient. Any experience we have, no matter how difficult, that pulls those ideas from theory into practice, is a blessed experience indeed.
“The Lord is My Shepherd”-Finding Out What That Really Means
I was bedfast with a broken leg and deep fatigue after a serious accident on the freeway last spring just when my family needed me most. The week after my accident my daughter-in-law Heidi was ordered to bed, threatening a too-early delivery. She and Mark had two other tiny children and they lived only three blocks from me. My grandsons and their mother desperately needed my care and comfort, and there I was unable to walk, too weak to even care for myself. The baby was born nine weeks early and spent six weeks in newborn ICU, necessitating Heidi’s absence from the home. Many Relief Society sisters took turns caring for my precious grandsons. When they finally brought the baby home, you can imagine how much Heidi would have appreciated another pair of hands, and her own mother lived far away and was unable to come.
I related to how the Prophet Joseph must have felt when he was incarcerated in Liberty Jail knowing how much his family and his people needed him. Not being able to help was much worse than my physical pain. I began reciting favorite scriptures, desperate for comfort. The 23rd Psalm seemed to have special application, and I wanted to understand more of its implications for me personally.
Too weak to get up for weeks, I had plenty of time to think about it. I remembered a quote from the recovery manual called He Did Deliver Me from Bondage, “You don’t need to do more. You need to ask more, receive more, be more.” I was in a perfect position to put that advice into practice. I was doing less than any time in my life since I was an infant, but I could surely ask more. So I pondered and prayed and asked. Many thoughts and answers came.
The Lord is my shepherd,
I thought of the picture of the Savior hanging in my family room. He is gazing tenderly down upon the little lamb He is cradling in His arms. What a joy to think that the Savior sees me as one of His lambs, and is looking down on me with the most tender concern. He knows each of his little lambs by name and has compassion for every pain, every injury, every trial.
He set the perfect example on earth as a shepherd who loves and leads, and He invites me to follow.
I shall not want . . .
But wait-there are all kinds of things I DO want and may never have in this life. Perhaps He means I shall not want for anything I truly need for my best good in my mortal journey. That may be very different from what I think I need. I think back on a whole lifetime of the Savior’s intervention, gently leading, gently guiding, always supplying my wants, and I marvel.
Digging deeper, “I shall not want” could mean I shall not desire things not for my best good, physically or spiritually. To do so is to pit my will against His. The solution: to say in all things, “Thy will be done.”
How interesting to contemplate how I have been blessed in this regard-my wants, my desires, are steadily changing. I am losing the desire for things of this world, but my desire for spiritual growth steadily increases. When the Lord is guiding my thoughts and desires, I do not want to give in to my weaknesses, I do not want to judge or label others, I do not want to eat or drink substances that harm my body, I do not want to participate in anything that would drag me down spiritually.
“The Lord is my shepherd. I shall not want.”
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures . . .
Green means growth and I had always felt I had to be up and moving in order to be growing. Once I was “made” to lie down, I learned that having the opportunity to stop and ponder and pray and ask for understanding and wisdom were my green of pastures of growth.
The Lord never forces, however, so how did He make me lie down? How did he humble me, stop me in my tracks, create sufficient motivation for me to cease my constant running and hurrying and pushing and stressing and overdoing? He allowed the natural consequences of my choices which often brought me exhaustion and illness-and in the last two years, chronic fatigue that slowed me down terrifically. When I still wasn’t sufficiently teachable (I would still use my down time to create new and lengthy to-do lists) He allowed an accident. I chose to be in the exact place on the freeway at the exact second that two cars ahead of me crashed and one was spun sideways directly into my path. Angel air bags (my old Buick wasn’t equipped with them) were provided to protect me from more injury than my already fragile body could bear, but the impact of striking another car when I was going 60 mph was terrific. My tibia was broken-just below the kneecap, and my knee was damaged. I was told to stay completely off my leg for three months, and was told that complete recovery of my knee is not likely. He “made” me lie down, and the pastures have, indeed, been green.
He leadeth me beside the still waters . . .
I read some time ago that sheep cannot drink from fast-flowing, troubled waters. They will die of thirst with water all around unless their shepherd can find them a calm, still pool to drink from. In my case, I have often been the problem, not the water. When my life has been too fast-flowing and troubled, I have not been able to drink of living waters and have thirsted spiritually. The scriptures were always right there, the possibility of communing with the Lord was always there, but I was sometimes moving too quickly to drink. Whenever I am still, however, my shepherd leads me to drink of still and living waters.
He restoreth my soul . . .
