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Do you realize we are in the tenth week of the Come Follow Me program? How are you feeling about it? I’ve heard about many wonderful and miraculous experiences and I have also heard about many difficult challenges and frustrations. Today I would like to take time to address those who are feeling frustrated, discouraged or overwhelmed.
Perhaps you are hearing about the experiences of others and wondering where your miracle is hiding. Maybe you are feeling like you are the only one who is struggling. You might feel like a friend of mine who said she felt like the rich young man who ‘went away sorrowing’. Sorrowing, not because she wasn’t willing to do it, but because she knew it would be difficult, and she couldn’t see how she could fulfill the task ahead. Do you ever have feelings like that?
Let me assure you that you are not alone.
There are families who wrangle young children together and struggle to get through the passages. The children wrestle, dance, instigate, complain, scream, throw tantrums, and have parents wanting to cry out “please just sit down, close your mouths and feel the Spirit already!”, and then go to bed wondering “How can I ever make this work?”
There are others who are striving to do their best, but are stymied because of a spouse (or children) who refuse to participate and are not at all supportive. There are struggling single parents raising children alone. Other people honestly don’t enjoy reading, or have trouble comprehending, making the scriptural language especially difficult. Some individuals feel extremely overwhelmed with all the information out there. ‘Which study guide should I use? Should I use more than one? How many hours should I put into this new study program? Which activity or method will be the best?’ And yet others are just anxious about adding another thing to an already full plate.
There are so many reasons a person or family could feel frustrated and in despair. To you, I say, relax and take a deep, cleansing breath. (Did you do it?)
Let’s go back and take a look at why we are doing this. In April 2018, President Nelson shared these thoughts with us:
I am optimistic about the future. It will be filled with opportunities for each of us to progress, contribute, and take the gospel to every corner of the earth. But I am also not naive about the days ahead. We live in a world that is complex and increasingly contentious. …If we are to have any hope of sifting through the myriad of voices and the philosophies of men that attack truth, we must learn to receive revelation… in coming days, it will not be possible to survive spiritually without the guiding, directing, comforting, and constant influence of the Holy Ghost.
I urge you to stretch beyond your current spiritual ability to receive personal revelation…
My beloved brothers and sisters, I plead with you to increase your spiritual capacity to receive revelation. Let this [day] be a defining moment in your life. Choose to do the spiritual work required to enjoy the gift of the Holy Ghost and hear the voice of the Spirit more frequently and more clearly. (emphasis added).
This warning and urging is to each of us, individually, and to our families and children. In October General Conference 2018 President Nelson’s opening remarks included the following:
“The long-standing objective of the Church is to assist all members to increase their faith in our Lord Jesus Christ and in His Atonement, to assist them in making and keeping their covenants with God, and to strengthen and seal their families. In this complex world today, this is not easy. The adversary is increasing his attacks on faith and upon us and our families at an exponential rate. To survive spiritually, we need counterstrategies and proactive plans. Accordingly, we now want to put in place organizational adjustments that will further fortify our members and their families.” (emphasis added).
This reminds me of Moroni, in Alma 43:30, when he chooses to defend his people with righteous stratagem. The Come Follow Me program is a righteous stratagem designed to help “families and individuals to learn doctrine, strengthen faith, and foster greater personal worship.” It is designed to guide us to increase our capacity for revelation. It is designed to help us succeed in our increasingly difficult world. It is designed to bless us in our homes, no matter what our circumstances.
Elder Gene R. Cook explained that the Prophet and the entire church leadership “desire to bring greater gospel joy—to parents, children, youth, singles, the elderly, new converts, and those people the missionaries are teaching”,—through this effort.
Did you read that? This program is designed to bring us greater gospel joy–not overwhelm us with frustrations or guilt.
Whenever we do something we are not accustomed to doing, there is a learning curve. It takes a while to get the hang of it. Sometimes it is difficult. Sometimes we fall flat on our faces. I remember a few years ago my oldest daughter needed to create an exercise program for someone for a class she was taking. I was her victim of choice. One of the exercises was sit ups. I must confess that it had been a while since I had done a sit up.
