Do we deserve our trials?

Don - October 26, 2004

How do we determine why we are “suffering” the trials we are going through?

A very smart Bishop (Fox) once told me that there are 3 reasons we suffer trials. #1 S*#t happens (my words not his). The rain falls on everyone. It is just part of this life, some get more than others just as a matter of being here.

#2. As a direct consequence of our own actions.

#3. God gives us certain trials to strengthen us, prepare us, and help us to grow to our full potential.

My problem is the difficulty I have many times in sorting out whether I’m suffering from 1, 2, or 3. Maybe it doesn’t matter, maybe I should just “suffer”…grow, and be thankful for it. I find that I do better at “suffering” if I know the why.

It’s much easier to “suffer” the consequences of my own actions if I know for sure that my actions brought about the “suffering”. It’s harder when I don’t know if God is trying me, or if it’s a #1.

Is there any way to tell? Does it matter? Should I just put up and shut up?

1 Comment »

  1. One other question, is there any other reason we go through trials?
    Don | Email | Homepage | 10.26.04 – 7:12 pm | #

    My husband has been asking these questions for almost ten months now. We’re still trying to figure it out.
    Sister T | Email | Homepage | 10.26.04 – 8:03 pm | #

    I’m still trying to sort this one out. I had an Institute teacher who grouped the “reasons for suffering” into three categories different than yours: 1) A result of mortality (illness, age, disabilities, etc. as well as your first reason: some stuff “just happens” because it’s part of life) 2) A result of our use of agency; or as you stated, a direct consequence of our own actions (sins, mistakes, whatever) and 3) A result of someone else’s use of agency; that is, their actions towards us (abuse, rape, manipulation, and so on).

    Notice he didn’t mention your #3, that “God gives us certain trials.” So I guess my question is, do we know that God actually GIVES us the trials? Or does He instead ALLOW them to happen, “to strengthen us, prepare us, and help us grow to our full potential?”

    As a parent, I can’t see myself intentionally giving my children trials and making them suffer just so they can grow and learn. I know by nature of mortality and their own choices (along with others’ actions towards them) they will learn quite a bit on their own… so should I still seek additional tailored difficulties to place in their path so they can grow even more? Maybe — is that what happened with Job?

    I think for no matter which reason we suffer, of course there is great benefit in seeking purpose to it; not necessarily asking “Why?” or “Why me?” but questions like “What can I learn from this?” and “How can this bring me closer to Christ?” Easier said than done, I know.

    This Elder Maxwell quote is on our bathroom door: “Regarding trials, including of our faith and patience, there are no exemptions — only variations. These calisthenics are designed to increase our capacity for happiness and service.”
    Amy | Email | Homepage | 10.26.04 – 10:48 pm | #

    Well Elder Scott might have just answered my question. For some rather comprehensive (and completely authoritative!) coverage on this topic, please see “Trust in the Lord,” Ensign, Nov. 1995, p. 16. WOW!

    Here’s a clip from what he said:

    “Trials, disappointments, sadness, and heartache come to us from two basically different sources. Those who transgress the laws of God will always have those challenges. The other reason for adversity is to accomplish the Lord’s own purposes in our life that we may receive the refinement that comes from testing…

    “When those trials are not consequences of your disobedience, they are evidence that the Lord feels you are prepared to grow more (see Prov. 3:11-12). He therefore gives you experiences that stimulate growth, understanding, and compassion which polish you for your everlasting benefit.”

    There’s lots more, mostly about how to deal with trials of that second category (including the specific questions we should be asking ourselves). What an outstanding talk for any of us to review and remember.
    Amy | Email | Homepage | 10.26.04 – 10:57 pm | #

    Another question I might replace “why me” with, is what Joseph Smith said in D&C 121:2,3 “how long…” The answer to each question is different.
    Rusty | Email | Homepage | 10.27.04 – 3:08 pm | #

    There’s one other scriptural explanation for why you might suffer tremendous adversity.

    Let’s imagine that you are a perfect upright man and Satan and God end up having a conversation about you …

    (see book of Job)
    danithew | Email | Homepage | 10.27.04 – 5:01 pm | #

    Put up and shut up!
    Bret | Email | Homepage | 10.27.04 – 7:19 pm | #

    (Sorry, I had to take the opportunity to say that to my dad without getting serious repercussions)

    Amy,
    Maybe you already said this but it came to mind when I read your comments. I heartily agree with your admonition to just start asking WHAT should I so instead of “why?” However, I think sometimes (if not all) we really do need to know “why.” If it is #1 we need to know it so we don’t waste time and energy trying to fix something we cannot do anything about. If it is one of the others, we need to know it so we can know IF we can do anything about it.
    Does that make sense?
    Bret | Email | Homepage | 10.27.04 – 7:23 pm | #

    Bret,

    I agree. That’s basically what Elder Scott says: find the reason for your suffering — if it’s sin, then REPENT. If it’s not your fault, then start asking the productive questions and submit your will to the Lord’s. (He says it much better.) While we may not be able to “fix” things that fall under Don’s reasons #1 and #3 the same way we can for #2, I don’t think that means “we cannot do anything about” them. I assume that’s what you meant anyway, but I just wanted to clarify it. Too many people feel trapped and helpless under their trials and don’t recognize all they CAN do, and according to Elder Scott there is plenty!
    Amy | Email | Homepage | 10.27.04 – 10:26 pm | #

    Sorry to comment so much. This topic has intrigued me! In contemplating whether God does actually “cause” some of our trials or whether he instead “allows” them, I came across a President Kimball quote:

    “…though I know God has a major role in our lives, I do not know how much he causes to happen and how much he merely permits” (Faith Precedes the Miracle, p. 96).

