An anonymous sister writes:
How can we practice “doubt no, fear not” faith in such frightening times?
When I was five years old, Los Angeles experienced a terrible earthquake. I remember my father ripping me from sleep, hastily setting me down under the doorway of a bearing wall, and telling me very firmly not to move from that spot. Although I didn ?t fully understand, I didn ?t dare move. What I did do was to observe a scene so bizarre, it reminded me immediately of poor Alice in Wonderland (by the way, as a child, I hated that book and movie). Cups, saucers, plates, clocks ?anything that was not secured, flew across the room with tremendous force. Cupboard doors opened and shut, each time spewing a bit more of their contents onto the floor. My heart was pounding and my breathing very shallow by the time the tremors stopped. I was cold and very shaken, but unharmed. Then, my brother and I climbed onto my father ?s lap as he explained what had happened. My question was, Daddy, how will we ever make things right-side up again? ?
In the 48 years since that experience, many metaphorical earthquakes have shaken my world. I have asked the same pleading question of a loving Father in Heaven. I have felt His arms enclose me with the safety and warmth that comes from obedience to His instruction, and the sweetness of it has made me unabashedly weep.
Change and decay in all around I see; O thou who changest not, abide with me! ? How my heart melts at those incredibly insightful words. We may not understand the decay or change, but through it all, one thing remains constant: the abiding love and wisdom of our Father and His son, Jesus Christ. They can help us make sense out of the chaos born of trial and suffering. Only they can glue together without seam, the broken pieces of our hearts. How is this great task accomplished? It is contractual. It is an if/then ? proposition. If we look to Him in every thought: doubting not, fearing not, and remain obedient to His commandments (D&C 6:36 ?37), He is then able to make the glorious promise stated in D&C 6:33:
Therefore, fear not, little flock; do good; let earth and hell combine against you, for if ye are built upon my rock, they cannot prevail.”
We must take the pieces of our hearts to our Father and lay them on the altar of His will. One by one, according to His timetable and our faith, He will suture them together. The wisdom we gain through trial by earthquake ? can then become a powerful means of guiding others to build wisely upon this immovable ?rock. ?
I think “practice” is an important word. We know it has at least two connotations, and they work especially well for this question. Ironically, I had unshakable faith when I was very young. Fear began to enter my life much later, as innocence gave way to the confusion and horror of events such as President Kennedy’s assassination and the first publicized murder in my little town. I still remember the victim’s name. She was a Girl Scout, selling cookies when she was abducted. I remember my best friend running into the library in our ancient junior high school building, a marvelous old wooden-floored fire-trap, to show me a terrifying article in the crime section of Time Magazine. I can still remember some of the author’s copy, verbatim.
It wasn’t until I was much older that I began to practice faith in the sense of drilling it consciously until I felt I could begin to teach myself to trust in God, in the Savior, and in the Holy Ghost. Asking them deliberately to guide me, comfort me, and manage my participation in the plan of salvation according to their perfect wisdom and love, has been a much newer thing. The things that I fear now are very different, but I can testify to anyone who reads my little paragraph here, that I am now beginning to return to that rock-solid, childlike faith as if for the first time. I have ample opportunities to drill myself, catch myself faltering, and drill again, with increasing confidence in eternal principles and, at the same time, increasing awareness of the paradoxical empowerment of meekness and complete acceptance of and submission to my Savior’s guidance. Meekness and submission are not natural qualities of a Western frontier girl. I am learning miraculous lessons at the feet of my Lord and King. It is a special privilege for me to worship Him this season and into the new year, a very new chapter in my life. This is that infamous “Last Christmas.” My baby leaves on December 27. I am practicing!
It seems that such questions have become commonplace the past few months. I don’t believe I’ve attended a single meeting where September 11th wasn’t mentioned since it occurred. Perhaps there is something deeply wrong with me, but I haven’t felt any more frightened than I did on September 10th. I don’t mean to imply that the events of that day weren’t horrifying and shocking. But I must say that they didn’t surprise me terribly.
For the past while, this last year particularly, I have seen firsthand that some more than I had ever imagined are truly evil. And many, many more perpetrate evil by their cowardice in the face of it. And where individuals profit through evil, others will congregate.
Having personally seen how cheaply some will sell their souls has been a real awakening. I was never before one to be suspicious. I had thought that most everyone (with exceptions like Hitler and Stalin) was really good and decent at the core, even if they were misinformed. Perhaps, now, I am more knowledgeable, more realistic, more street-wise. But have I lost faith?
To me having faith does not mean believing that nothing bad will be allowed to happen. It does not mean that we will always be healed, rescued, and saved. It does not even mean that God will always intervene on our behalf in the face of evil people and evil deeds.
Instead, faith is believing that God has not forgotten us, even when our pleading for help seems not to pass the ceiling. Faith is believing that how we respond to our circumstances is ultimately more important than what our circumstances are. Faith is believing that God’s plan will eventually succeed, even though at times we see much evidence to the contrary. Faith is believing that somewhere, sometime, some way, God will right all the wrongs if we can just endure long enough to recognize it. Faith is believing that “standing as a witness of God at all times, and in all things, and in all places” is worth the possible earthly losses and trials that may occur as a result of being a true disciple.