“Restore” means to bring back what was there before. What does He bring back, when I am still enough to listen and drink of living waters? Does he bring back memories of pre-existent truth that once I knew so surely, but have since forgotten? I know He brings back memory and sure knowledge of spiritual experiences on earth-of times the veil has been thin and I have known the Lord was near, and sensed in a still, sure way His love for me and the beauty of His plan. My soul is restored when I remember.
He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake . . .
In every righteous thing I do, the Lord leads by example. In the Savior’s mortal ministry He led the way and said, “Come follow me.” How well am I following?
Why “for his name’s sake?” As I am born again, I become a child a Christ, a part of his family, and covenant to take upon myself his name and honor it by doing as He would do.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for thou art with me . . .
I have learned for myself through hard but glorious experiences, that the Lord is with me in the valley of the shadow of death. The comforter was there when a family member was in a life-threatening accident, the Lord poured out his blessings at the time of my mother’s passing, and we all felt and bear witness of His love. I have been grievously ill, and have been in accidents that could have taken my life, and I have felt with great power His protection and comfort and care.
Thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me . . .
I see the rod as the rod of iron-the word of God. I read an article in a Christian magazine that suggested the rod was God’s protecting arm that fights our battles and saves us from perils, that saves our lives when our mission has not yet been completed, and that His staff, with its crook reaches out and draws us back to him whenever we stray. There is great comfort to me in each of these ideas.
He preparest a table for me in the presence of my enemies.
Why in the presence of my enemies? I can’t imagine my appetite being good with my enemies surrounding the table. Perhaps the enemies he is speaking of are my inner enemies that I can never get away from-my weaknesses, my sins, my false programming, the false traditions of the fathers, all of which keep me from the spiritual growth I so desire. The table He prepares could be the spiritual food I need to give me the strength to overcome all these inner enemies.
He anointest my head with oil . . .
Even in these latter days, the anointing has great spiritual significance. My head was anointed with oil with each healing blessing, such as the one that saved my life from a terrible burn when I was eighteen months old. My head is anointed with oil whenever I serve in the temple and do washings and anointings.
Jesus was called “the anointed one.” I think anointing implies great blessings and great responsibilities.
My cup runneth over . . .
I can live for days without food, but not without drink. The drink I need to sustain my life, both physically and spiritually, I am given in greater abundance than I need. The Lord is an abundant God. He is not miserly. He does not scrimp or withhold from me. When I pay my tithing he opens the windows of heaven and pours out a blessing so great I cannot receive. And when I sit at his table and receive his anointings, he does not fill my cup half full, but overflowing so I have all I need and plenty to share. When He fills my cup with His Spirit and His goodness and love and mercy, it is not for me alone, but to bless all those around me.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life . . .
Goodness shall follow me-from what source? Who is good? According to Jesus, none but God. When I accept Jesus as my Shepherd every moment, the goodness of God shines upon me. And mercy? How I need mercy. Justice would condemn me, a sinner. But the mercy of the atonement washes me clean. I will continually seek the grace of God to make up the difference for what I am too weak to do for myself. Here, the promise is that all the days of my life these blessings will be available-the goodness and mercy of God will follow me wherever I go. I suspect it is up to me to recognize my great, great need and open my heart to receive what is continually offered.
And I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
The great desire of my soul, of every stalwart believing soul, is to return “home.” I am a child of God and have ever been homesick for my Heavenly home. As I am born again, I take upon me the name of Christ and covenant to act as a member of His family. I want more than anything to return to the family home, be greeted as a returning family member after a long journey, be granted my family inheritance and the blessed companionship of not only my Savior, but my Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother. There is nothing more than this to seek, there will be nothing more to want. “The Lord is My Shepherd. I shall not want.”
One of the great compensations of my semi-invalid state this past year has been enforced time to read and listen to inspiring fiction. I had allowed the extensive reading required for my professional editing jobs to eclipse most “discretionary” reading for many years. My brother loaned me the tapes for the whole Work and the Glory series. I listened to them when I was too weak to hold up a book, and later when I needed to rest or was completing household tasks and personal care.
I had felt a bit out of the mainstream having no acquaintance with Gerald Lund’s famous Steed family! But now they are a part of my life, too. I have listened to all nine volumes in a few short months, experiencing with the Steeds the ebb and flow of life, the slow but amazing softening of people’s hearts through the refiner’s fire of difficult experiences. I saw in unfolding of their fictional but believable lives, what I was seeing in my own family. Paul’s word’s capture the essence:
And not only so, but we glory in tribulation also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope:” (Romans 4: 3-4)
Experience can bring us hope, because we see that if we persevere long enough, trust in the Lord long enough, God’s purposes begin to unfold in our lives. Anyone who considers suicide has likely not lived long enough or looked at life hard enough to recognize that inevitable unfolding process.
