The adversity we face along the path of discipleship often leaves us feeling anxious, perplexed and bewildered. Such was the case for Joseph Smith, who, while imprisoned in Liberty Jail, cried out, 'O God, where art thou? And where is the pavilion that covereth thy hiding place?' (Doctrine and Covenants 121:1).
In response to his heartfelt plea, came the reply: 'My son, peace be unto thy soul; thine adversity and thine afflictions shall be but a small moment; And then, if thou endure it well, God shall exalt thee on high; thou shalt triumph over all thy foes” (Doctrine and Covenants 121:7-8). Joseph was then told that the purpose of his unique trials were not to destroy him, but to “give [him] experience, and shall be for [his] good’ (Doctrine and Covenants 122:7).
Amidst our most bitter trials, we must not forget that through faith in Jesus Christ all of our adversity can become the bread of spiritual growth. We must remember that God's work and glory is “to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man” (Moses 1:39). Even the stones that cause us to stumble, which we bring upon ourselves through disobedience, can be transformed by the power of Christ into life-givng bread. It requires faith in His name, sincere and complete repentance, baptism, and enduring to the end (3 Nephi 27:16-20).
Jesus teaches us to seek and ask for the things that we need, with the assurance that God would respond with love. He asks, 'What man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone? Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent? If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?' (Matthew 7:9-11).
The Bread of Adversity
After four hundred years of bondage to the Egyptians, one might think that a quick deliverance and a smooth ride to the promised land was in store for God’s chosen people. God did indeed deliver Israel from the Egyptians, but it was not an easy journey to the land flowing with milk and honey (Exodus 3:8).
As they neared the border of the promised land, their faith in God waivered. Though God had led them out of Egypt, they still carried much of Egypt within them. Israel had been delivered by His miraculous power, yet they could not summon enough courage to trust in His promises (Numbers 13:27-33). When God required Israel to exercise faith, they succumbed to fear, and in God's economy, faith is non-negotiable (Hebrews 11:6).
Recognizing that their faith was weak, God had caused Israel to wander. This period of trial was meant to discipline and test their hearts, ultimately building up their faith and trust in God and helping them become what He knew they could be.
Moses later commanded them not to forget their experiences in the wilderness, saying:
“Thou shalt remember all the way which the Lord thy God led thee these forty years in the wilderness, to humble thee, and to prove thee, to know what was in thine heart, whether thou wouldest keep his commandments, or no.
“And he humbled thee, and suffered thee to hunger, and fed thee with manna, which thou knewest not, neither did thy fathers know; that he might make thee know that man doth not live by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the Lord doth man live” (Deuteronomy 8:2-3).
Centuries later, Jesus referred to this miraculous experience, saying, “Our fathers did eat manna in the desert; as it is written, He gave them bread from heaven to eat” (John 6:31). Through their journey in the wilderness, God shaped their character, deepened their faith, and prepared them for the fulfillment of His promised blessing.
God not only provided physical bread for the Israelites during their wandering, but their experience became a testimony to them of the goodness of God, and that He provides the bread of spiritual growth, not stones. The prophet Isaiah taught that “though the Lord give[s] you the bread of adversity, and the water of affliction … thine ears shall hear a word behind thee, saying, This is the way, walk ye in it” (Isaiah 30:20-21).
Though often very hard to accept, the bread of adversity is still bread!
Stone of Stumbling?
In the midst of life's difficulties, it can be tempting to perceive the challenges we face as God casting stones rather than providing bread. We may question whether God is truly providing for us in these trying times.
In truth, the stones we encounter along our path are not put there by God, but often the obstacles we have created through our choices. Even Christ, who is the Bread of Life, will be “a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence” to those who reject his teachings (1 Peter 2:7-8). If we are not careful, our actions can become stumbling blocks to those around us. “Take heed,” the Apostle Paul says, “lest by any means this liberty of yours become a stumblingblock to them that are weak” (1 Corinthians 8:9).
Make no mistake, we are all weak. However, even in our weakness, God can take our stumbling blocks and transform them into opportunities for growth, nourishment, and strength. Through His transformative power, we can find solace and sustenance in the midst of adversity, even if this adversity is brought upon ourselves. As Isaiah reassures us, “Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness” (Isaiah 41:10).
The Bread of Life
Jesus is the Bread of Life (John 6:35). He was born in Bethlehem, a name that means “House of Bread.” He is the Bread of Life and the fountain of living water that sustains us now and forever.
He taught, 'Blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me' (Matthew 11:6). Remember, even Satan knows that God has the power to make bread of stones (Matthew 4:3). To experience this transformation, we must respond in faith. Faith transforms the stones in our lives into the abundance of life’s nourishing bread.
Amidst life’s challenges we may exclaim, “Stones! Stones! Life is all stones!” When God cries, “Faith! Faith! Give me faith, and I will show you that it is all bread.”