"Nevertheless the Lord seeth fit to chasten his people; yea, he trieth their patience and their faith." (Mosiah 23:21)
When I came across this verse while reading the Book of Mormon the other day, I realized that this is my life. My patience and my faith are constantly being tried through daily life experiences. Ten years ago it was making it through my sophmore year of college. Five years ago it was almost losing myself in debilitating anxiety. Two years ago, it was my husband's brain surgery. Today, it is taking care of two beautiful children after a sleepless night. Who knows what next year's test will be, or even tomorrow's.
But I am realizing that this is what it boils down to: Will I turn to Heavenly Father and do life His way, relying on the help and grace of His son, Jesus Christ? And then will I be patient as I go through each day and trust that He is answering my prayers and delivering me from my own forms of bondage, even if I don't see the results right away?
It is so hard sometimes to remember, to keep that perspective. So I appreciate the reminder that is in the story of Alma and the members of the church during his time (story found in the book of Mosiah in the Book of Mormon). They had all recently heard the word of God, first through the prophet Abinadi, and then through Alma, who had listened to Abinadi's words, felt their truth, and then repented and with the Savior's help, changed his way of life. Many people listened to Alma and felt the truth of his words and underwent the same transformation. They had willingly chosen to turn away from past ways and turn toward God and His way of living, when another group of people found them and essentially subjugated them. Seems a little strange that God would reward the people who turn to Him with physical defeat and subjugation.
However, Alma and his people did not despair. They simply prayed -- I imagine they prayed more fervently and frequently and:
"And now it came to pass that the burdens which were laid upon Alma and his brethren were made light; yea, the Lord did strengthen them that they could bear up their burdens with ease, and they did submit cheerfully and with patience to all the will of the Lord. And it came to pass that so great was their faith and their patience that the voice of the Lord came unto them again, saying: Be of good comfort, for on the morrow I will deliver you out of bondage." (Mosiah 24:15-16)
The Lord did not remove the burden right away, but He did strengthen them and their ability to function with the burden still on their backs. I don't know how long Alma and his people had to live under the dominance of another government. But however long it was, they remained faithful and true to the God to whom they had pledged themselves and eventually, their faith and patience was "so great" that the Lord completely delivered them out of physical bondage.
To have that kind of faith and patience--the kind that draws power down from heaven--the kind that brings deliverance. That is the kind of faith and patience I want. But it seems you only get that kind of faith and patience through difficulty and struggles and heartaches. Consider Abraham and Sarah who wanted a child. Consider what Abraham was asked to do once he had the child. Consider Job. Consider Noah's family on that long ride in the ark. Consider the widow and Elijah. Consider just about every story in the scriptures--every life story, in fact.
I had the privilege of knowing a wonderful man who, like all of us, had experienced difficult things in his life. But it was amazing to watch the way he devoted just about every scrap of time to trying to help others. I remember one story that I heard him tell multiple times. Every time he told it, I wondered why he kept repeating it. I thought he might be going a bit senile. It was a simple story that went something like this: At church one day, he noticed a woman he knew become very emotional. When he approached her to ask if he could help her in any way, she merely said that she was fine. That God had just recently answered a prayer that she had been praying for 20+ years.
I am beginning to understand why that story deserves to be repeated. That woman is the epitome of faith and patience.
One last thought: Later on in Alma's story, the "immediate goodness of God" is mentioned in relation to his people's deliverance from bondage (Mosiah 25:10). But the thing is, they weren't immediately delivered. They had to endure the burdens for awhile before deliverance came. So though escape from sorrow and pain and trial did not come immediately, it was still evident to them that God was immediately good. He is always immediately good, even if we don't recognize how the situation we are in will ever be for our good.
I have so much to learn about patience and faith.
"Paul, speaking to the Hebrews, brings us up short by writing that, even after faithful disciples had 'done the will of God,' they [had] need of patience' (Hebrews 10:36). How many times have good individuals done the right thing only to break or wear away under subsequent stress, canceling out much of the value of what they had already so painstakingly done? Sometimes that which we are doing is correct enough but simply needs to be persisted in patiently, not for a minute or a moment but sometimes for years. Paul speaks of the marathon of life and of how we must 'run with patience the race that is set before us' (Hebrews 12:1). Paul did not select the hundred-meter dash for his analogy." Neal A. Maxwell, Patience, BYU Devotional, November 1979
Whose 2 year old just voluntarily went and took a nap. Miracles happen.
"There is also a dimension of patience which links it to a special reverence for life. Patience is a willigness, in a sense, to watch the unfolding purposes of God with a sense of wonder and awe, rather than pacing up and down within the cell of our circumstance. Put another way, too much anxious opening of the oven door and the cake falls instead of rising. So it is with us. If we are are always selfishly taking our temperature to see if we are happy, we will not be.
When we are impatient, we are neither reverential nor reflective because we are too self-centered. Whereas faith and patience are companions, so are selfishness and impatience. It is so easy to be confrontive without being informative; so easy to be indignant without being intelligent; so easy to be impulsive without being insightful. It is so easy to command others when we are not in control of ourselves."
Neal A. Maxwell, Patience, BYU Devotional, November 1979