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“If fish could scream there would be fewer fishermen.” Years ago, my friend, Ted Gibbons, and I arose early to go fishing in central Utah. I was thoroughly enjoying myself when he laughingly made that observation…and ruined my day! I can’t remember how many fish I caught, but I remember what he said.
How many people are hooked by the urgency of their circumstances and flounder helplessly while inside they are silently screaming?
Each of us experiences times when we feel that God is distant while we plead to him in agony for deliverance. Regardless of our best efforts to serve him and keep his commandments, we imagine that our prayers are vain. However, if we could step outside our present circumstance and see through the eyes of God, we might observe that we are traveling at light speed.
When Blessings Must Wait
My wife and I have ten children. As we have observed their roads to temple marriage, we have noted that each experience involves enormous sacrifice and some pain. Isn’t it interesting that the greatest blessings always are accompanied by the greatest price? It is as though the Lord must first mold us into something new before he can guide us into our new life of eternal possibilities.
I am reminded of Jesus’ comforting words about enduring the pain of waiting before the blessing appeared. “Your sorrow shall be turned into joy,” he promised. Then likening the waiting period to a woman in the last days of pregnancy, he said, “A woman when she is in travail hath sorrow, because her hour is come: but as soon as she is delivered of the child, she remembereth no more the anguish, for joy that a man is born into the world” (John 16:21).
Every mother understands the meaning here. The final wait for the baby to be born is terribly uncomfortable, and no amount of praying can hurry the process of development. To interrupt the child’s necessary maturation would be dangerous. Then when the delivery finally arrives, the experience can be protracted and agonizing. Throughout the entire process, the mother sacrifices everything to bring forth a new life.
But when the child is born, “she remembereth no more the anguish, for joy that [her child] is born into the world!”
And so we wait, silently screaming at times, not knowing the length of the development process of the blessing that the Lord is most certainly preparing.
True Love Waits
Once a young boy wrote to us about first love and the new feelings he was discovering.
I have to ask you about true love. There is a certain girl that I really like. I can’t stop thinking of her (in a good way). This feeling is affecting my schoolwork, the way I communicate with her, and the way I act around other people. It’s taking over my life! Is this “true love” I am feeling? If so, what should I do about it? Please answer.
Here was our answer:
Sorry. What you are feeling is not true love.’ Your feelings would properly be called infatuation.’ True love is, of course, a feeling, but it is so much more. True love is forged over time; true love is defined by trust, sacrifice, loyalty and patience.
The development of true love, like other blessings from God, is built on the foundation of trust, sacrifice, loyalty, and patience. And perhaps patience is the most difficult test. Patience means:
- I will wait with you.
- I will wait for you.
- I will wait upon [serve] you.
Sometimes, love requires that we wait with someone while we wait for them to change or heal. At other times, love requires that that we wait for someone while we wait for them to return to us. And often, love requires that we wait upon someone as we lovingly serve them. True love and all blessings wait!
Marking Time by Garbage Days
During forty years of marriage, my wife and I have experienced long seasons of distress when no sign of relief was in sight. Looking back, we have wondered how we ever survived such times. We adopted a standing joke that we told each other on Thursdays, as we wheeled the garbage cans to the edge of the road. “Well, we made it to another garbage day!”
Garbage day–that became the measuring stick of our survival. We felt that we were succeeding if we could just make it to another garbage day.
The joke was not so funny, however. During those protracted periods, I would often survey my life and mourn. How much of my mortal existence had I wasted on survival? How many opportunities had passed me by because I was not in a position to embrace them? Sometimes I felt that my life had been dedicated to enduring and that I had accomplished nothing of significance.
Granted, I was wallowing in self-pity, but I wonder how many of us doubt that our lives have much substance when we, too, slip into extended periods that exhaust our strength and challenge the limits of our endurance? Is our life without purpose? Is our faith in God vain?
Inching Along at Light Speed
Once, when I felt that I was slogging uphill in the mud, I dreamed that I was on an airplane flying at six-hundred miles per hour. After a while, I noticed a crippled man stand and hobble toward the front of the plane. Each difficult stride covered mere inches, and the man seemed frustrated by his slow pace.
Then suddenly I was on the ground observing the same scene from a different vantage point. Now from my new position, every step that the crippled man took spanned several miles! From his point of view, he was hardly making any progress at all; but from my point of view he was covering incredible distances.
I wonder if that is how God sees us: rocketing through space, making astonishing strides toward our blessings, deliverance, and ultimately our eternal destination.
What Profit Is It?
Speaking for God, the prophet Malachi (Malachi 3:13-15) chastised us for questioning how the Lord works with us: “Your words have been stout against me, saith the Lord.
We are shocked by the prophet’s denouncement. After all, haven’t we been trying hard to remain true and do what is right? Incredulously, we ask, “What have we spoken against thee?”
Then the Lord answers, “Ye have said, It is vain to serve God: and what profit is it that we have kept his ordinance, and that we have walked mournfully before the Lord of hosts?”