At first I couldn’t do an unassisted sit up. Not one. But I stuck my feet under a couch and did a couple. That, in addition to the other exercises I was doing, left me very sore. I was using muscles that had not been used in a while. It was tough. There were days I wanted to skip. But I persisted. And in the course of a few months I was doing 25 unassisted sit ups along with other ab exercises. Granted I was doing the “easy, beginner” exercises, but I was extremely satisfied with my progression.
My point is that we are flexing new spiritual muscles while we change from a Church-based teaching program to a Family-based program. There is bound to be some soreness and frustration along the way. And there will be days or weeks where we may want to ‘skip’ or give up.
Sometimes it may seem as though everyone else is “getting it” except us. President Nelson addressed this in April 2018:
“To be sure, there may be times when you feel as though the heavens are closed. But I promise that as you continue to be obedient, expressing gratitude for every blessing the Lord gives you, and as you patiently honor the Lord’s timetable, you will be given the knowledge and understanding you seek. Every blessing the Lord has for you—even miracles—will follow. That is what personal revelation will do for you.”
If you are feeling frustrated or overwhelmed or despairing, give yourself a break. Just keep trying. Do what you can do. Don’t worry about what others are doing. Oh, it’s great to hear what’s working and what is not. But you are unique. Your family is unique. And there is only one place you need to go for the best ideas, individualized and tailor-made for your specific circumstances. And that is to your Heavenly Father. Persist and ideas will come! “Pray about your concerns, your fears, your weaknesses—[especially] the longings of your heart. And then listen! Write the thoughts that come to your mind. Record your feelings and follow through with actions that you are prompted to take. As you repeat this process day after day, month after month, year after year, you will “grow into the principle of revelation. And your ability to receive and understand revelation will increase.”(Nelson, 2018) Our prophet has promised us success. Do your best and the Lord will take care of the rest. I know when we follow the prophet, sooner or later, we are blessed.
Let me share something I have learned in the past few weeks. Goals really make a difference. Maybe you know this. They don’t have to be huge earth shattering goals. But they matter and should be part of your weekly habits. We had a few weeks where we didn’t make goals in our scripture sessions, and I really noticed a difference. We had great discussions, but something was missing. It lacked spiritual power. We have to make a goal to get the power of change into our lives. This is a gospel of change and progression, after all. We are creatures of action, we need to act on the things we are learning.
This week we have made a challenge to have each individual in our home, compliment everyone else individually, every day, in an effort to make our home more like the temple. It is a small thing, but by small and simple things great things can happen. If you feel inspired to do so, try it out, make a goal and see if you feel the difference.
This week’s message is “Thy Faith Hath Made Thee Whole”.
There are so many principles and inspiring revelations in the readings this week. And I think many of the messages go very well with feelings of frustration or anxiety that we may have.
Here is a thought from Shari Phippen about being spiritually whole: “[Being made whole] does not always mean a healing of our physical infirmities. Rather, it means that when we come to the Savior, He will first heal our hearts and then, sometimes, He will heal our bodies. To be made whole, we have to reach out to Him in faith”
Do you agree? What do you think the difference is between healing and being whole? Are you spiritually ‘whole’? What can you do to become so? How can we help others to work through the process?
— Matthew 8-9; Mark 2; 5 Jesus Heals…a lot.
There are many examples of Jesus healing in this week’s readings. I imagine these scenes could be what Nephi saw in his vision in 1 Nephi 11: 31. “And I looked, and I beheld the Lamb of God going forth among the children of men. And I beheld multitudes of people who were sick, and who were afflicted with all manner of diseases, and with devils and unclean spirits; . . .And they were healed by the power of the Lamb of God;; and the devils and the unclean spirits were cast out.”
Who do you relate to? Which afflicted person? The Leper? The daughter of Jairus? The man who was paralyzed? The woman of issue? Maybe the man with Legion of devils inside? The blind men? Most of us look to the heros and righteous followers to emulate, but we all have need of healing and change. Do you feel like you don’t fit in? Or maybe you feel paralyzed as to what to do next? Or how to proceed? Do you feel blind to your next step? Or maybe you feel like you are doing everything in your power but Christ is not coming? Maybe you have multiple habits your are trying to overcome? How do you relate to those who Jesus makes whole?
