Throughout my two year mission preparation crash course so far, I’ve learnt so many things about myself and about who God wants me to become. Most of the lessons (given through many experiences) I haven’t liked at all, barely enduring them let alone enduring them well. But I can’t help but love these lessons because I know they have been tailor made for me by a loving Father. Heavenly Father is His infinite wisdom knows exactly what I need so that I can be moulded and sculpted; refined. These are some of the lessons I’ve learned through my preparation…
Heavenly Father Loves His Children
Many times I’ve knelt in prayer asking God why I had to endure particular trials. At times I was so consumed by them that I lost perspective on mortality and why we’re given these experiences. But all things, both good and bad are for our benefit and “have been done in the wisdom of Him who knoweth all things,” (2 Nephi 2:24). Whether we want to endure them or not. We may not understand why we’re given them or what we are required to learn from them but one thing is certain, “I know that He loveth His children.” (1 Nephi 11:17). It’s a love that we can’t completely understand in our current state. How can we? How can a mortal man or woman even begin to comprehend the love that God, the Almighty Ruler of the universe, a divine and celestial being, can have for them? He wants us to reach our divine potential and fulfil the measure of our creation but we can’t do that unless we are tried, trialled, tested, challenged, stretched, moulded, sculpted and refined. I know that He loves us because despite how heart breaking it must be watching us endure these trials, just as it would be for any parent, He allows us the opportunity to do so anyway.
God Is In Control Of Our Lives
Often we may wonder who gives us these experiences? “The bad ones must definitely be from Satan and the good ones, from God.” Although some bad experiences or trials may feel like they’re from Satan, I don’t believe they are (check out, “Why We Sometimes Suffer: Some Scriptural Examples”, by Thomas A. Wayment). This would denote that for a moment in time, however brief or long that moment may be, Satan is in control. But we know that he is not, nor will he ever be. God is in control of our lives. He’s the Gardener and He knows what He wants us to be (“The Will of God” Mormon Message).
Heavenly Father may permit Satan to tempt us just as He allowed Eve to be tempted in the Garden of Eden and Jesus Christ to be tempted of Satan when He had fasted forty days and forty nights in preparation for his ministry, but He is always in control.
Our Mission Preparation Is Our Own
One of the hardest things not to do is to compare ourselves to others. Throughout this time I’ve learnt that it doesn’t matter that this person or that person has only been preparing for a short while and now they’ve got their mission call and they’re off and away. What does matter is that I share in the excitement of those who are leaving on their missions and support them. It doesn’t matter that people don’t really understand why I’m not on a mission yet. What does matter is that I trust in Heavenly Father and the plan that He has for my own mission preparation. It doesn’t matter that I’m not getting any younger and once I return my prospects of marriage will dwindle because of my age (or so they say). What does matter is that I have faith, that in His divine time I will be lead, guided and directed to who He has prepared for me to marry. It’s not about anyone else, it’s about me!
When we truly understand that our mission preparation is ours, not anyone else’s, we come to appreciate those experiences both good and bad. They become pearls of great worth to us. And perhaps when we reflect upon our lives in the eternities all of our experiences on earth will become pearls of great worth.
We Can’t Rely On Ourselves
There have been many times throughout my life that I’ve had only myself to rely on. So many, that I now find it difficult to rely on other people. I never really understood until now that I needed to rely on someone else and not just anyone else. I needed to rely on Heavenly Father.
I remember a close friend saying that Heavenly Father will always place us in situations where we need to rely on Him. Relying on Him builds trust in Him. Heavenly Father has placed me in multiple situations where I have had to rely on Him, slowly showing me that it should be a daily reliance. As C. S. Lewis says, “He himself is the fuel our spirits were designed to burn.”
Throughout the Book of Mormon the Lord had strengthened His people beyond their capacity. They knew in who they relied, who they trusted. And so, were able to petition God for strength beyond their possession. Heavenly Father wants us to do all that we can, it helps us reach our full potential, but sometimes all we can do is not enough and we need the touch of the Master’s hand to help us reach our goal.
Our Experiences Give Our Testimonies Authenticity
Upon realising this particular lesson it immediately became my favourite. My Mission Preparation facilitator always shares experiences from his mission where people from other faiths would try and dissuade or discredit our teachings. He would then ask them how they knew that their faith or what they were teaching was true. They never had an answer or if they did, it was, “I don’t.” They could not answer his question because they had no authenticity to their testimony.
Missionaries encourage those they teach to read the Book of Mormon and pray to know of its truth because once that person receives a witness that it is true, their testimony immediately gains authenticity. Likewise, I have found that my mission preparation experiences help to give my testimony the authenticity that is required.
How much more firm my testimony is that Heavenly Father keeps His promises when we keep His commandments because of the experience that I had in my car accident (my Patriarchal Blessing promises safety if I am righteous). How much more firmly I know that Heavenly Father loves His children and sends His angels because of the experience that I had with depression. How much more firmly I believe that Heavenly Father has a divine and perfect plan for all of His children because of the experience that I had with mum and her being taught by the missionaries. How much more firmly I believe that Heavenly Father gives us experiences, good and bad, to refine us and help to identify our blind spots because of the experience that I had on a date. How much more firmly I believe in the Plan of Salvation because of the experience that I had with my Nan passing.
Christ’s authenticity to succor His people comes because of His Atoning Sacrifice, when He took upon Himself, the infirmities and the sins of mankind (Alma 7:11-13). If He didn’t go through this experience how would He ever have known what we felt, feel or would feel? When we teach those who are learning about the Gospel of Jesus Christ, we can’t teach that which we don’t know nor can we testify of that which we haven’t experienced ourselves.