When I asked, “How high is your mountain?” in the headline, I’m guessing you pictured your mountain of trials. This life certainly pushes us to our limits and serves up challenges we would never have guessed we could handle. But that’s not the mountain I’m talking about. I’ll come to that later.
First, let’s agree that we all walk a thorny path as we head home to our Heavenly Parents. I want to talk about the nights you’ve cried. The loss of someone you love. The cure that never came. The loneliness. The shattered dreams. The career that didn’t happen. The engagement that broke apart. The prayers you’ve offered for your child to have an Alma experience. The countless times you’ve fasted. The cruelty you’ve endured. Your pleadings in the temple. The divorce and your desperate efforts to figure out where things went wrong.
Everyone carries sorrows, some from circumstances, some from our own choices, some inflicted by others. But why does it seem more people are suffering right now? Maybe it’s just me, but I seem to know many friends and acquaintances who are really struggling, as never before.
I think there are several causes. One, many of us get caught up in the strident quarreling over politics and the pandemic happening today. We over-feast on biased news headlines, nearly driving ourselves into a frenzy.
Next, I think we still compare ourselves too much to others. We go online and it seems everybody else’s life is trouble-free. We forget that this is all smoke and mirrors. Satan loves it when we think we’ve come up short—as parents, as professionals, as Church members with flaws.
We also forget to be kind to ourselves. We blame ourselves for life’s hard blows, even when we weren’t responsible. We do this particularly with parenting. Unless we were completely perfect, we blame ourselves for our children’s poor choices. We forget all the influences that come into play. I know a woman who was told in a blessing that she had volunteered in the premortal world, to take on the difficult spirits who had been born to her.
The adversary would love to have us sink into despair, convinced that we just have a rotten life. All the disasters and losses happen to us, right? But what would Christ want? This is the key. Anytime we feel discouraged we need to ask ourselves what Christ would say and how He would help us. This invariably gives us a completely different perspective. When you feel ready, here are eight steps you can take to restore calm:
First of all, if you are truly agonizing—over anything– get a Priesthood Blessing. Learn how God really sees you and your efforts. You need to stop beating yourself up.
Second, pray with an open mind. Ask what you’re to learn about these trials. I know several elderly people who say, with great wisdom, that they are now grateful for a particular challenge because it made them useful to others in the same situation.
Meridian writer Becky Douglas just wrote an amazing article, and speaks of turning their daughter’s suicide into a blessing for others (1). Remember that we are being trained for life in heaven. That necessitates experiencing loss and disappointment. God showed Abraham what it was like to sacrifice a beloved Son. Our challenges have the power to transform us into holier people, if we let them.
Third, take a wide view of life. Adversity in mortality is actually short. You may find yourself crowned with glory in the next. Your sacrifices may be refining and humbling you, giving you reliance upon the Holy Ghost. They may stand as a testament of your resolve never to leave the Gospel path. Your example of valiance may also be lifting countless people around you, who admire your strength.
Fourth, don’t compare your life to someone else’s. There’s no way to truly know what’s going on in another home or heart. We each have our own personal journey and our own difficulties to manage. Many struggles are invisible.
Fifth, express gratitude for the things that are going right. Sometimes we become so focused on the one seemingly insurmountable battle that we forget an entire landscape of beauty and blessings. Deliberately look for these things and allow yourself to see God’s hand, and to appreciate how much you have.
Sixth, repent. The opportunity to change our hearts and set things right again is one of the most amazing gifts we’ve been given. Christ has already paid the price; now he just wants our hearts. When we repent we become lighter, freer, cleaner. It may impact the struggle you’re having, or perhaps your reaction to that struggle.
Seventh, forgive. So much of our sorrow is self-inflicted by our refusal to set down our hurts and our grudges. Let go of them and see how much happiness you can actually feel. You’ll suddenly be making spiritual progress. You’ll sense peace and approval from God. When we refuse to forgive, we’re allowing “that person” to hurt us yet again. Try to see them as a damaged child and realize God loves them, too. Take the hurt out of your heart and leave it in the past.
Last, build up your faith. For years I thought I could solve a particular challenge by giving ideas to Heavenly Father. I’d suggest all kinds of creative solutions. And then one day it hit me: “You are giving ideas to GOD? What’s the matter with you?” I had to laugh. I mean, He doesn’t need me to generate ideas for him. He’s God! He has infinitely better ideas than I do.
Once, when I was praying, I’ll admit I was feeling hopeless and weary. I got up and headed up the stairs. And the minute I put my foot on the bottom step I heard the words, “One step at a time.” Here was an object lesson for me: I needed to stop rushing things and realize that what I was praying for must happen gradually, in increments.
But, as inspiration so often is, there was more to that message. It reminded me that my prayers were being heard and that Heavenly Father knew I needed a little shot in the arm. He had let me know he was “on it,” and now I just needed to be patient and exert faith. I had been trying to do it all myself, and now my job was to allow Him to take over.
My prayers changed. Now they were for me. “Please help me to have stronger faith,” instead of “Please fix this.” And a miracle happened. The challenge didn’t disappear, but guess what? I filled with joy. I mean real, floaty, blissful joy. The more I exercised faith, the more certain I became of the eventual results.
I began sleeping better. I began walking with more lilt in my step. I stewed and worried less. I became more patient. I knew for certain that my teammate is God, and He is doing everything right, and at the right time. My job is to simply be the best me I can, to continue in faith and full activity, and to show love.
Now, about that mountain. Here’s what I’ve learned about developing faith:
Your mountain of faith needs to be as high as your valley of sorrows is low.
If you have sorrow, grief, and agony that reaches depths you never imagined, then build that mountain just as high as you possibly can. Listen for promptings from the Holy Ghost. Make your prayers more meaningful, asking for help to do God’s will. Show Him you’re willing to trust Him 100%. You will be astonished at how much peace can fill your soul, how much hope for the future, how much love you can sense. God will not let you down. Let’s be mountain builders.
Hilton is an award-winning playwright and the author of many best-selling Latter-day Saint books. Those, her humor blog, and YouTube Mom videos can be found on her website.