In Lund’s series, rebellious, hard-headed Joshua finally opened his heart to the Lord. But it took plenty of heart-wrenching experiences to humble him and lead him to that point. In the meantime neither his family nor the Lord gave up on him.
Neither should we ever give up on each other or ourselves. I can trace throughout my life the Lord’s patient, loving care through all my foolishness and folly. Looking back on a rich but somewhat tempestuous life, I feel strongly the Lord’s watchful care and can say as did Nephi, “Nevertheless, I know in whom I have trusted.”
So often it has been the scriptures that have pulled me back from the brink of despair and reminded me in whom I could trust. I love Isaiah’s words,
“Fear thou not, for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea I will uphold thee with my the right hand of my righteousness.” (Isaiah 41:10)
My Will vs. “Thy Will Be Done”
I know myself that those promises are faithful and true and give us every reason to trust in the Lord no matter what. The major obstacle I have found to trust is self-will-wanting things to “turn out” according to my own will, wanting to control what I can’t control. It is hard to trust that hard things in my life are being cared for by the Lord when I just plain don’t want them to be happening. It is difficult to say “thy will be done” and set aside my nicely laid plans in favor of His. In Helaman 12:6 we read,
“Behold, they do not desire that the Lord their God, who hath created them, should rule and reign over them; notwithstanding his great goodness and his mercy towards them, they do set at naught his counsels, and they will not that he should be their guide,”
Coming to a place of total trust and surrender to God’s will is just plain hard work-the hardest work we will ever attempt. It is far harder than any other “good works” and it is the one that is absolutely essential. What a different mind set to humbly plead for God’s guidance, to know and do His will, than to either coast in deep ruts of habitual behavior or plead with the Lord to change things to be the way we want them.
I’m afraid I’ve wasted a lot of time in both of the above-mentioned modes. But in any moment that I have the presence of mind to ASK, I receive the gifts of the Spirit needed to rise above the natural man. It’s all about surrendering my will, recognizing and doing His will. The quest of my life is to remember that process and set it in motion. When I accomplish it, I am at peace. When I fail, I am miserable. I’m blessed to have good friends whose example helps me in my quest.
I went to visit my dear friend Patricia the day before she went into the hospital for a hysterectomy. She told me of her recent deepening of understanding in regard to letting go of outcomes-of the trust in the Lord that gives you the freedom to say, “Whatever happens, it’s all right.” She told of the difference between praying, “Lord, get my daughter back to church,” and “Lord, please be with my daughter and reach her in any way that is best for her. Help me to love and accept her just as she is, just where she is in her development.” Patricia said, “I’ve traditionally written a long list of questions for the New Year. The 62 I wrote last year were all about outcomes. When I started doing the same this year I stopped, and wrote only one question: ‘Will I develop a closer relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ, turn my life over to Him and learn to accept His will and follow His direction?’ With that focus, whatever happens about the 62 things (and most of them are still distressing), my faith will remain intact.”
Patricia had such a calm and radiant spirit and was cherishing every moment of the day and trusting her future to the Lord. It was a important lesson for me.
The results of turning to God are results I can trust. His promises are sure, unchangeable, like He is. The scriptures become more and more important in my life as I live them, ponder them, reap the blessings from them. I’m experiencing the blessings of trusting and the more time I spend in that mode the more delicious its fruits become to me. It becomes more black and white-when I worry, obsess over other people’s choices or what “might happen,” I am in the natural man state. When I trust, pray, submit, seek the Lord’s will, I rise above the natural man and begin to taste the fruits of the Spirit. I’m grateful for family members that also set a good example. For example, after Thanksgiving our son had to return to college and it meant a twelve-hour drive in a frightful storm and treacherous roads. I was quickly going into my best worry pattern-what mother wouldn’t under those conditions? But my husband said, “I think he’ll be fine. And if anything happens, we’ll deal with it then. Why make yourself miserable over something that probably won’t happen?” We prayed for him, turned him over to the Lord, and had a lovely day. He arrived safely. It becomes less and less appealing to be in the worry mode. It seems such a waste of time. The best news is-it’s up to me! I can choose every moment whether to wallow in fear and worry or to bask in the sweet assurance that since all is in God’s hands, all is well.
Relaxing into Reality
Trust seems to be the very key to gospel living-unless I trust the Lord I will not seek His will. If I don’t trust, how can I love Him with might, mind, and strength? Unless I trust how can I say I have hope and faith? Trust is the antidote to worry and fear, the opposite of stress. Trust allows me to relax into reality and learn what is there for me to learn.
Trust eclipses doubt and makes me steadfast and immovable in belief. Trust excuses me from the ludicrous impossible job of trying to fix others, fix the world, right all wrongs, make other SEE. When in the trust mode I know that I am responsible only for my own quest for trust and I can be free of imposing my perceptions on anyone else.
