March Young Women Lesson: How can the Savior help me during my trials?
Once upon a time, shortly after getting married, I biked across all of Slovenia and most of Croatia with my husband and a few close friends. We would be meeting each other (and starting our cycling journey) in Venice Italy. We all flew standby flights, and none of our phones worked in Europe, so it made the exact meeting time/place tricky to arrange. (For instance, my husband and I thought we would be flying into Pisa Italy, just to fly into Nice France, instead.) Our friends were coming a little bit after us, so we still had time to get to Venice, but weren’t quite sure if they had.
The night we arrived, we biked so late it was almost morning, on a very busy, dark, and frightening highway to find a place to lay our heads. We saw signs for at least three different campgrounds, and not knowing what set them apart from each other, just chose one. We very thankfully made it there, safely, and pitched our tent. We slept, and then woke, to find our friends right outside. It turns out that they arrived in Venice just a few hours after us, biked on the same busy, dark, and frightening highway, selected the same camp as us, and found our tent and bikes in the middle of the night. Without phones or communication.
I was immensely grateful and also immensely surprised by this, but my husband was not. He had been on so many bike tours like this before (with some of the same friends), and told me that things like this always happened to them, before telling me something else: when their needs have been greater, they have received greater help. He also mentioned that in a lot of normal living, there are normal needs, but that in this kind of living, when they are far from home, and one million things can go wrong (and sometimes do), they are attended to.
I have done enough normal living to know that it can also carry some serious needs, but the message has stayed with me. When our trials our great, our help from those in heaven (as well as those on earth), may also be great. This is a message that I would sincerely like the young (and old) women in our midst to take into themselves, and what this lesson, “How Can the Savior Help Me During My Trials?” is about.
Our scriptures are ripe with beautiful passages about the ways Christ can help us. Some suggest that Jesus can offer us strength and ease the things that are difficult for us. Others suggest that Jesus can offer us strength, so it is easier for us to handle the things that (continue) to be difficult for us. Others still suggest that Christ simply understands all of our difficult things, because of the Atonement, where He lovingly and willingly, experienced them, too.
Jesus can give us strength, and ease our burdens.
There is Matthew 11:28-30, where Christ invites all of us who are having a hard time, to come to Him: He will give us rest:
Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 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. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.
And there is the beginning of 1 Nephi 17 (1-3), right before Nephi is both asked to build a boat, and taught how to do it. In the first verse, we learn that he and his travel companions had many afflictions as they journeyed in the wilderness, and that some of these afflictions might just have to do with the fact that the women were giving birth then. In the second verse, we learn that they were simultaneously blessed, because while they “did live upon raw meat in the wilderness, [the] women did give plenty of suck for their children, and were strong.”
Their literal nourishment and strength, led Nephi to conclude in verse 3:
And thus we see that the commandments of God must be fulfilled. And if it so be that the children of men keep the commandments of God he doth nourish them, and strengthen them, and provide means whereby they can accomplish the thing which he has commanded them; wherefore, he did provide means for us while we did sojourn in the wilderness.
Jesus can give us strength, so we can better carry our burdens.
One of the best scriptural accounts of this is in Mosiah 23:21–22 and 24:8–17. There the people of Alma are being made to carry actual, physical burdens. They ask the Lord to be delivered. The Lord’s answer at first, is not to remove their burdens, but to make their bodies and backs stronger, so they can carry the loads easier, without it feeling like a burden.
This story seems particularly important to me, because it seems to work this way so often in real life. One of the corresponding General Conference addresses suggested for this lesson is Neill F. Marriott’s “Yielding Our Hearts to God.” At some point, her family chose as a motto, “It will all work out,” so when she learned that her 21 year old daughter got in a serious bike accident in Indianapolis, Indiana, while she and her husband were serving a mission in Brazil, she boarded a plane to cross the distance, and clung and clung to those words. She stepped off and learned that her loved daughter passed away just a few hours before.
President Marriott described,
With grief and shock running through our family like a current, how could we look at one another and still say, “It will all work out”?
