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Everybody faces adversities in life. That’s plural for a reason. Among other purposes, we’re here to be tested. Sometimes we pray for a get-out-of-trials-free card, but that isn’t the plan. Part of the plan is to accept the plan. Or, at least, to realize we voted for this before we came to earth. We knew it would try us and we eagerly signed on. We knew something then that many of us have since forgotten.

Let’s take a closer look. One of my more recent hardships has been dealing with cancer. Not surprisingly, it has made me face my mortality, take stock of my earthly journey, and consider my purposes with greater intention. As I’ve undergone surgeries and chemotherapy I’ve also wondered if I’m passing this test. Am I learning the traits I still lack, or at least inching in the right direction? Am I patient enough?  Appreciative enough of all the love I’m receiving?  Being “of good cheer”? Willing to tell God “thy will be done”?

When I look at it under an eternal lens, I have to admit it’s been absolutely amazing. It has brought so many things into focus, has lifted my sites, and has basically been a crash course in turning to our Father in Heaven. For that, I am deeply grateful.         

Like many who get a cancer diagnosis, I’ve even wondered why I’m still here.  Exactly why has God chosen to continue working with me, coaxing me along, healing me—for what, exactly?

And it was several days ago that I was contemplating the whole idea of life’s adversities and the test that they are, when another thought occurred to me: Maybe you’re here because you’re a test for others. Humor has always been a coping mechanism for me, so I have to admit my eyebrows went up and down at this thought, a smile crept onto my face, and I mumbled with a bit of delight, “NOW we’re talking.”

But my fantasies of enjoying this new role were short-lived because immediately another thought entered my mind: While we spend a good deal of time thinking of the patience we must exert and the forgiveness we must summon for all those trying people in our lives, we spend very little time considering how often we offend, how often we disappoint, how often we ourselves are in need of latitude and forgiveness. Yes, more often than we like to admit, we test others.

And that was humbling. We aren’t supposed to try to be trying, of course. But it happens. And it means we should step more carefully, live more deliberately, and try not only to keep from irritating those around us, but to actually help them on their way. Ideally we should help others deepen their relationship with the Savior—and not because we’re their challenge, but because we have good relationships where both of us grow in closeness to the Lord. We are to help the lonely to feel loved, the weak to feel strong, the discouraged to find hope.

A good friend shared a wonderful quote with me that sheds additional light on life’s tests: “A blessing is anything that brings you closer to God.” What? So cancer can be a blessing? Yes. This means all our adversity, if we allow it to, can be a blessing. The key is to turn to God for understanding and help, increasing in faith and growing into the people he wants us to become.

Further, if we allow tribulation to work within us to establish stronger ties with our Father in Heaven, this can spill over to bless others as well. We can offer strength and wisdom to those having similar tests, and we can better discern how to actually offer assistance as we look for ways to make a positive difference to those around us. What could be more priceless than closeness with the Lord, and having the Holy Ghost direct our paths?

Blessings are not necessarily ease, prosperity, health, or achievements. They truly are anything that turns our hearts to our Father above. And very often the greatest of these are trials.

Perfect for Mother’s Day– Hilton’s LDS novel, Golden, is available in paperback and on Kindle.  All her books and YouTubeMom videos can be found on her website.  She currently serves as an Interfaith Specialist for Public Affairs.