Editor’s Note: Beloved Meridian author Darla Isackson recently passed away. We will continue to share her wonderful insights here periodically.
Author’s Note: An important building block of faith is to clearly understand that God’s purposes cannot be thwarted. I like to say those words over and over and let them sink deep into my soul because that truth can banish doubt and fear. No disaster, no political upheaval, no evil or foolishness or folly of man can thwart God’s purposes—either for our mortal existence or for the immortality and eternal life He has planned for us. That truth gives us a firm foundation for complete trust in Him.
In a world so full of evil and chaos, it is easy to feel outnumbered and overwhelmed by the powers of the adversary that seem to thwart good efforts on every hand. Sometimes it is easy to feel just plain afraid of the tsunami of evil that is sweeping the earth. We recoil from the suffering of innocents, and may dread the fulfillment of the most dreadful last-days prophecies.
What gives us the courage to carry on is the recognition that the war in heaven was not a simplistic choice between freedom and coercion, or risk vs. the assurance of salvation. In the book The Crucible of Doubt, authors Terryl and Fiona Givens suggest that Satan’s forces won so many because they were shown how unthinkably terrible the consequences of unfettered agency would be. They suggest that when the very real, vivid, inevitable pageant of warfare, genocide, infant mortality, anguish for sin and personal bereavement was unfolded to our eyes in celestial councils, it threatened to derail the entire plan. That foreknowledge made it possible for Lucifer to draw away a third of the heavenly hosts, convincing them there had to be a better way, a less painful way (pp. 112-113). But our Father made it clear that there is no other way. We can know for sure that if there had been a less painful, less grief-filled way to accomplish all the purposes of mortality, God would have known and would have implemented it.
Only with agency and accountability could the Father’s plan unfold, but He gave us a Savior to counter-balance and triumph over all the suffering. The Lord’s purpose is to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of men and His purposes will not be thwarted. If we hang on, He will show us the way through all life’s trials because He IS the way.
Chariots of Deliverance
We may ask, however: What about the times when evil encroaches in our very homes with our dearest loved ones? What about the times when we are impotent in the face of a loved ones’ pain? What about the times when the evil choices of others cause devastation and destruction? So many times we may feel like the servant of Elisha as he fearfully observed the great host of horses and chariots come by night to encompass the city. The servant said to Elisha, “Alas, my master! How shall we do?” Elisha’s answer and the vision open to the servant can put aside all our fears: “Fear not: for they that be with us are more than they that be with them.” And Elisha prayed, and said, “Lord I pray thee, open his eyes, that he may see.” And the Lord opened the eyes of the young man; and he saw: and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha” (2 Kings 6: 15-17).
If we will spiritually cooperate God makes even our earthly cares and trials into chariots, sent to take our souls to high places of triumph. That process is part of His purpose that will not be thwarted! When our eyes are opened by the Spirit, I think we will see in all the events of our lives whether great or small, whether joyful or sad, a “chariot” for our souls. The constant prayer of our hearts can be to ask the Lord to open our eyes to our unseen chariots of deliverance. We are given what we need when we need it, and usually not a moment before.
Greek philosopher Epictetus said “God has given us the faculties by which we are able to bear what comes to pass without being crushed or depressed thereby. Why then do we sit and moan and groan, blind to the giver, making no acknowledgment to Him, but giving ourselves to complaints?” [i] Our complaints can be eclipsed by our trust in God’s purposes that will not be thwarted. The Savior will come again soon and Satan will be bound.
Can the Folly of Man Thwart God’s Purposes?
We’re all familiar with the story of the lost 116 manuscript pages when Joseph Smith was translating the Book of Mormon. Many evil men sought to frustrate that work. But an all-knowing God made provision for their actions centuries before they were carried out. The Book of Mormon came forth to bless the earth in its appointed time in spite of all that men or devils did to stop it. In Doctrine and Covenants 76:3 we read, “His purposes fail not, neither are there any who can stay his hand.”
