How the Lord Turns Things to Our Good
We can win the battleground of the mind because the Lord is on our side! This past year I have spent most of my time writing a book of comfort for those who have lost a loved one to suicide. This has been the most healing, and light-filled, time of my life. As I have daily sought the Spirit and made progress on this book, I had to overcome a lot of discouragement in regard to my health limitations and my own obvious personal weaknesses. But as I have persevered and felt the Lord’s kind hand leading me, I experienced some of the greatest insights of my life.
It was like I had been seeing through a glass darkly, and suddenly the film was washed away and I could see clearly. I looked back to find a mountain of scriptures, talks, hymns, and inspirational thoughts that had made a huge difference in my life. The challenge was deciding which of all those comforting materials were most important. But the sheer volume of comforting material left me amazed at how abundantly the Lord blesses us with light and truth. As I attempted to express the most important spiritual lessons I had learned, I learned more!
For instance, one of the biggest needs I had was comfort in regard to the state of my son Brian’s soul in the Spirit World. Suicide is a sin. He had such a good heart, but was into alcohol, drugs and who knows what else clear up to the day he died. Was he lost?
For a long time my best comfort had been President Joseph F. Smith’s vision of the redemption of the dead in Doctrine & Covenants 138. He saw the gospel being preached to those in the Spirit World and tells us that the dead who repent will be redeemed. So much is said about missionary work in the Spirit World and temple ordinances for the dead. What use would they be if the second estate probation ended the minute we die? If people didn’t still have some chance of seeing the truth, changing their minds, turning to Christ, accepting His saving grace, why would missionary work be done in the Spirit World?
During the final stages of creating my book an email friend and fellow griever sent me a talk titled, “We Are Children of God,” where President Marion G. Romney plainly defines the second estate as the mortality we are now experiencing AND our sojourn in the spirit after we die. (Marion G. Romney, “We are Children of God,” Ensign, Sept. 1984, 3.)
She also referred me to Elder Neal A. Maxwell’s book The Promise of Discipleship, where he had written an entire chapter on the spirit world! I quickly obtained a copy of the book and found Elder Maxwell’s words so full of hope for our departed loved ones! In that chapter called simply “The Spirit World,” I found the following quote:
“We tend to overlook the reality that the spirit world and paradise are part, really, of the second estate … He provides in the spirit world a continuum of mortality’s probation, the great opportunity for all.”
(Neal A. Maxwell, The Promise of Discipleship, Deseret Book, Salt Lake City, Utah, 2001, 111. Recently released in soft cover.)
How could it be any different? God is both merciful and just. What else would make sense? We have all the time we need — here and hereafter — to learn what we need to learn and to change what we need to change. That doesn’t mean we should procrastinate our repentance — not one minute! But for those who didn’t understand the truth while they were in mortality, didn’t recognize it while they were here even if it was right under their nose — they will be taught the gospel in all its purity. When they truly understand, then they will have the chance to accept and repent.
Over and over again as I worked on my book, my understanding increased of the beauty of God’s plan for all of His children. In regard to my own life, I began to see how the Lord had loved and led me every step of the way. Even when I couldn’t feel it, even when I doubted it, even when depression had me fully in its grim grasp, the Lord was mindful of me. And I came to know that He had been mindful of Brian too, that He had never abandoned him. He loves us each so much. We are His children! He has our names carved on the palms of His hands. He says in the scriptures that even though a mother may forget her nursing child, He will never forget us.
The Lord is making all things work together for good in my life — and He is in your lives too. At times it is frightfully hard to see that, to feel or believe it is true. But it is! Our ways are not His ways, nor our thoughts His thoughts, because God sees the beginning from the end. He knows who we were before we came here. He knows what we will accomplish after we leave. He knows the story is not over, no matter how dismal our prospects may look at the moment.
Water Under the Bridge
The biggest encouragement I can give you personally is that I am not only surviving, but am also finding a deeper, more satisfying life. Inexplicably, I often realize lately that I’m happier than I’ve ever been. Early last summer, after I thought I had finished my book I took a couple of my granddaughters, ages three and five, to Murray Park. After 35 years of only boys in the family, in the past six years I’ve been blessed with six grand-daughters, and I’m loving it. Anyway, after that outing I knew there was something else I wanted to write.
I hadn’t been to that park for years. It was the one I had lived closest to when my sons were growing up. I took Brian and the other boys there so many times, and this return was full of nostalgia. The gazebo and play equipment were new, but the layout was the same, and the same great trees still spread leafy branches over the river we walked by; the girls giggled and ran down a small hill and picked handfuls of dandelions, then ran onto the bridge and threw them into the river. My heart swelled with the sight of the children, so full of life, so happy. I stood on the bridge and watched the water, swift from spring runoff, carry the bright yellow baubles out of sight.
I could never have guessed the trials that lay ahead when I stood on this same bridge watching my sons throw rocks into the water thirty-some years ago. But, like the proverbial “water under the bridge” the trials have passed, and the only thing I can change about the past is the stories I tell myself about it and how I allow it to affect me.
I was struck by the message in this experience — life goes on. Every year the snow melts in the mountains and the rivers run full, and the water goes swirling and gurgling on its way.
Every year the dandelions bloom, and now I’m watching a whole new generation of children pick them. The moment was precious. In spite of all the hard things that had happened, I realized I was feeling joy again.
