Recently I was at my local grocery store and the cashier was ringing up and bagging the groceries that I had just purchased. When he got to the cardboard carton of a dozen eggs, I noticed he carefully wrapped two rubber bands around the carton.
And then he looked up at me and, with great certainty and solemnity, exclaimed, “It’s the worst thing that can ever happen.”
Perhaps it’s happened to you. Upon coming home, you start putting your groceries away and you notice that a couple of your new eggs are cracked and broken. And your day, your year, and even your life is ruined – right then and there. It’s the worst thing that could ever happen. Or is it?
As disappointing -- and even messy –- broken eggs may be, it is not the worst thing that can ever happen. How do I know?
Because I’ve had my share of bad days, bad months and even bad years. And I’ve seen many other God-fearing people in the same boat. And believe me, I wish that a couple broken eggs were the worst thing that could ever happen!
Yet I’ve had to wrestle with this. Because I thought I heard that if you say your prayers, pay your tithing, go to church and kept the commandments, that all days would be good days. That you will be protected from pain, failure, disappointment and unfulfilled dreams.
What’s the use of believing in a higher power if life is full of woe? Religions and philosophies throughout history stumble when trying to make sense of this. And this inability to answer life’s most basic and important questions push many good people away from God and His plan for His children. And then it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy – a life void of faith – a life of darkness and despair. And mankind seems to have proven, with both certainty and solemnity, that there is no God.
Blessed are we who are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. For through the restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ, previously lost doctrines and principles – essential for the understanding of the purpose of life – have been brought forward. And through this revelatory process we discovered that the historic equation for life, held firm for centuries, was actually incomplete, and that’s why it didn’t make sense!
And the great philosophers of times past are rolling in their graves, saying to each other, “Oops, we got it wrong!”
Through the restoration we learn that we lived in a premortal world. And that the earth was created as a proving ground, where upon each of us might overcome the natural man, accept Jesus Christ as our Redeemer, live a life full of faith, hope and charity, yielding our will to God the Father – all that we might achieve our potential, and in the eternities become like our Heavenly Parents and receive all that our Father hath.
“And there stood one among them that was like unto God, and he said unto those who were with him: We will go down, for there is space there, and we will take of these materials, and we will make an earth whereon these may dwell; And we will prove them herewith, to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them,”
By intentional divine design, life will be full of tests, trials and temptations. Following the death and resurrection of Christ, the Apostle Peter taught this very point, “Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you,” (1 Peter 4:12).
The fiery trials of life can come from at least four identifiable sources:
Our own poor choices in which the consequences hurt us and those around us
Actions of others that hurt us. This includes those close to us – children, spouses, siblings, parents, our work associates and bosses. It also includes those from a distance such as dictators, warlords and thugs.
We live on a fallen earth where, as biological beings, we are constantly challenged by germs, viruses, disease, floods, earthquakes, hurricanes, fires, gravity, and the vicissitudes of life.
The will of God.
With so many sources of potential trials, what is the worst thing that can happen?
The worst thing that can happen is not to have your eggs broken when you get home from the store – it is to respond to the difficult, unplanned for events of life with sagging or skeptical faith, or simply no faith. This begins a dismal chain reaction, allowing you to conclude that there is no God. Or that He has no power. That He has forgotten about you. Or that He is arbitrarily punishing you. Or that you can’t be forgiven. That you can’t be healed. That darkness has replaced light.
Surprisingly it’s not the “thing” that happens to you that matters the most. What matters most is the way you choose to respond, both in the moment and in the days and weeks afterwards, that makes all the difference. We have the power within us to choose our response, whether it be broken eggs, broken promises, broken friendships or broken health.
Thus choosing unwavering faith in the immediacy of a great trial is the key not just for survival, but long-term personal peace, both emotionally and spiritually.
Tests, trials and temptations provide us the opportunities to embrace the heavenly tool of faith not only to survive the moment, but to gain strength, resilience, experience and wisdom for the future. This is how we turn a fiery trial into a life changing refiner’s fire.
Hymns of the Restoration reinforce this important principle of the purpose of life:
“When through fiery trials thy pathway shall lie,
My grace, all sufficient, shall be thy supply.
The flame shall not hurt thee; I only design
Thy dross to consume, thy dross to consume,
Thy dross to consume and thy gold to refine.”
(Hymn #85, How Firm a Foundation)
The best thing that can happen is to choose unwavering faith, through thick and thin, as a foundational attribute of your life. Faith in a loving Heavenly Father. Faith that Jesus Christ is the Messiah and that He has all power. Faith that the Plan of Happiness, as taught in the Book of Mormon and Doctrine and Covenants is the fail-safe blueprint for our development, survival and ultimate joy.
In the midst of the fiery trials of life, always turn heaven-ward trusting in this promise from Christ himself, “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.” (Hebrews 13:5). Unwavering faith in these words from the Savior opens the door for unprecedented growth and transformation. This is how one comes unto Christ and then stays with Him, on both sides of the veil. This is what it is hoped for all of God’s children.