She further expressed the rawness of her family’s feelings, and acknowledged that the pain sometimes feels very present. And then she added that her faith in Christ and Christ’s resurrection still helped. It still soothed, it still comforted, it still strengthened. Even though her burden was not taken away. Even though her daughter wasn’t protected, preserved, or brought back to life. (At least not in this life.)
Following Georgia’s mortal death, our feelings were raw, we struggled, and still today we have moments of great sorrow, but we hold to the understanding that no one ever really dies. Despite our anguish when Georgia’s physical body stopped functioning, we had faith that she went right on living as a spirit, and we believe we will live with her eternally if we adhere to our temple covenants. Faith in our Redeemer and His Resurrection, faith in His priesthood power, and faith in eternal sealings let us state our motto with conviction.
These words are extremely powerful to me. Something about the sincerity, and honesty, and vulnerability. I would share them with the young women, and then make room for a discussion. Are there trials in their lives, or their family’s lives that haven’t quite gone away? Is Christ’s hand still there? Can it be?
As the teacher, I would also be ready to share a story from my own life. My mind immediately jumps to the depression and anxiety I have experienced, but it could be anything, another kind of sickness, loss, or struggle. These things could serve to remind that Christ’s atonement doesn’t just cover sins, but other things as well, including illnesses and grief. They also lead to the next point, which I believe may be the most important of all.
Jesus understands our suffering, because He experienced it.
Alma 7:11-12 records,
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.
And Isaiah 53:3-5 adds,
He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.
Jesus has carried our sicknesses, our infirmities, our grief, and our sorrows. He can reconcile them. When we carry them, we can know that we are not alone; there is a godly being who understands us, and is filled with perfect love and perfect empathy, for us. He gives us grace, and asks us to let His love and understanding lighten even our heaviest loads (especially when those heaviest loads are still there).
One way we can reach this love and empathy is through prayer, in part because it’s in prayer that we can ask Christ to help us carry our burdens, or to simply help us feel the love that He has for us, that He wants us to feel. But, it may also be in part, because it is in prayer that we can feel heard and listened to, when feeling heard and listened to, can really help when things are hard.
I’m reminded of Job, whose friends first made the good choice to simply sit with him, in his grief. “So they sat down with him upon the ground seven days and seven nights, and none spake a word unto him: for they saw that his grief was very great” (Job 2:13). They couldn’t fix it. They couldn’t say anything that would make it better. But they could hear him, and they could be with him. This in turn reminds me of my wise friend Katie, who once defined friendship as “laughing, and talking, and crying.” Christ is this kind of a friend, and prayer helps us access His friendship.
If there was still time left, I would try to talk about the types of prayers that we can pray, when we need serious help. And to do this, I would likely share at least some part of Chieko Okazaki’s wisdom:
The Lord doesn’t want just pretty prayers. He wants real prayers. Sometimes we think of those eloquent, gracious prayers in sacrament meeting and general conference as the models for our personal prayers. We try to organize our rough thoughts into smooth sentences and it seems hard. We know how to say, “I’m so grateful for our son who is on his mission,” but we might not know how to say, “I’m so scared and so mad about our son who is on drugs.” Heavenly Father wants to hear the scared and mad prayers just as much as he wants to hear the grateful prayers.
[Jesus] was honest about how hard the Atonement was going to be for him when he prayed that the cup might pass from him. He struggled with a “very heavy” burden of feelings, saying, “My soul is exceeding sorrowful unto death,” and he prayed, “Father, all things are possible unto thee; take away this cup from me” (Mark 14:33-34, 36). He was honest about how much he didn’t like what was happening; and I think it’s because of his honesty that we so revere the love and humility revealed by the rest of his prayer: “Nevertheless not what I will, but what thou wilt (Mark 14:36).
Can we be equally honest in our prayers? Remember, we are not going to shock our Father in Heaven. There isn’t anything we can say that he hasn’t already heard, nothing we can show him that he hasn’t already seen. We may shock ourselves a little when we start being honest, but I think some very profound revelations come to us in those moments. (Sanctuary, page 18-19)
Last of all, I would reiterate that Jesus can help us when we’re struggling, no matter the struggle, no matter if it’s still there.
If you were teaching this lesson, what would you add?