To purchase Darla Isackson’s book, click here.
I take my stand on the trustworthiness of God. It’s never been hard to trust Him with the management of the universe, but harder to trust Him with the management of my life. Predictably, the best opportunities I’ve had to strengthen my trust in God have come through heart-wrenching experiences. Through the years, as I’ve faced a divorce, the death of loved ones, and relationship problems that showed me the weakest links in my character, I’ve cried out to God for help. I eventually wrote a book that reflects many of the answers and much of the comfort I’ve received as a result. Now I want to share excerpts of that book with my faithful Meridian readers. This first installment comes from the introduction.
Life is a test, and George Q. Cannon explains God’s high purpose for exposing our weaknesses through the testing: “If any man or woman expects to enter into the celestial kingdom of our God without being tested to the very uttermost, they have not understood the Gospel. If there is a weak spot in our nature, or if there is a fibre [sic] that can be made to quiver or to shrink, we may rest assured that it will be tested. Our own weaknesses will be brought fully to light, and in seeking for help, the strength of our God will also be made manifest to us.”[i]
As I look back on my personal writing, the most prominent theme—running through it like a golden thread—is trust in the Lord especially when things haven’t “turned out” as I planned, and especially when I am achingly aware of my own weakness. And no wonder; so much depends on developing that kind of trust.
Alma 38:5 reads, “As much as ye shall put your trust in God even so much ye shall be delivered out of your trials, and your troubles, and your afflictions, and ye shall be lifted up at the last day.” And another favorite: Proverbs 3:5: “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him and he shall direct thy paths.” These scriptures teach me that both the guidance and deliverance I desire depend on my trust in God.
One of life’s sweetest discoveries can be when sorrow or adversity leads us to a closer relationship with the Savior—when darkness gives way to life’s brightest sunrises. Such experiences deepen trust. In Alma 28:14 we read, “And thus we see the great reason of sorrow, and also of rejoicing—sorrow because of death and destruction among men, and joy because of the light of Christ unto life.”
Can I Trust the Hard Realities of This World to God?
A “trust in the Lord” challenge encountered a few years ago was my part-time service mission in the Salt Lake Inner City Project. My husband, Doug, and I were assigned to help African refugee families. One man we grew very fond of was sent here from a prison camp in Ethiopia liberated by the United Nations; a single woman came from a camp in Sudan. Nearly all refugees have a background of inhumane treatment.
Largely illiterate, in both their own languages as well as English, with no knowledge of anything American, these refugees face daunting challenges. They have been transplanted from violent societies into this complex, high-tech one that requires skills they’ve had no way to acquire. Sometimes their problems look insolvable.
Four single African mothers (with a total of fifteen children) in the ward we served in had lived for more than a decade in a refugee camp in Ivory Coast with some 300,000 other Liberians who had fled for their lives in the civil war. They lived in the sparsest conditions, in a brutal culture where beating and murder were common. Tough stuff for a sheltered Mormon girl from a little town in Idaho who has never been eyewitness to anything remotely like that. And after knowing and loving these people and listening to their experiences I can no longer take the newspaper reports of violence and war impersonally. The people involved are now very real to me.
Even the serious challenges of the refugees can seem upstaged, however, by the world financial crisis, wars, calamities, and political divisions here and abroad. Serious social problems affect our lives in very personal ways. The same-sex marriage furor, the breakdown of family values, and the tidal wave of pornography all threaten the very fabric of our society. Sometimes I feel like a lost child because the world I grew up in has disappeared.
Can I trust God with all of it? Can I see fulfillment of prophecies and know that God is not surprised? After all, this is His world and His plan. Trust in God No Matter What! is about how I’m learning to trust Him even when earth-life is a far cry from our existence with Him before we came here—and from the glory we are told we can have in the eternities.
I Am Safe in God’s Hands
Although my trust is becoming strong and sure on the big things, the adversary still tempts me to negative thoughts, self-doubt, and fear on what seem to be little things. I can be like a sieve letting the soft fine sand of faith and trust drain out of me, leaving coarse rocks of doubt that His promises extend even to me.
