Choose Higher Ground
My missionary son wrote his first p-day letter Monday. It was heart-rending. I thought of The God Who Weeps as I pondered on the soul-stretching he is going through, and the profoundly humble way he is embracing it. And I wept too.
It caught me at my own moment, on the second day of a fast. I’ve discovered that a single day of fasting doesn’t really affect me much, probably because my eating habits are so scattered that I fast most days for two meals anyway, so I now fast for two days and it begins to affect me about like fasting seems to affect more normal people. My heart had been yearning for an answer for some time, but the heavens had been silent. Like my son, I was feeling discouraged.
I sat down in my rocking chair by the lamp table with my scriptures, falling back to an old habit of opening the scriptures prayerfully for the answer I needed. As soon as I sat, however, I heard a voice say, “You will not find the answer there today.” I was still, because it was the voice I’d been waiting for. “Where then?” I said immediately back. “In that.”
I looked at the table, where a stack of books I am reviewing sat, and my gaze was directed to the book on the top. I was nearly finished reading it. I picked it up, as I have my scriptures for over two decades, and began where it fell open, a spot where I had already read.
And there was both my answer and my son’s.
The book is Choose Higher Ground, a collection of most of the talks given by Pres. Henry B. Eyring in the past ten years. The chapter to which it fell open was a BYU Devotional given in 2008, The Power of Deliverance. These were the words which answered his and my need (emphasis mine):
There is a guide for receiving the Lord’s power of deliverance from opposition in life. It was given to Thomas B. Marsh, then the president of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. He was in difficult trials, and the Lord knew he would face more. Here was the counsel to him that I take for myself and offer you: “Be thou humble; and the Lord thy God shall lead thee by the hand, and give thee answer to thy prayers.”
The Lord always wants to lead us to deliverance through our becoming more righteous. That requires repentance. And that takes humility. So the way to deliverance always requires humility in order for the Lord to be able to lead us by the hand where He wants to take us through our troubles and on to sanctification.
We might make the mistake of assuming that illness, persecution, and poverty will be humbling enough. They don’t always produce by themselves the kind and degree of humility we will need to be rescued. Trials can produce resentment or discouragement. The humility you and I need to get the Lord to lead us by the hand comes from faith. It comes from faith that God really lives, that He loves us, and that what He wants—hard as it may be—will always be best for us.
The Savior showed us that humility. You have read of how He prayed in the garden while He was suffering a trial on our behalf beyond our ability to comprehend or to endure, or even for me to describe. You remember His prayer: “Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done.”
He knew and trusted His Heavenly Father, the great Elohim. He knew that His Father was all-powerful and infinitely kind. The Beloved Son asked for the power of deliverance to help Him in humble words like those of a little child.
The Father did not deliver the Son by removing the trial. For our sakes He did not do that, and He allowed the Savior to finish the mission He came to perform. Yet we can forever take courage and comfort from knowing of the help that the Father did provide:
And there appeared an angel unto him from heaven, strengthening him.
And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground.
And when he rose up from prayer, and was come to his disciples, he found them sleeping for sorrow,
And said unto them, Why sleep ye? rise and pray, lest ye enter into temptation.
The Savior prayed for deliverance. What He was given was not an escape from the trial but comfort enough to pass through it gloriously.
His command to His disciples, who were themselves being tested, is a guide for us. We can determine to follow it. We can determine to rise up and pray in great faith and humility. And we can follow the command added in the book of Mark: “Rise up, let us go.”
My heart lifted and discouragement began to fade as I wrote to my son. I shared Pres. Eyring’s words, a perspective that we’ve often discussed after a General Conference as particularly resonant with our souls, and I shared my testimony that the path to deliverance is by righteousness, not reprieve. Discouragement interferes with our ability to embrace the faith necessary to weather the trial in the most useful way. Once we banish discouragement, we can embrace faith, and that can bring humility, and only then can the Lord work with us.
I’ve pondered lately that this life is particularly useful for transformation. I think we will learn at a phenomenal rate after we leave mortality, but I don’t think transformation will come easily then. If we wish to be prepared to meet God, this life is the time to do it. And transformation, which is more important than being comfortable, most efficiently comes when we are uncomfortable.
I read that talk. I’d read it before. I didn’t get it. I have the whole internet at my fingertips, and I use it all the time, but it was the book on my lamp table that provided our answers.
There really is something to be said for a book collecting ten years of thoughts from an apostle.