Thursday, September 7, 2017

Elder Neal A. Maxwell on coping with life's challenges

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.
"Occasionally I see individuals who are meeting life’s challenges reasonably well but who unfortunately fail to appreciate the general adequacy of their response. They let the seeming ordinariness of life dampen their spirits. Though actually coping and growing, some lack the quiet inner-soul satisfaction which can steady them. Instead they seem to experience a lingering sense that there is something more important they should be doing or that their chores are somehow not quite what was expected, as if what is quietly achieved in righteous individual living or in parenthood is not sufficiently spectacular.
"Feeling unrequited as to role and feeling underwhelmed do not occur, however, because of a structural failure in this divinely designed second estate. Rather they occur because of a lack of love, for love helps us to see and to respond to those opportunities which have been allotted to us and which lie unused all about us. Before we complain about the curriculum in mortality, or more particularly our current class schedules, we would do well to remember who designed the curriculum and to allow for however many other places it has been successfully used."
- Neal A. Maxwell, "Grounded, Rooted, Established, and Settled," BYU Devotional, Sept 15, 1981
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

Elder Maxwell often spoke with tender sympathy and insight, but sometimes you have to ponder his elegant language to get the full import! In this case, I know exactly what he is referring to. So many times in life, we are facing challenges or struggles of various kinds, and feel overwhelmed and inadequate. We can easily fail to see how well we really are doing in coping with the difficulties we are facing, thinking instead that we are failing and drowning. But we should remember that what we "quietly achieve" in our "righteous individual living or in parenthood" is often truly spectacular, though it may seem just the opposite to us at the time.

The cure for our malaise in life often is to focus on love, Elder Maxwell suggests. When we feel more love, we can "respond to those opportunities" we have all around us more effectively and appropriately. I suppose that includes love for ourselves, love for God, and love for others around us.

This is a good reminder about our faith in God and his plan for us. We can trust that the circumstances through which we are struggling will ultimately "give thee experience, and shall be for thy good" as Joseph Smith was taught (D&C 122:7). God is designing the curriculum that will bless us most if we trust in Him.

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

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