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As we celebrate this season of Thanksgiving, do we feel gratitude only if our current lives are rolling along with ease and plenty? What about those who are experiencing heart-stretching, even grievous losses and trials? Many faithful Latter-day Saints have prayed for far different outcomes than they are getting in our current world. Most of us face recurring latter-day crises that try our souls.
What is “The Greater Yes”?
One day I received an e-mail request to join in fasting and prayer for healing of a person I really cared about. I wanted to help, but I hesitated. Instead of standing firmly on the foundation of faith, the idea of praying for a specific outcome landed both my feet in the quicksand of fear. I was afraid she wouldn’t be healed. I didn’t want to get my hopes up and be disappointed. I was afraid I would be found lacking and the blessing wouldn’t be granted because of my lack of faith. At that moment I was weary of trying to understand why God answers some pleas and not others.
Author Beth Moore calls her own personal answer to this dilemma “The Greater Yes.” She says, “I am utterly convinced that any ‘no’ an earnestly seeking child of God receives from the Throne is for the sake of a greater ‘yes’, whether realized on earth or in heaven.”
She explains that her “Greater Yes” concept is couched in the absolute belief that God is on our side—that He never commands or acts except for our safety, liberty, and long-term blessing (Deuteronomy 10-13). In these perilous times we need to remind ourselves constantly of that fact.
God does ask us to surrender our own agendas on the altar of His will, but Romans 12:2 reminds us that God’s will for us is good, pleasing, and perfectly suited to our best interests. His love requires Him to honor His eternal priorities. When they are different from our short-sighted ones, God’s priorities trump ours.
“The Greater Yes” Means Safety
In Matthew 7:11 we are told, “If you, then being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him?”
The trick is in the definition of “good gifts.” A child would define candy as a good gift. However, any parent knows that to give in to a dearly-loved child’s pleading for sweets instead of nutritious food every meal would compromise the child’s long-term health and well-being. How much more so does God have our long-term interests prioritized. He withholds the blessings that might taste sweet to us at the moment but would erode our spiritual health in the long run. He grants only those miracles with the most eternal dividends. He cares less for our present comfort and more for our growth and education. Less for our momentary pleasure and more for our eternal joy.
That means each of us is safe with God because our greatest good is His priority! We simply need to believe more in what God says than in what we see. God’s promises are sure—but it is easy to interpret them in our own way to mean what we want instead of what He means. He sees everything in the perspective of His eternal purposes.
Trusting God’s Purposes
In the audio version of The Work and the Glory by Gerald N. Lund, during the horrendous persecutions in Missouri, the character Benjamin Steed asks Joseph Smith, “Why are all these things happening to us?”
Faithful Saints whose lives have been upended by natural disasters or evil choices of other people could well be asking that same question. Members of the Church who are persecuted and called “haters” and “bigots” because they stand courageously for the Lord’s definition of marriage could well be asking that same question.
The messages I gleaned from Joseph’s reply are these:
• The Lord said He would have a pure people and that the Church must be sanctified.
• Church membership is not for those looking just for benefits or an easy way of life.
• Trials of faith are a weeding out process; the Kingdom of God on earth must be comprised only of the pure in heart who have sufficient faith to sacrifice all without losing heart.
The “Greater Yes” Makes it Possible to Thank God in All Things
I believe we are in that same weeding out process.Trials of our faith as we wait for the “Greater Yes” help us develop and strengthen our faith as long as we dig our roots deep in gospel soil, clear down to the Rock of our Redeemer.
Only trusting in God’s “Greater Yes” gives us the ability to keep what I like to call “the higher law of gratitude,” which is not only thanking the Lord for what we deem “good,” but thanking the Lord in ALL THINGS. How else but keeping the perspective of the Lord’s desire to give us the “Greater Yes” could we keep the commandment given in D&C 59:7, “Thou shalt thank the Lord thy God in all things”?
Without this kind of trust we find it impossible to thank Him for trials, and are sorely tempted to use our prayer time in urgent pleading for our will to be done, instead of His.