Changing the Focus of Our Hope
Edwin Markham said, “Only the soul that knows the mighty grief can know the mighty rapture. Sorrows come to stretch out spaces in the heart for joy.” But let me make one point absolutely clear. My joy now does not come from having everything just as I would like it to be.
I’ve changed the focus of my hope. In Moroni 7:41 we read, “And what is it that ye shall hope for? Behold, I say unto you that ye shall have hope through the Atonement of Christ and the power of his resurrection, to be raised unto life eternal, and this because of your faith in him according to the promise.”
Focusing my hope on the Savior and all His promises is my formula for peace. His love is like the light shining from the lighthouse I picked for the cover of my book. My current happiness is not based on the hope that things will “turn out” as I want. But sometimes they do — I was finally sealed to my husband Doug more than five years ago and served with him in the Salt Lake inner city mission. More often things don’t turn out. But my hope is no longer attached to temporary outcomes. It is built on a deeper, firmer trust in God’s reality, of Jesus’ love and Atonement, of Their constant concern for our welfare no matter how different life is from what any of us may have wanted or expected.
Simply put, I’ve finally come to peace with “what is.” I’ve quit waging war with the parts of reality I don’t like. It is true that our lives are forever changed by tragedies and loss of loved ones. But the tragedy continues only if our changed lives are void of joy, only if we quit growing and learning and giving.
A New Level of Loving, A New Way to Worship
Much of my life I have gone to the temple or to church to receive — I’ve been so needy, so hungry, so desirous of receiving greater understanding, comfort, or relief. And that’s okay because those are good places to receive, to feel the Spirit, to be filled. But now I know there is a higher level of worship — that we can turn our hearts to giving and to gratitude, that when we pray with all the energy of our hearts for charity we can be filled with His love so that we can’t help letting that love spill out to those around us.
Mind you I’m certainly not there all of the time, but I’ve had glimpses of this delicious state of mind. I’ve recognized that it is possible to learn to trust God no matter what because we come to recognize the awesome wonder of His ability to turn all things to our good, to bring growth and new life in the aftermath of tragedy. I know now what it means to be like the Phoenix rising from the ashes. I know that the cocoons of this life that seem to entrap us are temporary. Either here or hereafter we will burst out of them to become the butterflies we were meant to be. After the struggle to pump the fluid into their wings, butterflies soar — and so will we!
God Does Everything for Our Benefit
I know now that it is possible to have moments when your heart expands with understanding so you can truly trust God enough to thank Him in all things, because you know that “He doeth not anything save it be for the benefit of the world; for He loveth the world, even that he layeth down his own life that he may draw all men unto him. Wherefore he commandeth none that they shall not partake of salvation.” (2 Nephi 26:24)
Whenever we question or lament over conditions in the world or our personal lives, we can remind ourselves that God is in charge and “He doeth not anything save it be for the benefit of the world, for he loveth the world.” We can personalize this scripture and say, “He doeth not anything save it be for the benefit of my soul for he loveth my soul.”
His work and His glory is to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of each of his children. Everything He does, He does because He loves us and knows it will be for our long-term benefit. Every time he delays answer to prayers, or says “no” it is because He knows it will benefit us. Even when He stands back and allows evil, it is because He knows that respect for agency is for the ultimate benefit of the world — it provides opposition in all things, It allows us to learn from painful experiences the necessity of the atonement and our constant need of His help.
He comforts us as He did Joseph Smith with the words, “And all these things shall be for your good and shall give you experience, “ and tells us that all the hard things will be “but a small moment.” His plan is so all-encompassing, so all-inclusive. He loves all of us and sees our potential and our eventual salvation. What a song of gladness the gospel is. What a great and wonderful plan to save and bless all mankind!
After walking through some dark deserts of life, I’ve had joy flood back like healing rain when I’ve stood in awe at God’s great plan for us. One day I looked at the intricate design of a flower and knew in my heart that one of the reasons God created it is because He knew that I personally would find delight in it. He loves us that much. When we get the tiniest glimpse of the expansiveness of His plan for us, of the depth and breadth and height of His love for us, what we do is worship and adore, give praise to His holy name, and desire to share what we’ve been given.
I bear testimony that all things work together for good to those who love the Lord. We can win on the battleground of the mind because He will help us. I bear testimony that Jesus lives and loves us, that He never leaves us, that He has our names engraved on the palms of His hands, that He never forgets us. That the great plan of happiness has not been overturned by the calamities that we are beginning to experience in these last days.
God rules. He is at the helm. He will be victorious. Darkness will not triumph over Light!
The Lord has personal victories planned for every one of us and will lead us and guide us to experience them as we continue to trust God, come unto Christ, and take the Holy Spirit as our guide. Therein lies our only safety, our only hope. I certainly haven’t arrived, but step by baby step, I’m coming alive in a whole new way.
The Lord is good. His peace is like a river flowing through the dry land of my life. The same can be true for you!
My heart echoes the words of Moroni: “And now, I would commend you to seek this Jesus of whom the prophets and apostles have written, that the grace of God the Father, and also the Lord Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost, which beareth record of them, may be and abide in you forever.” (Moroni 12:41)
Note: Darla has been a published writer for more than three decades and a regular columnist for Meridian since 2001. Learn more about her and her books on her website: