Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Elder Neal A. Maxwell on patient growth and progress in life as we trust God

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.
"In life, the sandpaper of circumstances often smooths our crustiness and patiently polishes our rough edges. There is nothing pleasant about it, however. And the Lord will go to great lengths in order to teach us a particular lesson and to help us to overcome a particular weakness, especially if there is no other way.
"In such circumstances, it is quite useless for us mortals to try to do our own sums when it comes to suffering. We can't make it all add up because clearly we do not have all the numbers. Furthermore, none of us knows much about the algebra of affliction.
"The challenges that come are shaped to our needs and circumstances, sometimes in order to help our weaknesses become strengths. Job noted how tailored his challenges were, saying, 'For the thing which I greatly feared has come upon me, and that which I was afraid of is come unto me.' (Job 3:25.) Yet he prevailed—so much so that he was held up as a model to the great latter-day prophet, Joseph Smith. (D&C 121.) ...
"Thus, when we are patiently growing and keeping the commandments of God and doing our duties, we are to that extent succeeding, a fact from which we should derive some quiet, inner reassurance.  Knowing that we are in the process of succeeding, even though we have much to do and much to improve upon, can help us to move forward while, at the same time, being 'of good cheer.'"
- Neal A. Maxwell, Notwithstanding My Weakness [Deseret 19981], pp. 67-68

Elder Maxwell's poetic prose and vivid analogies never fail to inspire me. This suggestion of a "divine sandpaper" being used to help smooth our rough edges is a great one. There is someone who identifies the need, and is willing to employ the remedy, even though it may not be gentle.

Are we willing recipients of that "sanding" that occasionally comes in our lives? Do we learn to recognize it for what it is, to rejoice when it comes, and to know that once the process is over we will be "more fit for the kingdom"?

I also appreciated the next analogy.  As mortals, we often "try to do our own sums when it comes to suffering." We want everything to add up, to make sense. But we can't always "do the math" because we don't understand God's perspective. We don't have all the information needed to make sense of the circumstances. We have to learn to trust Him. As we do, "patiently growing" in the process, we can find not only inner peace but much "good cheer" in knowing that God is in charge.

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2022)
December 9, 2015

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