And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins. (New Testament Matthew 1:21)If this is what salvation means, why do so many “saints”1 feel that one of God’s priorities should be to save them from traumas and heartache? And that it is “some strange thing” that good people2 should suffer; or that fervent, worthy petitions should go unanswered; or that misfortune is not always divine punishment?
How often do we lose our way because we misread the meaning of salvation; because we hear of and expect promises and blessings that do not materialize for us; because we forget Job and the myriad other stories of servants,3 saints, sages, and a perfect Savior,4 who left this existence without having received the promises5; because we fail to remember that life is about enlightenment and transformation which does not come in the status quo:
Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: (New Testament 1 Peter 4:12)Is it worth it? All this enduring? All this confusion? All this heartache and disappointment? I can only say: If there were any better way, I think God would have surely thought of it. (Though sometimes, in the haze of it all, I forget—and so, I write to remember.)
What is man, that thou shouldest magnify him? and that thou shouldest set thine heart upon him? And that thou shouldest visit him every morning, and try him every moment? (Old Testament Job 7:17-18)
I the LORD search the heart, I try the reins, … (Old Testament Jeremiah 17:10)
And I … will refine them as silver is refined, and will try them as gold is tried: (Old Testament Zechariah 13:9)
Behold, … I will try the faith of my people. (Book of Mormon 3 Nephi 26:11)
… God left him, to try him, that he might know all that was in his heart. (Old Testament 2 Chronicles 32:31)
For he will give unto the faithful line upon line, precept upon precept; and I will try you and prove you herewith. … Therefore, be not afraid of your enemies, for I have decreed in my heart, saith the Lord, that I will prove you in all things, whether you will abide in my covenant, even unto death, that you may be found worthy. (Doctrine and Covenants 98:12, 14)
And we will prove them herewith, to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them; And they who keep their first estate shall be added upon; and they who keep not their first estate shall not have glory in the same kingdom with those who keep their first estate; and they who keep their second estate shall have glory added upon their heads for ever and ever. (Pearl of Great Price Abraham 3:25-26)
1. i.e., those (of every faith) who strive to do and be good and who acknowledge and repent when they fail.
2. and those who seeketh so to [be] (Doctrine and Covenants 46:9)
3. “Take, my brethren, the prophets, who have spoken in the name of the Lord, for an example of suffering affliction, and of patience.” (New Testament James 5:10)
4. “And he [the Son of God] 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.” (Book of Mormon Alma 7:11)
5. “These [Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, etc.] all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.” (New Testament Hebrews 11:13, see also 39)