The topic I was asked to speak on today is hope. At first I was relieved because I thought it’d be an easy topic. But then as I started thinking about what I’d say, I realized I was not even sure exactly what hope is. At first I assumed hope was just the same as a wishful thought, like the equivalent of keeping my fingers crossed. But it is more than a wish. Larry Hiller says the hope we are commanded to have is expectation based on experience.
Romans 5: 3-5 says
“We glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience;
“And patience, experience; and experience, hope:
“And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.”
In my own life, I have had many trials and I am sure you all have as well. Sometimes these trials give us no option but to try and endure them patiently. The more trials like this that we have, the more times we are forced to endure and rely on God. Once we are able to overcome our trials, we know we have experienced the saviors awareness and love for us. This gives us more experience and knowledge so that as we endure future trials, our wishing that we are able to make it through the trials turns into hope. Because we have more knowledge to base our expectation that we will make it through .
I am a classic example of someone who ran into a tribulation in life and from it have gained more hope. I have always struggled with anxiety and sometimes the depression that accompanies it. But more recently, it plagued me much more than I ever imagined it could. It started in around December around when I was taking my finals after fall semester with an uncomfortable feeling in my stomach for no reason I could think of. Every day it grew worse as Winter semester started, and I would be scared of everything. I eventually stopped going to my classes, refused to wake up to go to Air Force, and wanted to do nothing but run away from everyone and everything. I forced myself sometimes to go to class where I would randomly have panic attacks for no apparent reason. I would close my eyes and try and focus on anything I could to get my mind off of the anxiety. It was so bad that I would cry in random places because I couldn't control my brain, and that scared me. I thought that there was no way even Hell was this bad. The worst part was I could not tell anybody about it because nobody could possibly understand. "It's all in your head and you just need to get over it" was something I heard a lot. My mind would not stop fueling my anxiety. I woke up multiple times with my heart and arm hurting or numb. The first time I thought I was having a heart attack. My heart would palpitate and skip beats all day long, and I never felt comfortable. I envisioned what would happen if I lost my scholarship because of this. Then as it got worse I realized there was no point in having a scholarship because I could not even function enough to walk five minutes to my class. I could not possibly function in society at all. The only places I could go were work and home because for whatever reason they made me feel safe. I felt lonely. Not because I had nobody to talk to or hang out with, but because my mind was doing things that nobody could understand. I thought differently from other people. I realized that it was getting to the point where I couldn't make friends ever or meet new people, and I could not talk to my old friends because all I wanted to do was get away from life, and nobody understood me. I thought I would probably end up on the streets as a hobo because I could not do anything. Thinking about everyone I knew moving on and me only being a memory of the kid who went crazy to them scared me.Needless to say, at the time, ii felt completely hopeLESS. Then a miracle happened, and after talking to and receiving blessings from bishop miller and president butler, I was able to overcome my problem without the use of medicine, counseling, or anything else contrary to what the psychologist had told me. I was made aware that my anxiety would not permanently go away, but that I would have to work at suppressing it whenever it manifested. One of the happiest moments of my life was when I realized that my biggest roadblock to achieving my dreams had been conquered. Although it was only temporary and I knew that, it gave me hope which, based on my experience, allowed me to have the expectation that when it comes again, I would be able to overcome it just like I did the first time. And this gave me the ability to pull things back together and get back to my classes and all of my other responsibilities.
I have never understood why people are sometimes grateful for their trials, but after I went through that, which was the biggest trial in my life, I recognized the good it did for me and I can say that I am grateful for it. Your tribulations may be associated with depression, anxiety, a disposition to make mistakes often, or just a single sin weighing over your shoulders, but I have learned that if you can focus on the savior and his love for you, you can overcome any trial and have hope for the future.
In an email while my dad was in Afghanistan and aware of my anxiety, he said this:
I want to share this message with you. It is not a message of things you should be doing. It is more a message that may help to strengthen you and provide some insight into what you are going through. I have thought and prayed a lot for and about you. I am convinced that much of what I feel to say to you is from a loving Heavenly Father, who is allowing me, as your loving father, to pass along some information. So, with that, here it goes...
I firmly believe that you are in the middle of a defining moment in your life. I have been pondering on this fact somewhat and realized that most of us have defining moments that we all must pass through. The ultimate example, as in most things, is our Savior. His defining moment, above all others, certainly came in the Garden of Gethsemane. By enduring what he did there, he became the Savior of the world.
You are definitely in the middle of a big one in your life.
There is no doubt that where you are at this moment in your life is a result of two things: 1) Effort and achievement on your part, and 2)Indisputable divine intervention from your Heavenly Father. You know of much of what occurred to allow you to get to the point where you are today. Just pondering on the direct, miraculous blessings which allowed your AFROTC scholarship and your job could fill pages of a book. When you imagine all the events that went into all of those around you who were placed in the positions they were in to make decisions or affect in some way those events, it is mind-blowing (e.g. school teachers and administrators, doctors, Air Force Board people, Dennis, etc.). What I am getting at is that it is not a mistake or simple happenstance that you are where you are. Heavenly Father wanted you to be where you are.
