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According to Their Infirmities

I arrived at church on Sunday and went to Relief Society. (Our ward follows a reversed schedule which starts with RS/PH and ends with Sacrament Meeting.) They made announcements and started immediately with testimonies. I was so very confused, because somehow I had it in my mind that it was the middle of the month, and Fast Sunday wouldn’t occur for a couple more weeks. I concluded that they must have changed Fast Sunday, as they do sometimes, to accommodate a conference. It took me a couple of minutes to realize that it was, indeed, the first Sunday of the month, and Fast Sunday had completely eluded me this time. (Truly, this never happened to me before having children!)

At any rate, despite my absentmindedness, I was glad to have been present for one particular testimony. A woman with grown children shared her amazement at how well they turned out. From the time this woman was a teenager, she struggled with an undiagnosed mood disorder, for which she was hospitalized on at least one occasion. She is now being successfully treated, but while she was raising her children, she often worried if what she had to offer was just not going to be enough.

While I don’t have the same struggles, I could really identify with that feeling of wondering if I had enough to give my children. Not monetarily so much, but spiritually. Am I an example that I want them to follow? Do I model faith and prayer and fasting and repentance? Do I spend enough time with them? Do they know that I love them? 

I was so grateful for this sister’s testimony that even with the serious problems she faced, she still managed to raise well-adjusted, faithful children. (One of them served a mission and another recently married in the temple.)

And he shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people.

And he will take upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people; and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities (Alma 7:11-12).

He understands all of our infirmities. Our weaknesses and sicknesses are part of the plan. Not just a part of the larger plan, but part of the plan for our individual lives. He has provided a way to overcome all of them. Let us cling to this promise when we doubt our abilities to be the mothers our children need.

{ 9 comments… add one }
  • barbj May 11, 2012, 3:29 pm

    My problem with the word “overcome” is that I don’t know what it means. I know lots of very faithful good people who have some rotten kids. I don’t think how good our kids are is a real measure of our faithfulness or anything really. Just like how much money or success we have doesn’t show our standing before God.

  • Tracy Polyak May 11, 2012, 4:54 pm

    By no means do I measure someone’s faithfulness by their children’s successes or faithfulness, and I am sorry if it sounded that way. What I meant to say is that, despite a serious illness, what this good sister was able to give was somehow enough. But I did not mean to say if one’s kids do not turn out well, that the parent did not give enough. We have our whole lives and into the spirit world to overcome what has been placed before us.

    I see “overcoming” as the final product of the whole plan of salvation. But we do see glimpses of it now and again, which give us hope. I may have a problem that seems endless and unsolvable, but when I see some of the results of someone else’s struggles, that gives me hope in my own life. This woman’s testimony just reminded that all God expects of me is my best, and he will carry it all the rest of the way.
    Tracy Polyak recently posted…Speech Therapy: What We Have LearnedMy Profile

  • barbj May 12, 2012, 11:32 pm

    Tracy, I guess I have a hard time seeing it.

    ***what this good sister was able to give was somehow enough. But I did not mean to say if one’s kids do not turn out well, that the parent did not give enough***

    How can you say one and not the other?

    ***He has provided a way to overcome all of them.***

    But has he? I can’t “overcome” my kids’ choices.

    My sister is a single mom and busts her butt to parent those kids, but the three oldest are a mess. If God really provided a way to overcome, then you must think she just can’t figure it out or isn’t listening to the spirit or doesn’t deserve to have his help.

    How do I thank God for every blessing without blaming him when there isn’t one?

  • Tracy Polyak May 13, 2012, 1:04 pm

    Barbj,

    You ask a very good question, and I imagine that there are numerous people, members and non-members alike, that have struggled with this question. Honestly, I don’t know if your question can be sufficiently addressed in this type of forum, but we’ll give it a go.

    Before I joined the Church, I was really unsure that God even existed, because of the types of circumstances that you describe. How could a good God allow suffering in the world? As I investigated the Church and prayed about whether it was true, I come to know that there really was a God who was concerned about each of us. I was baptized, trusting in that knowledge, though I still felt a great deal of concern about the seemingly endless suffering in the world.

    As I studied and learned more about the gospel, I came to understand the great importance of Agency in the plan of salvation, and that God will not take away a person’s agency to prevent suffering. Intellectually, that made sense to me, but I still had a hard time accepting that, for example, horrendous crimes can be committed against people with the perpetrators never being brought to justice.

    I later came to understand that our suffering is part of the plan. As we seek God through our suffering, we grow closer to him and more like him. As I have read about real people like Corrie Ten Boom or Gladys Aylward, who spent their lives serving God but who suffered greatly for it, I can see how God used their suffering to improve the world around them.