Trust frees me from trying to prove anything by my performance and from trying to earn points. Trust tells me that life is about Be-ing so much more than Do-ing. Yet as I relax into trust and submit myself to the Lord, He gives me strength and ability to DO so much more that matters.
The recovery manual He Did Deliver Me from Bondage lists some great promises that result from trusting, promises I want to comment on.
1. I can trust that the Lord will give me the words I need to share in the very moment I need them. I can’t rehearse or decide them beforehand, but they will come at the exact right time. That promise can also have application in my writing. 2 Nephi 8:16: “And I have put words in thy mouth [also in my mind? In my fingers as I type or write with a pen?] and have covered thee in the shadow of mine hand.” Jacob 1:17: “wherefore, I , Jacob, gave unto them these words as I taught them in the temple. Having first obtained my errand from the Lord.”
2. I can have the joy and privilege of being His instrument (and no-one feels the surgeon’s closeness more than the scalpel!) In college I first heard the song, “Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace of earth,” and I loved it-had it sung at my farewell, took a copy of the words on my mission, memorized it and referred to it often over the years. I have continued to love that song all my life. When I really look into my heart, this has always been my deepest desire, and I have been most heartbroken when I’ve felt I have failed at this desire. I’ve seen how my weaknesses have hurt my children when I desired only to bless them. Sometimes I have blindly injured in my huge desire to “help.” But I can learn to set aside my own agenda, submit to the Spirit, and be taught how to be a true instrument in His hands.
3. Trust in the Lord will bring me peace that passeth understanding (peace that doesn’t make any sense to others because it has nothing to do with external circumstances.) Helaman 5:47 “Peace, peace be unto you because of your faith in my Well Beloved.” Nephi 1:15 “and it came to pass that there was no contention in the land, because of the love of God which did dwell in the hearts of the people.” The more I love God, the less capable I am of thinking contentious thoughts or participating in contention at all. “Peace I give to you. My peace I give unto you. Not as the world giveth give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled; neither let it be afraid.” The Lord takes the trouble and fear out of my heart whenever I turn to Him
4. I will lose all disposition to do evil-which in my case is most likely to be judging, criticizing, trying to change others, make them see things my way, do things my way. Mosiah 5:2 “which has wrought a mighty change in us, or in our hearts, that we have no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually.”
Learning to Trust the Refining Process
The hardest challenge I’ve faced in this regard is trying to stay in the spiritual mode when someone around me is clearly choosing the natural man. I’ve learned that the key is praying for the other person rather than criticizing them in my mind. But I feel a resistance-it seems so difficult to remember to do that. There is a payoff for allowing myself to stay in the negative -when I resent others for choosing to be in the natural man I can blame them for my discomfort, for my own loss of the Spirit. I want them to improve so I don’t have to look at my own weakness of judging. Of course I can stay out of judging when their actions are admirable-but when they are not, I am put to the test and so often fail that test and fall into judging.
So is it my judging and my contribution to the problem that makes me miserable, not their behavior? Is it true that the Savior was able to transcend misery when those around him blasphemed and acted in other unrighteous ways because he didn’t judge them? He still wept for people, yearned after them. Did he maintain his own perfect peace because He chose each moment the will of the Father, prayed for the sinner, and forgave them in his heart for the discomfort they may be inflicting on Him? Even on the cross he said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Part of the refiner’s fire for each of us comes in the form of the actions of those around us.
I love the analogy of the silversmith. The Lord said, “I will sit as a refiner of silver.” A real silversmith does sit and watch the furnace-even a few seconds too long in the furnace will harm the silver. In like manner the Lord watches over us. Our trials are not random, but tailor-made to refine us. The agency we have that allows us to hurt each other is turned to our good by the kind and loving hand of the Savior. The silversmith knows the process is finished, “When I can see my own image reflected in the silver.” And so does the Lord.
I can’t spend an hour with the scriptures without finding numerous verses to strengthen me during this refining process. Scriptures such as,
“Preserve me , O God, for in thee I put my trust.” (Psalm 13:1) and,
“Look unto me in every thought; doubt not, fear not.” (D&C 6:36) and finally,
“These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.
Therefore are they before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple, and he that sitteth on the throne shall dwell among them
They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more; neither shall the sun light on them, or any heat.
For the Lamb, which is in the midst of the throne, shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters: and God shall wipe all tears from their eyes.” (Revelation 7: 14-17.)
Whatever happens, the Lord will not forsake us. His promises are sure. We have such never-ending reasons to trust the Lord. We can look to the year 2002 armed with that trust-and live with peace in our hearts regardless of the chaos in the world.
2001 Meridian Magazine. All Rights Reserved.