    Later he adds, “If all the sick for whom we pray were healed, if all the righteous were protected and the wicked destroyed, the whole program of the Father would be annulled and the basic principle of the gospel, free agency, would be ended. No man would have to live by faith.

    “If joy and peace and rewards were instantaneously given the doer of good, there could be no evil — all would do good but not because of the rightness of doing good. There would be no test of strength, no development of character, no growth of powers, no free agency, only satanic controls.

    “Should all prayers be immediately answered according to our selfish desires and our limited understanding, then there would be little or no suffering, sorrow, disappointment, or even death, and if these were not, there would also be no joy, success, resurrection, nor eternal life and godhood” (p.97).

    We all probably know this already. I don’t think I really have any answers to Don’s questions, but reviewing things like this help me keep perspective. I find it especially comforting to remember that the Lord “blessed the latter end of Job more than his beginning” (Job 42:12).
    Amy | Email | Homepage | 10.27.04 – 10:43 pm | #

    Just one more.

    I think the Book of Job gives great insight for those called on to comfort others who are suffering trials. Job’s “friends” assumed and judged a little too harshly the reasons for his trials… when “helping” our struggling family/friends, do we listen more than we preach?
    Amy | Email | Homepage | 10.27.04 – 10:48 pm | #

    The first example I can think of that God can give us trials to help us etc. is Abraham. Obviously that was a trial he didn’t cause, nor was it his fault. God did it to try him. And if he can do it to Abraham, then I figure there might be a time or two that he needs to do it to me.

    Would I as a parent put my children in a position to “try” them, put trials in their lives on purpose…probably not, but maybe that’s why I’m not a god yet. He knows what we need, as a parent I may think I do, but I have obviously been wrong in that department.
    don | Email | Homepage | 10.28.04 – 1:06 am | #

    Amy,
    Excellent! Now…tell me WHY I’m having such trials trying to get a date!

    Don,
    OK, but would you watch your child fall into a trial and withold your help because you knew that they would be strengthened by going through it?
    I know the answer and I know you know it. Just wanted to bring it up.
    Bret | Email | Homepage | 10.28.04 – 3:58 am | #

    Don, that sounds exactly like my hubby.
    Sister T | Email | Homepage | 10.28.04 – 12:30 pm | #

    Sister T,

    Thank you…I think, your husband sounds like a great guy.

    Bret,
    It depends, if I saw that the child wouldn’t be hurt in an eternal nature, then I hope I could look at the trial as a benefit, and if my perspective is right then ok. The child will later see that I was right and they were better for it.
    don | Email | Homepage | 10.28.04 – 5:57 pm | #

    The reason I said that is because he had been asking himself that same question for the past ten months. He did have a night though, when he figured that it might not just be that he’s going through a trial. It’s just life, and pain happens sometimes.
    Sister T | Email | Homepage | 10.28.04 – 6:14 pm | #

    Sometimes our suffering in life is the direct result of our own actions. Hmmmm, now where’s the electronics for sale section?
    d@le | Email | Homepage | 10.28.04 – 7:59 pm | #

    I’m with Amy’s Institute teacher.

    I don’t believe that God “gives” us trials or tests so we can prove our faith or obedience or just because. My parents didn’t do it to me. I don’t do it my children. And I don’t believe our Heavenly Father does it to us.
    ChrisBrooklyn | Email | Homepage | 10.28.04 – 8:26 pm | #

    That last post was from me. Forgot to change my username to my actual one.
    Chris Williams | Email | Homepage | 10.28.04 – 8:26 pm | #

    Chris,

    What about my Abraham example and Danithew’s Job example? How do we explain them?
    Don | Email | Homepage | 10.29.04 – 2:17 am | #

    Chris said:
    I don’t believe that God “gives” us trials or tests so we can prove our faith or obedience or just because.

    I agree that God doesn’t give us trials for those reasons. But I believe we are given trials for other, good reasons. If we accept the premise of a Heavenly Father who knows us personally, and who wants us to grow, I think we need to also accept the idea that we will be given some growing experiences.