    So no, a parent cannot overcome their children’s poor choices. But God can overcome their poor choices, as soon as they get to a point where they want to overcome those bad choices. And God can lead them down a path that will help them to make that choice.

    When you have a wayward child, it is easy for a parent to feel insufficient and to feel that God is not answering prayers. The problems seem endless. But just because an answer cannot be seen now does not mean that it will not come. For example, I know two sisters who grew up with both parents who were mentally ill. They were abused and neglected. It is no surprise that both made questionable choices as adults. But over two decades, each joined the church, as did their husbands. And both have now been to the temple, and the two families are preparing to do temple work for deceased family members. If I were to have known them as teenagers, I might have thought it very unfair and wonder how God could allow this. But the Gospel has begun to restore this family. It has given them hope.

    But it doesn’t always work out like that, does it? Laman and Lemuel rebelled and never returned. Generation after generation of Lamanites were wayward children of Lehi. But now, hundreds of years later, the Lamanites are “blossoming as a rose,” as foretold by the scriptures (see D&C 49:24). The Lord has not forgotten them.

    It is so hard to have faith with this sort of timing. After all, I really want to see my prayer answers right now. I can even handle this for a year if only I can see the light at the end of the tunnel and have my prayers answered by next year. I admit to having more than my share of struggles of faith.

    Bad things are going to happen in life with or without the Gospel. The Gospel gives me hope that it will be all worthwhile in the end.

  • Tracy Maurer May 13, 2012, 9:27 pm

    Tracy P. I love how you started this post off by admitting you forgot what Sunday it was. I straightaway connected to what you were writing about, because I have had these kinds of lapses of memory before too. What is really sad is that I would often beat myself up over it, and feel that I had failed my kids in some way because of it.

    For me this was a big part of the message of your post.

    As mothers, women, and individuals there are things in life that, according to our circumstances, determine our greatest needs, our greatest fears, and our greatest joys. Talk to 10 different women and you will probably find 10 different needs, 10 different fears, and 10 different joys.

    Then there are moments in our lives where someone will stand up and speak words that will bring comfort to us. Words that will ring true in or hearts. Words that provide, for us individually, hope over our fears and needs, and bring joy.

    I certainly don’t think that there was any attempt on your part to suggest that if we do what God wants then he will make sure our kids turn out good. I think what you have offered here is simply an experience where you were able to find solace from another person’s experience. Just as I felt reading the opening of your post. In my opinion it was actually a personal manifestation (or revelation) on your part as you listened to another person’s experience. You stated, “I could really identify with that feeling of wondering if I had enough to give my children. Not monetarily so much, but spiritually. Am I an example that I want them to follow? Do I model faith and prayer and fasting and repentance? Do I spend enough time with them? Do they know that I love them?

    These are all questions that were pertinent to you, and you were able to find some kind of connection to and then comfort, as this other sister spoke. It became almost a checklist of things that you needed to make sure you were fulfilling, regardless of any other failings in your life.

    I would hope that each of us has these kinds of experiences from time to time, because they allow us to take stock of where we are, what it is we need to refocus on, and how best we can do that.

    But, having said that, I think the central message of your post is found in the scripture you quoted,

    “And he will take upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people; and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities.” Alma 7:12

    No matter what happens in this life – to us, our children, our families – the Lord can supply succor for each of us. But we first need to lay our lives at his feet and take on his yoke. That sense of rest will come as we do this.

    “Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.” Matthew 11:29

    Faith is central to our sense of whether we have done all that we possibly can. Faith is what helps us accept what we cannot control. And faith is what allows us the hope that all will be well if we simply do the best we can.
    Tracy Maurer recently posted…Mothers Day SunriseMy Profile

  • Tracy Polyak May 16, 2012, 9:45 am

    Thanks so much for sharing this, Tracy M. Solace is definitely what I was trying to convey–and faith that all will be well in the end, even if it doesn’t appear to be in the present.
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  • jennycherie May 16, 2012, 2:17 pm

    “faith that all will be well in the end, even if it doesn’t appear to be in the present.”

    lovely – well said.
    jennycherie recently posted…Joy to the WorldMy Profile

  • Tonia Bennett May 17, 2012, 8:01 pm

    I, too, often wonder if my best (which isn’t so hot at times) is enough for all the needs of my children. Whereas, I know success isn’t necessarily measured on how many of your children serve missions, marry in the temple, etc (there is that little word agency!) It does offer hope when you see others’ children grasp onto the gospel principles they’ve been taught despite their parents shortcomings or weaknesses (since we all have them in one form or another). So thanks for the nice thoughts. I’m all for a little hope!

  • jennycherie May 19, 2012, 3:05 pm

    Tonia – I know just what you mean! That concept of ‘enough’ bothers me too at times. Every little ray of understanding is a gift!
    jennycherie recently posted…Joy to the WorldMy Profile

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