That’s when I remind myself of my dream:
A few years ago I was going through a hard time spiritually. One night I had an unusual dream—so real, so vivid. I saw myself driving alone up a narrow mountain road, shivering in the cold of a dark rainy night. Fear enveloped me. The road had no shoulder, no place I could turn around or pull over, much as I wanted to. I was driving slowly, carefully, higher and higher up the mountain, but the road was treacherous and slick with rain. As I approached a hairpin curve, I suddenly realized I could not hold the road. I’ve never been more terrified as my car sailed off into black dark nothingness. I was falling, helpless, knowing I was going to die. The only thing I could do was surrender to God—give myself totally over to Him. As I did so, my fear was swallowed up by the most intense, most amazing peace I have ever known. I felt and saw myself cradled, safe and warm, in God’s loving hands (just like I’ve seen pictures of the whole world in His hands) and nothing else mattered.
I woke up still wrapped in peace, and sat up in bed, amazed. The symbolic message was clear: In one of the most perilous circumstances I could imagine, the Lord had shown me I could trust Him implicitly. I am always in His hands, always spiritually safe, regardless of outward danger. That message increases in importance as calamity and evil increases in this world.
I often come across scriptural passages that powerfully validate my dream, such as, “Know ye not that ye are in the hands of God? Know ye not that he hath all power?” (Mormon 5:23) and “Therefore, let your hearts be comforted concerning Zion; for all flesh is in mine hands; be still and know that I am God” (D&C 101:6).
The Truth of My Dream Shines on My Life
A few years after my dream, I was in a three-car freeway accident. Just before impact everything went into slow motion; my dream came forcibly to mind and I surrendered to God’s will, as I had in the dream. I felt in actual experience that I was in His hands–and my life was preserved.
I find it fascinating to chronicle in this book the Lord’s kind tutoring over the years, including the dream, that gave me the strength I needed when, a couple of years after my accident, one of my sons took his own life. When I learned of that awful happening I had my most vivid experience of sailing off into dark black nothingness. Remembering I was in His hands—and that Brian was in His hands—sustained me.
Now it is my goal to apply the message of my dream to the current world situation, which can otherwise drive me to distraction. I know that the peace of my soul does not depend on the economy or the political climate, or the level of righteousness in the society in which I live, but upon my awareness of God’s influence and loving care. I stay in a place of inner peace only when I remember that God is in control, that the ultimate outcome is sure and that we are safe in His hands. What happens between now and the Millennium will not thwart His purposes, but bring them to fulfillment.
Sharing My Spiritual Journey
Most of my book Trust God No Matter What! was drawn from articles I had written for Meridian Magazine online over the years—although I edited, combined and expanded the material. Introductory author notes tell when I originally wrote most chapters and what was going on in my life at the time–or tell more of what I’ve learned since.
My purpose is to share my spiritual adventure in a way that will encourage and motivate you in your own. Each installment will stand independent of the others. I hope some of my ideas will focus on your current challenges. Remember as you read that my ideas, perceptions, and opinions are just that. I have no qualifications to declare doctrine. Accept only what rings true to you.
The Lord said, “Behold and lo, mine eyes are upon you, and the heavens and the earth are in mine hands” (D&C 67:2). I know that we truly are in His hands. The more we recognize that fact, the more we can let go of undue stress, worry, and over-responsibility for things we can’t change, and the more we can feel His comfort and love. I believe we can make trust in God a habit of the soul, as natural as breathing.
I offer this journal of my continuing spiritual journey as my personal witness that the Lord lives and loves us, and that we can trust Him completely. Because we are imperfect mortals, so inclined to forget we need to nurture and renew our trust in God and Christ daily. Spiritual starvation is common for those who don’t make the effort. May this series of articles taken from my book be part of your nurturing and renewing.
To purchase Darla Isackson’s book, click here.
[i] James R. Clark, comp., Messages of the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, vol. 3:27.
Check out the following link for my newest interview with Nick Galieti, host and producer of the “The Good Word” podcast.