God’s Way Is Always the Best Way
One woman of great faith called on a group of her friends to join her in fasting and prayer when the life of her grandchild hung in the balance. One grandchild had already died of the rare disease that threatened to take this tiny child’s life and she was determined that the family should not have to suffer that grief a second time. She firmly believed that if enough people exerted enough faith that surely God would spare this child’s life. As the child weakened, prayers of great urgency, great pleading, great faith were sent to heaven. More and more people were drawn into the drama of petitioning God for this child’s life. But the child died.
Writing about the experience years later, she recounted the deeper good that came from this test of faith—the deepening of understanding and trust in God, the new understanding that faith is not to be placed in outcomes, but in Christ and God.
I was so impressed with Elder Donald L Hallstrom’s October 2017 General Conference address, “Has the Day of Miracles Ceased.” He gave perspective on God’s over-riding wisdom when he told of Elder David A. Bednar asking a young man who had requested a priesthood blessing, “If it is the will of our Heavenly Father that you are transferred by death in your youth to the spirit world to continue your ministry, do you have the faith to submit to His will and not be healed?” (David A. Bednar, “Accepting the Lord’s Will and Timing,” Ensign, Aug. 2016, 31–32)
Elder Hallstrom continued, “Do we have the faith “not [to] be healed” from our earthly afflictions so we might be healed eternally? A critical question to ponder is ‘Where do we place our faith?’ Is our faith focused on simply wanting to be relieved of pain and suffering, or is it firmly centered on God the Father and His holy plan and in Jesus the Christ and His Atonement? Faith in the Father and the Son allows us to understand and accept Their will as we prepare for eternity.”
I love the question, “Do we have the faith not to be healed?” If all requests for healing were granted, no one would ever die, we would be stalled in this dreary telestial mortal state, and God’s plan of eternal progression would be thwarted.
I find it crucial to remember that our job is not to talk God into seeing things our way. Prayer is, instead, a spiritual exercise to tune our souls to His will and ask for blessings He is willing to grant that are conditional on the asking. (See Bible Dictionary, 753.) We can say “Thy will be done” and mean it if we remember He is always working to give us “the Greater Yes.”
Can we trust God for “The Greater Yes” in all the turmoil we are seeing in the world today? Can we thank Him in all things? He is in charge. God is who He says He is and can do what He says He can do. The third verse of a beloved hymn, “Rejoice, the Lord is King,” says, “His kingdom cannot fail. He rules over earth and heaven.” God’s purposes are never thwarted by men’s weakness or faulty judgments. In D&C 76:3 we read, “His purposes fail not, neither are there any who can stay his hand.” And in Alma 37: 7: “And the Lord God doth work by means to bring about his great and eternal purposes.”
God knows what He is doing; instead of counseling Him we need to thank Him and trust Him. It is our job to live the best we can, repent the best we can, and stand up for His teachings and standards. It is His job to make all things work together for good for all of us who love Him. No matter that we all fall short and find ourselves constantly in need of repentance. The Sacrament prayers let us know that it is our willingness to keep His commandments, and our willingness to remember Jesus and His Atonement that keeps the Lord’s blessings flowing in our direction. Our willingness keeps us asking with Alma, “O Jesus, thou Son of God, have mercy on me” (Alma 36:18).
Trusting in the “Greater Yes” means we keep our focus on the redemptive power of Christ and not on our own will and weakness. Trusting in the “Greater Yes” means trusting in God and Christ and basing our hope, not on pleasant outcomes but on the counsel in Moroni 7:41: “And what is it that ye shall hope for? Behold, I say unto 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. The promise is the Lord’s “Greater Yes.” Trusting in God no matter what is our “Greater Yes” to Him. It is the way that we can truly thank Him in all things. Trusting in God means we say along with our scripture heroes, “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. (Alma 36:3)
God is in charge and, while His timing may not be according to our wishes, His purposes never fail. In those truths we can rest our faith for “the Greater Yes.”