Friday, May 19, 2017

Elder Neal A. Maxwell on facing life with good cheer

Elder Neal A. Maxwell (1926-2004) served as a Seventy from 1976-1981, then as a member of the Quorum of Twelve until his death from cancer in 2004.
"The Lord knows our bearing capacity, both as to coping and to comprehending, and He will not give us more to bear than we can manage at the moment, though to us it may seem otherwise. (See D&C 50:40; D&C 78:18.) Just as no temptations will come to us from which we cannot escape or which we cannot bear, we will not be given more trials than we can sustain. (See 1 Cor. 10:13.)
"Therefore... can we not 'be of good cheer' in spite of stress and circumstance?
"President Brigham Young said of a geographical destination, 'This is the place.' Of God's plan of salvation, with its developmental destination, it can be said, 'This is the process.'
"President Young, who knew something about trial and tribulation but also of man's high destiny, said that the Lord lets us pass through these experiences that we might become true friends of God. By developing our individual capacities, wisely exercising our agency, and trusting God—including when we feel forsaken and alone—then we can, said President Young, learn to be 'righteous in the dark.' (Secretary's Journal, 28 Jan. 1857.) The gospel glow we see radiating from some—amid dark difficulties—comes from illuminated individuals who are 'of good cheer'!"
- Neal A. Maxwell, "Be of Good Cheer," Ensign, November 1982, pp. 66-68
Click here to read or watch the full talk

The Savior's admonition to "be of good cheer" appears several times in the New Testament (e.g., John 16:33, Matt. 9:2, Mark 6:50) and was repeated several times in modern scripture as well (e.g., D&C 68:6, D&C 78:18). Clearly it's a message that is timeless and applicable to all. If we truly understand God's plan for us and His love for us, there is no reason we should not be of good cheer.

At times when we feel burdened with challenges and problems, we may struggle to maintain the "good cheer." Elder Maxwell reminds us to keep the perspective that "the Lord knows our bearing capacity." Any trial we encounter is within our ability to endure, and will surely pass in due time.

I love the insights from the Brigham Young quotes. First, adding to Brigham's concept of "This is the place," our awareness of "this is the process" will help us to keep a beneficial perspective. And then this thought is also very insightful:

Two phrases from this reference stick out for me. First, through our "trials and tribulations" we can "become true friends of God." What a powerful designation, one to be earnestly sought and treasured.

Learning to be "righteous in the dark" is also an intriguing concept. The dark could include the times of challenge and trial; but also when, for various reasons, we're less able to feel spiritual help and support. At those times, our righteousness must be deeply ingrained, and not superficial. That kind of faith comes from trusting God even when we feel "forsaken and alone."

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2017)

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