In Anne Perry’s novel, Tathea, we read, “Did you not say His purpose cannot be thwarted?” Drusus frowned. “That was what you said, wasn’t it? How could he be God if mere human folly could spoil his plan?” . . . He was right and she could see glimpses of a far greater pattern even as she sat, rain-soaked in the firelight. She could not see the whole, not even the hour ahead, but looking at the past with a greater wisdom, she found a new perception of how what had seemed to be darkness was light, what had seemed loss was a different kind of gain.” [ii]
Whenever I set out on a project, or begin working toward a goal, I need to remember that my job is to do what is possible in my own stewardship—not to worry about the impossibilities of controlling outcomes or other people’s stewardships or responses. My job is to suit up for the Lord’s team and to do His will instead of trying to talk the Lord into being on my team to do my will. My task is to recognize God at the helm and trust His purpose in all things. I do not have to judge how things turn out or counsel God that the world should be different than it is, or try to counsel others with my questionable wisdom. A quote by German author Thomas A’Kempis speaks to my concerns: “Why art thou troubled because things do not succeed with thee according to thy desire? Who is there who hath all things according to his will? Neither I, nor thou, nor any man upon earth.” [iii]
I love verse 30 in Alma 36: “For I do know that whosoever shall put their trust in God shall be supported in their trials, and their troubles, and their afflictions, and shall be lifted up at the last day.” I am often reminded that while we will not be spared trials, troubles, and afflictions we are promised that we will be supported in them.
Sometimes I get depressed and complain for a while before I remember His promises. Sometimes, when I do remember, His support is so amazing it lifts me up out of the afflictions so that the joy of spiritual assurance eclipses the pain of the trial. Isn’t that what trust in the Lord is all about?
When we truly trust, we know that “all things work together for good” so we are spared gnashing our teeth, or judging the current situation as terrible. We are spared kicking against the pricks and judging God and His plan. When we turn our energies to finding and doing His will rather than trying to talk Him into doing ours, a great weight is lifted. We feel God’s love and support and know all will be well. No, we recognize that all is well—just as the Pioneers sang in “Come, Come Ye Saints.” All is well because God’s purposes are unfolding. We can trust that it is not God’s purposes that are thwarted—only the purposes of men. (See D&C 3: 1: “The works, and the designs, and the purposes of God cannot be frustrated, neither can they come to naught.”) As long as we align ourselves with Him, we can be certain that in the long run, right will prevail.
The following scripture summarizes the promises for remembering these principles:
And now, my sons, remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God that ye must build your foundation; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall. (Helaman 5:12)
Whenever we are discouraged, we can change our focus, remember the Savior and say, “My soul will rejoice in thee, my God, and rock of my salvation” (1 Nephi 4:30).
Why the Worst of Times Can Be the Best of Times
My purpose is to hold up a banner of hope that as hard times come we may actually be in for high adventure and spiritual experiences unprecedented.
As we think of scriptural precedents and church history precedents, of “bad times” we can clearly see that challenging times bring forth great opportunities for spiritual growth and amazing spiritual experiences.
The hand of the Lord is most readily seen when the children of the Lord are in great jeopardy.
God wouldn’t have parted the Red Sea had not the Egyptians been in hot pursuit. He wouldn’t have provided manna from heaven and water from a rock had not the children of Israel been in dire need. God wouldn’t have sent heavenly chariots if there hadn’t been a battle going on where His children were greatly outnumbered. We might even go so far as to say that the worse things get, the more we have to look forward to. For example, many on the Los Angeles Temple grounds during the most frightening hours of threats and persecution in the aftermath of the passing of Proposition 8 experienced unprecedented spiritual experiences. They bear personal witness of the ministry of angels, of the Lord’s protecting hand, and of peace in the midst of chaos. Many Saints who have been caught in the grip of natural disasters or the man-made disasters of war, bear witness of these same powers. In the movie Freetown the Lord’s hand was clearly made manifest in the rescue of the missionaries in a country (Liberia) gripped by war when their lives were constantly threatened. They were sent chariots of fire.
The “peace that passeth all understanding” comes from the Lord in times when it is most needed. (“And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” Philippians 4:7.)
May we grasp every opportunity to open our eyes to the Lord’s purposes, feel his never-failing love, and see his chariots of deliverance. We can trust that those chariots will be there—no matter what.
[i] See Epictetus Quotes, online
[ii] Anne Perry, Tathea, Shadow Mountain, Salt Lake City, Utah, 1999, 387.
[iii] See Thomas A’Kempis Quotes, online
Check out Darla’s website <darlaisackson.com> for more information on her book Trust God No Matter What! (Note the picture of the cover below.)