Gratitude for Our Trials
High Council Talk
November 22nd 2009
I. Introduction – I am deeply humbled by my assignment today particularly because of the assigned topic, that of Gratitude for Our Trials. I have spent time in sincere prayer and study in the hope that I might be encouraging and uplifting.
II. Ten Years ago in October General Conference Elder Jeffrey R Holland gave a conference talk entitled “An High Priest of Good Things to Come.” In that talk he shared the following experience from his life.
a. Thirty years ago last month, a little family set out to cross the United States to attend graduate school—no money, an old car, every earthly possession they owned packed into less than half the space of the smallest U-Haul trailer available. Bidding their apprehensive parents farewell, they drove exactly 34 miles up the highway, at which point their beleaguered car erupted.
Pulling off the freeway onto a frontage road, the young father surveyed the steam, matched it with his own, then left his trusting wife and two innocent children—the youngest just three months old—to wait in the car while he walked the three miles or so to the southern Utah metropolis of Kanarraville, population then, I suppose, 65. Some water was secured at the edge of town, and a very kind citizen offered a drive back to the stranded family. The car was attended to and slowly—very slowly—driven back to St. George for inspection—U-Haul trailer and all.
After more than two hours of checking and rechecking, no immediate problem could be detected, so once again the journey was begun. In exactly the same amount of elapsed time at exactly the same location on that highway with exactly the same pyrotechnics from under the hood, the car exploded again. It could not have been 15 feet from the earlier collapse, probably not 5 feet from it! Obviously the most precise laws of automotive physics were at work.
Now feeling more foolish than angry, the chagrined young father once more left his trusting loved ones and started the long walk for help once again. This time the man providing the water said, “Either you or that fellow who looks just like you ought to get a new radiator for that car.” For the second time a kind neighbor offered a lift back to the same automobile and its anxious little occupants. He didn’t know whether to laugh or to cry at the plight of this young family.
“How far have you come?” he said. “Thirty-four miles,” I answered. “How much farther do you have to go?” “Twenty-six hundred miles,” I said. “Well, you might make that trip, and your wife and those two little kiddies might make that trip, but none of you are going to make it in that car.” He proved to be prophetic on all counts.
Just two weeks ago this weekend, I drove by that exact spot where the freeway turnoff leads to a frontage road, just three miles or so west of Kanarraville, Utah. That same beautiful and loyal wife, my dearest friend and greatest supporter for all these years, was curled up asleep in the seat beside me. The two children in the story, and the little brother who later joined them, have long since grown up and served missions, married perfectly, and are now raising children of their own. The automobile we were driving this time was modest but very pleasant and very safe. In fact, except for me and my lovely Pat situated so peacefully at my side, nothing of that moment two weeks ago was even remotely like the distressing circumstances of three decades earlier.
Yet in my mind’s eye, for just an instant, I thought perhaps I saw on that side road an old car with a devoted young wife and two little children making the best of a bad situation there. Just ahead of them I imagined that I saw a young fellow walking toward Kanarraville, with plenty of distance still ahead of him. His shoulders seemed to be slumping a little, the weight of a young father’s fear evident in his pace. In the scriptural phrase his hands did seem to “hang down.” In that imaginary instant, I couldn’t help calling out to him: “Don’t give up, boy. Don’t you quit. You keep walking. You keep trying. There is help and happiness ahead—a lot of it—30 years of it now, and still counting. You keep your chin up. It will be all right in the end. Trust God and believe in good things to come.” (Ensign November 1999)
b. At the time my wife and I were desperately trying to find a way to bring children into our home with no success. It was beginning to seem an impossible trial to endure. Listening to conference CD’s I came across this talk. For months I would listen to this talk over and over as it was very inspiring and gave me hope. As time passed I began to see the need for gratitude in the midst of trials. One particular phrase at the end of that address has always stuck with me – “Some Blessings come soon, some come late, and some don’t come until heaven; but for those who embrace the gospel of Jesus Christ, they come.”
V. Brothers and Sisters the key to having Gratitude for our trials is found in engaging in behavior that will help us to Remember the goodness of a loving God and his Son Jesus Christ – A few things we can do:
1. Offer Prayers of Thanksgiving – President Ezra Taft Benson Said: “The Prophet Joseph said at one time that one of the greatest sins of which the Latter-day Saints would be guilty is the sin of ingratitude. I presume most of us have not thought of that as a great sin. There is a great tendency for us in our prayers and in our pleadings with the Lord to ask for additional blessings. But sometimes I feel we need to devote more of our prayers to expressions of gratitude and thanksgiving for blessings already received. We enjoy so much.” (God, Family, Country, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1974, p. 199.)
2. Personal Book of Remembrance or Journal – Express your thoughts and feelings of gratitude so that when “Sore Trials” come you and I can do as the hymn suggests and “Count our many blessings, so we might be surprised by what the Lord has done.”
3. Worthily Partake of the Sacrament each week paying close attention to the words of the prayers particularly “That We Do Always Remember Him, and Keep His Commandments”.
VI. Ten years ago as I would lie awake at night listening to the voice of Elder Holland it became evident that some of the blessings I desired would indeed not be coming now. However I became Grateful for what I did have and only wondered if the blessing of children would come later or not until Heaven. A little over Three months ago my wife and I entered a hospital hand in hand much as we had many times before for test and procedures that we hoped would help bring children to our home. This time was different as a little girl had been born just two days previous to a wonderful, beautiful, and selfless young women. Her situation not ideal she had chosen us to raise her baby girl. My gratitude has found new depths as the means of bringing children to our home is not the way I would have chosen but it is the way the Lord Has Chosen and I have experienced blessings I did not know existed because the Lord is in control. After witnessing the most selfless act I have ever seen and with our new little bundle wrapped securely in her new car seat we made our way down to the lobby. There I left my wife, new baby, case workers, and nurse and went to get the car. As I pulled around to the front door in my minds eye for just a moment I saw a young man walking hand in hand with his wife. The disappointment of yet another failed procedure written all over their faces. The anxious desire to say the appropriate words of comfort that would not come showed in the eyes of the young man. In the scriptural sense his hands hung down and his feeble knees needed strengthening. In that moment I wished that I could call out to him, “Don’t you quit Greg, you keep going, you keep seeking, you be grateful for what you have including this trial. It will be alright in the end!