Here's the important part about that--He did not intervene on your behalf to set you up for catastrophy or failure. Now, did he know that you might face some challenges? I am sure of it! I have taken solace many times in my own life in this simple scripture: 1 Corinthians 10:13 "...God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it." I imagine you don't view this as a temptation. I would counter that and say that it definitely is because Satan is rooting for your misery and wants you to make choices to make you ever more miserable! Thus, any time we are up against him, we are being tempted to go against the light of the Savior.
So, what can you do about it?
I remember a story in one of President Hinkley's conference talk some years ago about when he worked for the railroad. He rode with an engine one night and was a little troubled that the light on the front of the train didn't shine farther along the track. As I remember, he asked the conductor, "How do you know what's ahead on the track?" The conductor replied to him that the light shines just enough to show him only as far as he needs to see at any point along the way.
I am thinking of you snowboarding. When you get off the lift, you never let what you can't see at the bottom of the hill ruin the ride at the top. I know it's a simple, silly example, but I think it's true.
I don't know if you've heard me talk about this before or not. Bear with me if you have. It is very applicable. When Jesus went into the garden to atone for us, he took Peter James and John--probably his 3 best friends at the time, at least his three closest and most trusted Apostles. Do you remember what he said when he left them at the gate? He said, "My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death."
The soul is the combination of spirit and body--so I imagine Jesus standing and looking at his most trusted friends and clutching his hands to his chest when he said that. If it were in today's language, he would say something like, "This hurts right here. It hurts so bad I feel like I'm going to die from it!"
Jordan, it sounds to me like a college kid who starts feeling like his heart is stopping and has pain in his chest, and is worried if he can make it through.
So, then Jesus left and went into the garden. He first said, in so many words, "Do I really have to do this to be who I'm supposed to be?" Knowing that it was going to be very hard, I don't know that I could go so far as to say "afraid" of how hard it was going to be, nonetheless, he headed back out to see his friends. Lame friends, they were asleep. He left, asked the same question in prayer again, and then headed out a second time to gather a little support from his friends.
I believe if anyone had ever felt anxiety, he HAD to be feeling it when he turned and walked into the garden again that third time. And, thanks be to God forever, he did it! Because, in that garden on that third trip in, he faced and conquered not only every sin we would all commit, but rose above every pain that we would ever feel. What makes it so remarkable, and such a singular event, is that he did it completely alone. The beauty is that we will never, ever have to endure anything painful alone if we choose to seek him out. That is all part of the weekly sacrament prayer promise--"that they may always have his spirit to be with them." They and them are us.
A very short word on your mission call, and your mission. DON'T WORRY ABOUT THEM! You've done what you need to do to be worthy and willing. Get in to your Stk President to finish the process, then let Heavenly Father tell you where he wants you to go, and have faith that you will have a wonderful mission--one day at a time!
And finally, one more favorite scripture. You can write it on your forearm like a tattoo... 1 Peter 1:7 "For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind."
This has not been easy, and it will require more work than you have probably ever put into anything in your life. That's OK. It's a defining moment. It's all part of learning who you really are and just how great you really are.
I love you and can't wait to keep watching you become you. Dad”
This message from my dad went hand in hand with a scripture that President Butler helped me to find. Moroni 9:22
My son, be faithful in Christ; and may not the things which I have written grieve thee, to weigh thee down unto death; but may Christ lift thee up, and may his sufferings and death, and the showing his body unto our fathers, and his mercy and long suffering and the hope of his glory and of eternal life, rest in your mind forever.
Looking back on what happened, I was able to learn that the savior really loves me and that it is through enduring my trials in life that I acquire and recognize my strength.
Before I end, I’d like to read a poem about hope by Larry Hiller:
Faith walks before me,
Holding up her lamp
As I try not to stumble in the ink-dark hours before the dawn.
Her light illuminates
One step and then another.
Beside me, Hope, arm linked with mine, encourages and steadies.
Sometimes in the tedium,
Distracted by the pain,
My mind begins to wander, then my feet. I hesitate.
Unsure, I look to Hope.
Her hand takes mine.
The touch reminds me of another hand held out to me,
One pierced and scarred
Yet oh so tender
Lifting me and blessing me when I had fallen and despaired.
I move ahead
Buoyed up by Hope, who sees the end with perfect clarity.
You will all go through trials in your lives, and it is by using the hope you have gained from your previous trials and looking to the savior that you will be able to make it, once again increasing your knowledge and hope for the next trial. Because that is what life is really about.
الأَمَلُ فُسـحةُ لَولا العَيشَ أَضيَقَ ما
“How tightly constricting life would be, if it were not for the broad horizons of hope!”
منه انحس يجيك تسيبه لانحس معك كان اذا
if the moon is with thee, you don’t need to worry about the stars.