Many faithful Latter-day Saints have prayed for different outcomes than they are getting, not only in things deeply personal, but in our elections, nation, and world. We are facing numerous crises that can affect our lives dramatically. Let me share a principle I’m learning that has wide application.
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, 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 this dear person 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 that somehow the blessing wouldn’t be granted because of my lack of faith. At that moment I was weary of trying to understand why God gives “yes” answers to some fervent 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 ultimate safety, liberty, and long-term blessing (Deuteronomy 10-13). In these perilous times we need to remind ourselves constantly of that fact.
“The Greater Yes” Means Spiritual 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?”
Yet how differently we may define “good gifts” from the way He does. 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 our loving Heavenly Father give priority to our long-term interests. He mercifully withholds blessings that might taste sweet to us at the moment but would erode our spiritual health in the long run. He gives us gifts with the most eternal dividends, even when they may seem anything but “good gifts” to us at the moment. The Lord cares less for our present comfort and more for our ultimate growth and education. He cares less for our momentary ease and happiness and more for our eternal joy.
That means each of us can be certain we are 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 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?”
Members of the Church who face horrendous personal trials (which may include being persecuted and called “haters” and “bigots” because they stand courageously for the Lord’s definition of marriage) could well ask that same question.
Three 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 the benefits or for 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.
Joseph said the Saints would need an “iron faith” to make it through all that was coming (and the persecutions in Far West were only a type of what was to come).
Are we in that same weeding out process? Will we too need an iron faith to make it through the Last Days’ tribulations? Trials of our faith as we wait for the “greater yes” may help us develop that kind of faith as long as we dig our roots deep in gospel soil, clear down to the Rock of our Redeemer.
When It’s Hard to See God’s Way As 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; 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.
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 the Lord is always working to give us “the greater yes.” Eventually, even if only in the next life, we will see how God’s way is always the best way.
Can we trust God for “the greater yes” in all the turmoil we are seeing in the world today? What about in the anguish of tragic death of loved ones? I recently sat and cried with a relative who had lost a grown son in one of the most heart-wrenching ways a mother could ever experience. At one point in our conversation she said, “Why, why why would God allow this to happen?” I tenderly suggested that, while we may never know the complete answer to that question while in mortality, remembering the Lord’s absolute commitment to agency can make the unexplainable a little more bearable. The choices of three people converging in that awful moment resulted in her terrible grief. God is not selective in regard to granting agency. He knows exactly how grievous the outcome is going to be, yet will not step in and stop any person from using their agency. It was Satan’s plan to force every person to make only right choices and God will not take even one step into Satan’s territory.
In order to be true to His promise of agency, God asks us to surrender our own desires on the altar of His will. However, Romans 23:2 reminds us that God’s will for us is good, pleasing, and perfectly suited to our best interests. How can we even begin to understand how it could be “to our best interests” to allow heart-breaking tragedies? One thing we must always keep in mind: His love requires him to honor His eternal priorities. When those priorities based on eternal laws are different from our short-sighted ones God’s priorities always trump ours.
When our hearts are aching the most is the very time to remind ourselves repeatedly: God is in charge and “all things work together for good to those who love God” (Romans 8:28). The Lord is totally trustworthy. He never lies. He is who He says He is and can do what He says He can do. His most basic prevailing characteristic is love for all His children. And we can be absolutely certain that God’s purposes are never thwarted by men’s sins or even lack of good judgment. 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 we read, “And the Lord God doth work by means to bring about his great and eternal purposes.” And what are those purposes? He said, “For behold, this is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man” (Moses 1:39).
God has infinite love for us. He knows exactly what He is doing and we don’t have to counsel Him. In Jacob 4:10 we read, “Wherefore, brethren, seek not to counsel the Lord, but to take counsel from his hand. For behold, ye yourselves know that he counseleth in wisdom and in justice, and in great mercy, over all his works.”
It is our job to live right and stand firm in the truth. It is His job to make all things work together for good and to bring to pass our immortality and eternal life. In D&C 35:24, the Lord says, “Keep all the commandments and covenants by which ye are bound; and I will cause the heavens to shake for your good, and Satan shall tremble and Zion shall rejoice upon the hills and flourish.”
Because God is in charge, while circumstances may wrench our very heart-strings and His timing may be opposite to our immediate wishes, His eternal purposes, based on His perfect love, never fail. In that truth we can rest our faith for “the greater yes.”