    You said you don’t do that to your own children. I think you are speaking (blogging?) hastily. Although I don’t know you or your parenting style, I’ll bet you make your kids do stuff they don’t want to do, for their own good. Or else you have the luckiest kids in the world!
    CB | Email | Homepage | 10.29.04 – 2:21 pm | #

    This is a great topic! I, for one, have had my own share of trials (who hasn’t?) and what I have found is that after the trial is over, my faith and testimony have strengthened me so I can get through the next one a little better. Does that make sense? If we go through it asking the right questions, with the right attitude, and with faith that the Lord does hear our prayers then we will eventually learn and grow and know why when we look back on it and see our own personal growth.
    I recently went through a trial this summer and now that I “passed the test”, (not that I consider all trials tests) my testimony of the Lord hearing and answering our prayers and believing that miracles still happen today have grown one thousand percent! I’m ready to yell from the rooftops about it. And as I’m trying to get through the next trial, I look back on the one previous and I know that I can make it through this one which makes this one a little easier to get through. Did anyone follow my train of thought?
    I guess what I’m trying to say is I believe in most of what’s been said. I especailly like the quotes from the general authorities. We all have our hopeless bad days when in the middle of trials but like my dad always says, “Keep on keeping on”…This too shall pass. I think our attitude during the trial makes a difference and as long as we are TRYING to understand and learn and grow from it then eventually the Lord will bless us.
    Angela | Email | Homepage | 10.31.04 – 12:18 am | #

    Don:

    I think the Job and Abraham examples tell us more about how Job and Abraham perceived God and their trials then they tell us about God.
    Chris Williams | Email | Homepage | 10.31.04 – 8:58 pm | #

    CB:

    You’re right that I make my kids do things they don’t want to do, and I suppose they might perceive some of those things to be trials. And I think it is entirely possible that some of the things we percieve of as trials are, in fact, things that we have to do that are good for us.

    My comments were directed more at the idea that God gives us trials to “test” us or to make us “prove” our faith.
    Chris Williams | Email | Homepage | 10.31.04 – 9:00 pm | #

    Notwithstanding anyone’s personal take on the Abraham and Job examples, I just think we are often too quick to blame God for our afflictions, when they are probably — at least in part — due to our own (or someone else’s) poor use of agency. By taking more responsibility for what we’ve done to cause our situation, rather than just saying, “The Lord is testing me again! Why does He always have to do this to me?!” I wonder if we might be able to learn a little more, ya know?
    Amy | Email | Homepage | 10.31.04 – 11:05 pm | #

    I was really wracking my brain over the Abraham story because I had serious problems with the entire test/trial that was going on and the fact that Abraham didn’t firmly say NO to God.

    But I came to a conclusion that works for me … at least for the time being. I’m going to provide a very brief synopsis here of my wacky idea.

    We know that Abraham was given this test when he was very old. We also know that Abraham’s immediate family (er, father Terah) attempted to sacrifice Abraham when he was younger.

    My theory is that the Abrahamic test is not so much about obedience. My theory is that the Abrahamic test was a pass-pass test. That is, Abraham would have been fine if he had said yes or if he said no. But the test was prepared because God knew Abraham would say yes.

    And the point of the test was that Abraham was soon to be gathered to his (idolatrous) ancestors. If Abraham had not gone through a situation where he himself almost sacrificed his own son, then he would have been in a place of great moral superiority. Perhaps that moral superiority would have made it impossible for him to identify with his forefathers. If this had been the case, perhaps Abraham would would not have been able to reconcile with them.

    After the big test, Abraham was still spotless from sin … but he was in a position to understand those who had gone before him and to forgive them.
    danithew | Email | Homepage | 11.01.04 – 4:24 pm | #

    Great perspective. I’d had never thought of Abraham in that light, but I can fully understand your viewpoint.

    That’s what’s so unique and fasinating about blogs, sharing ideas, viewpoints, etc. that you’d never get anywhere else.

    Thanks
    Don | Email | Homepage | 11.01.04 – 9:39 pm | #

    The following quote fell into my lap today — I was not even looking for it, but I think it sheds some sound light on this whole subject. It’s by George Q. Cannon:

    “The Saints should always remember that God sees not as man sees; that he does not willingly afflict his children, and that if he requires them to endure present privation and trial, it is that they may escape greater tribulations which would otherwise inevitably overtake them. If he deprives them of any present blessing, it is that he may bestow upon them greater and more glorious ones by and by.”
    Amy | Email | Homepage | 11.02.04 – 12:03 am | #

    P.S. I liked your line of thought, Danithew. Thanks for that perspective.
    Amy | Email | Homepage | 11.02.04 – 12:05 am | #

    Danithew,
    I also liked your line of thought, but it gives me a question. Is that type of circumstance exclusive to Abraham (or maybe a few other exceptions) or is that a type of perspective that all of us need to gain?
    What do you (or whoever else) think?
    Bret | Email | Homepage | 11.02.04 – 2:52 am | #

    Amy,
    Where are you sitting that quotes are falling into your lap? (or is it Sunday School and the teacher cut quotes into strips and passed them out and dropped one on your lap?)

    Dan,
    Interesting insight. Hadn’t thought of it that way. Bret asks a good question though.
    Rusty | Email | Homepage | 11.02.04 – 7:53 am | #

    Have you read through Hebrews? Especially chapters 11 and 12?

    Gave me a lot of room for thought.

    http://adrr.com/living/

    Stephen
    Stephen M (Ethesis) | Email | Homepage | 11.25.04 – 12:01 am | #

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