I like this painting of the daughter of Jairus. I imagine her mother, even though she is not spoken of in the scriptures, would be right there praying over her deathly ill daughter. Was she frustrated when Jesus didn’t come right away? Did she get angry when her daughter died, when she could have been saved by the Master? And yet, how joyous and grateful she must have been to see her daughter rise and be made whole again. Was her heart more full of gratitude because of her delayed miracle?
Sometimes, like this family, we are made to wait for our healings, or other blessings. This family had to wait on Jesus as he taught and healed others. Some might not think it fair that Jesus made them wait until it was too late. But. Jesus has the power to raise us all, sooner or later, we can be made whole and rise above our challenges. Why do you think he took so long in coming to her? Do you feel that Jesus is taking a long time to answer your questions, or help you in your challenges? How can you show God that your will bow to His time table? This is hard sometimes.
Here is another favorite painting called “Encounter” by Daniel Cariola at Migdal (Magdala chapel). I love this because I can imagine that the woman is trying to remain unseen as she tries desperately to get close enough to touch Jesus’ hem. Women with ‘issue’ were not supposed to be mingling in crowds of people, they were considered ‘unclean’, and it was against the customs to leave their homes. But she dared to break tradition so that she could be made whole. What are you willing to do to be made whole? Spiritually, as well as physically?
The Parable of the Sower: Mark 4: 3-9 & 14-20
This is a great story and you can spend a great deal of time discussing it’s meanings and how to relate them to your lives. It’s all about our roots. For some reason that comercial keeps running through my mind–”Got Milk?” But my mind is saying “Got Roots?” How deep are your roots? How do you get deeper roots? What kinds of things will you do this week to help your roots dig deeper into the soil of the gospel? How does the Come Follow Me program fit into your root system?
- A video of the story of the Healing of the Leper made by Joseph Prince.
- A fun video of the Parable of the Sower from Trinity Cheltenham Kidz Church
- How about a painting contest of the various stories of Jesus’ miracles
- Plant some seeds. It may be too early to do so outside, but you can start them in the house and transplant them later.
- Acting out these stories can be great fun and make lasting memories. My children still watch videos they made as young children.
- A poem by Tigran Ghulyan called Stormy Seas
I’ll praise you in the storm,
I shall not fear
Through lightning and roaring thunder
I know my God you’re near
You are stronger than the tempest
You my God are my fortress
In you I take refuge, my rock, my salvation
This is my holy proclamation!
In the midst of storm
I’ll praise you
In the midst of storm
I’ll sing for you
Heavy rain and strong winds scare me
Trembling overwhelms me
But you my God will keep me
Your embrace will secure me
You’re my shield and my horn
My calm before the storm
Oh Lord God Almighty
I’ll praise you in the storm!
- Try your hand at writing your feelings about a challenge you’ve faced, or are facing now, in poetry form.
- When have you had storms in your life that God has helped you through? How did you keep your faith? What advice would you give to someone else going through a challenge? Take some time to write these in your journal. Or shared them with someone who you feel may need the encouragement.
- A video by Dallin H. Oakes on the Parable of the Sower and the Seeds of the Gospel can add insight to this parable.
- Do a scripture chain with the following scriptures and the Parable of the Sower:
Matthew 6:33–Seek ye first His kingdom
Hosea 10:12–Sow yourselves righteousness
Isaiah 55:6 -7–Seek the Lord while He can be found
Hebrews 10: 25– Meet together and encourage one another
Matthew 13 : 19–When one hears the message and does not understand then the evil one comes to snatch away
How do these scriptures add to the meaning to the parable for you?
- Qualities that will help to ‘root’ us are found in 2 Peter 1: 3-11 and Galatians 5: 22-26. Which one do you think is the most important? What are some things you can do to develop each of these qualities? Pick one to work on this week.
- Watch this video of Cambry Kaylor, a promising equestrian vaulter with dreams of competing internationally. At age 18 she suffered an accident while vaulting, leaving her paralyzed. It called Living beyond ‘What if’ –Cambry Kaylor–Hope Works. What ideas can you glean from her experience that could help you?
Ponder this quote from Socrates this week as you study: ‘The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.’ As you work through your struggles and frustrations to do what the prophet has asked, blessing will come to you and your family, even if you cannot see them right now. Stay positive, fresh courage take, and God bless!