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Throughout scripture we read of rebellious people who were cursed for disobeying God: Cain, Canaan, Ancient Israel, Korihor, Lamanites, even a fig tree.
But sometimes regular, everyday people encounter so many trials in daily living that they wonder if they’re somehow cursed. This is entirely different. It’s imagining that a raincloud of bad luck follows you about, not because you are particularly sinful, just unlucky. Self-pity is a fascinating—and deadly—activity that can convince us of worthlessness, hopelessness, bad luck, entitlement, envy, and resentment of those not equally “cursed.”
And it’s easy to feel as if we simply got a truckload of trouble dumped in our front yard. Every one of us could point to setbacks and disadvantages that could explain our being “cursed.”
And then we meet someone remarkable. Someone whose legs were lost in battle, but who travels on the speaking circuit, inspiring others. Someone who was born without any limbs at all, giving school assemblies to teach kids not to pity themselves, but to be unstoppable. Someone whose facial deformity found them sitting alone at lunchtime, mocked by classmates and stared at by strangers, yet who fills their life with service to others and turns their disadvantage into an opportunity.
We see remarkable LDS women like Elizabeth Smart and Stephanie Nielson—heroes in my book—who took what happened to them and made it not a curse, but a calling.
How do they do it? How do they rise above such crushing obstacles? When we see and hear of such amazing people, it should make all of us re-evaluate our own lives, our own struggles. Ours may not be as dramatic, but they’re ours—customized to our own need for growth.
And here’s how we can be like those phenomenal people. We can look at our difficulties, turn to God, and ask him to help us use this to serve others. How can we make a calling of our childhood traumas, our prison time, our handicap, our health problem? To turn a “curse” into a calling, we need to stop thinking of ourselves alone, and think of others. We must refuse to feel like victims.
Instead of feeling that something has happened to you and left you scarred, it’s empowering to take charge of that event and use it for your own purposes. Maybe you’ll empower others who were treated unfairly. Maybe you’ll campaign for a needed change in laws. Maybe you’ll start a support group for others who share your journey.
Thousands of people struggle with learning disabilities. Have you found ways to compensate and conquer? You can bring light and life to everyone else with your same affliction. Have you lost a loved one too early, too unfairly, too harshly? There are others grappling with the same grief, and you can become their lifeline to faith and hope.
I once read of a man who felt cheated of life’s best opportunities because of the color of his skin. Then one day he realized that what he thought was a curse could be a calling, to work for racial equality, to learn to forgive those who judged him, and to draw God into his life as a partner in this work.
To be able to turn a curse into a calling, we have to let go of the childish dream that life should be easy, luxurious, and indulgent. We have to face the fact that life will present challenges, but instead of sitting down and crying about them, we should frame them as chances to grow, and opportunities to share.
We all know that we learn the most when times are tough. And we also feel the most value when we’re helping those around us. “Curses” give us the gift of both, if we use them wisely. It’s having a world mindset instead of a me mindset. It isn’t easy; that’s why those who succeed at this become so widely known and admired. But it’s a leap of faith we can all work on, regardless of our particular suffering.
Have you ever read the biographies of our modern-day prophets? I recommend them, not only because it’s wonderful to get to know our leaders, but because every single one of these great men does this. Sometimes you are absolutely dumbfounded that so many trials and afflictions could beset these chosen men of God, but each one finds a way to grow from the ordeal and even help others as a result.
It reminds me of this quote by Neal A. Maxwell: “If, indeed, the things allotted to each were divinely customized according to our ability and capacity, then for us to seek to wrench ourselves free of every schooling circumstance in mortality is to tear ourselves away from matched opportunities.”
Hardships are “schooling circumstances.” And they are incredible opportunities to reach out and help those similarly burdened. That’s how we can turn them into callings and find the sun despite the storm.