In other words, we are faltering under the weight of our circumstances and we wonder if our attempts to do right will ever attract the attention of heaven.
Does anyone up there know that I am caught with a hook and suffering in agony? Does anyone hear my silent screams? Does anyone care that I have kept my covenants or that I have prayed and fasted to the point of exhaustion or that I have served diligently in my callings or that I have humbled myself and faithfully attended the temple? Why does my life never seem to improve? What do my efforts profit?
Then we look around us and see people prospering who are not living the commandments. “And now we call the proud happy; yea, they that work wickedness are set up; yea, they that tempt God are even delivered.”[i]
What is going on here? Is it vain to believe in and serve God? We feel like the crippled man, who struggles toward a destination that eludes him. He inches along while proud people seem to experience happiness, wicked people appear to prosper, and deliverance comes to people who are godless. How can this be?
Preparation in the Shadow of God
Do you know the name Bezaleel? Probably not. And yet Bezaleel was one of the most important people in the Old Testament. The responsibility for building the tabernacle fell to him (Exodus 31:1-11). In Exodus, we are informed that he was a skilled artisan in all works of metal, wood, and stone. Where had he acquired these skills? In Egypt, as a slave.
Imagine the years of hopelessness, laboring day after day with no end in sight. I am certain that Bezaleel wondered about the purpose of his life. Would he ever be able to use his gift for anything more than constructing and beautifying the Pharaoh’s cities? Had God forsaken him?
Interesting, the name Bezaleel means “in the shadow or the protection of God.” God was watching out for him after all. Bezaleel was being prepared not only for deliverance but for a mighty work that he would do to bind Israel to her God. Bezaleel’s work would become the model for all subsequent Israelite temples and even has application today.
Isaiah took up the subject of our apparent captivity as the seedbed of preparation for greater things (1 Nephi 21:1-5): “The Lord hath called me from the womb; from the bowels of my mother hath he made mention of my name.” Personalizing this scripture, we might say that the Lord laid a plan for our lives before we were born.
But neither do we know the plan or the steps the Lord will take to reveal it. Isaiah described his hiding the plan from us as a polishing period and that he has hidden our purpose from the gaze of the world and ever our gaze. No one is allowed to see what he is doing or his design for us.
And he hath made my mouth like a sharp sword; in the shadow of his hand hath he hid me, and made me a polished shaft; in his quiver hath he hid me.
Notice what has happened while we were being held back. Widely unaware of what the Lord was making of us, we have remained oblivious about our true identity and potential. The Lord has hidden us and held us back; to the world our worth is invisible. Notice further that this situation is temporary. In time, the Lord will retrieve us from his sheath as though we were a sharp sword or a polished shaft from his quiver. He has been preparing us to become his secret weapon. Our being “hid” had purpose after all: “Thou art my servant…in whom I will be glorified.”
But while we were in the “shadow of his hand,” we felt useless: “I have labored in vain, I have spent my strength for naught and in vain.” Nevertheless, the day will come when “[I will be] glorious in the eyes of the Lord, and my God shall be my strength.” What we cannot see now has purpose; a perfect plan is being worked outside our view.
When the Lord makes up His Jewels
Making it to the next garbage day seems to make all the difference.
Job didn’t enjoy the process of preparation any more than we do. He also experienced reaching out to heaven and temporarily receiving silence in return (Job 23:8-10): “Behold, I go forward, but he is not there; and backward, but I cannot perceive him: on the left hand, where he doth work, but I cannot behold him: he hideth himself on the right hand, that I cannot see him.”
But Job also understood that what he was going through was seasonal. The furnace associated with the baptism of fire is hot, but “when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold” – stunningly beautiful and infinitely valuable.
The Lord explains our deliverance and value this way: “And they shall be mine, saith the Lord of hosts, in that day when I make up my jewels; and I will spare them, as a man spareth his own son that serveth him.” Our waiting patiently for the Lord to deliver us from the captivity of our circumstance while he sharpens and polishes us for a greater purpose serves to distinguish us between “the righteous and the wicked, between him that serveth God and him that serveth him not” (Malachi 3:17-18).
Each of us experiences times when we feel that God is distant.We feel that we are caught by miserable conditions and we are screaming for help, but no one is listening. Regardless of our best efforts to serve God, we imagine that our prayers and righteous efforts are vain. We wake up every morning to face the same distress; we feel that our life is slipping away and that we are making no progress at all.
That is from our point of view. However, if we could step outside our present circumstance and see through the eyes of God, we might observe that we are traveling at light speed toward our blessings and deliverance. Perhaps we are being prepared so that the Lord one day will bring us out from hiding so that we might construct a temple where we can meet our God and bring in others to meet him also.
All the garbage days will be worth it when, like the travailing woman, we are delivered from distress and hold a sweet little baby in our arms. Then our sorrow shall be “turned into joy” and we will remember “no more the anguish” as we gaze at the miraculous newness of life, which, despite our present misgivings, will most certainly come.
The captivity season of our life wasn’t wasted after all.
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