Monday, March 9, 2009

Choosing Bitterness

I would like to briefly share a few things I have learned over the last few years, and particularly the last few months of my life. Everyone in this life is presented with choices to make. Perhaps one of the most difficult is to choose joy in the midst of affliction over bitterness.

The scriptures are rich with examples of the difference in reactions between people presented with much the same choice. The most obvious one is between Nephi, Sam, Laman and Lemuel. They were all given the choice to follow their father into the wilderness. Although all followed, they did not all follow the same way. Laman and Lemuel chose to complain, eventually succumbing to bitterness that shaped a nation's wars for the next six hundred years. Nephi and Sam chose to obey willingly.

Interestingly, Nephi, Sam and their descendants suffered equal sorrow from the choices made by Laman and Lemuel as their cousins.

This tells me that we cannot choose whether or not we will suffer sorrow in this life, but we can choose whether or not to turn to the Savior for healing. He has not been spared bitterness Himself, but He has promised that through repentance we need not suffer. For those sufferings we endure which are not the cause of our own sin, God has promised "beauty for ashes" and "joy for mourning".

We cannot enjoy the fruits of the Atonement without understanding it. It is Christ who has given us the chance to learn to distinguish between good and evil, bitter and sweet. Nor can we always make restitution for the things we do wrong. There is a point where we must humble ourselves, realize that we cannot do it, and turn it over to God. This can be even more painful when others in our lives continue to expect us to make things better which are out of our power. But Christ is the only one who can truly heal, and we must trust Him.

We must trust Him.

Beauty for Ashes, by Elder Bruce C. Hafen


  1. As one that very often chooses (not consciously, of course, because I think we often don't consider that there is a better alternative) to feel bitterness for what is lacking in my life rather than gratitude for what is so abundant, I appreciate this reminder. I definitely need to cultivate an ability to focus on the good.

  2. "This can be even more painful when others in our lives continue to expect us to make things better which are out of our power." Another humbling part of repentance, to receive the railing of others for the things that are now beyond our power. While the deeds done may well have been our acts, we cannot go back in time and change them. Only Christ can heal those wounds, in the here-and-now.

    Wonderful insights. I'm sorry that you've come to know this so personally and deeply.

  3. SR, you might be interested in something I wrote way back in October '07 - "Journeying in Joy".

  4. SilverRain,

    I am 100% confidant that the trials you have been experiencing are helping you in your effort to be more like Christ.

    I've had a year myself. I could not have imagined how well my deep trials have been suited to help me overcome things.

    In a TR interview Sunday I was able to tell the Bishop not only that I live the Law of Chastity, but that "I am fundamentally a chaste person." I'm free, and it is the Lord that has done it in ways I could never have foreseen.

    I'm so utterly positive that you will look back on this year as profoundly meaningful in your development.

    Lots of people are looking on and rooting for you. Keep it up. :)

    T ~

  5. SilverRain,

    Once again, my heart reaches out to you. I am amazed at your strength and dedication not only to persevere through what, no doubt, sounds to me to be one of the most difficult times in your life, but also your continued ability to return to the scriptures as your source of inspiration. When times have been especially challenging for me, I remember a phrase (simple as it may be) a friend and mentor once told me: “Let go, and let God.” These few words always seem to help me through my darkest hours knowing that everything we experience falls into the Lord’s master plan. I try to see many of the struggles I personally endure as blessings sent to me from the Lord that not only help me find my own inner strength, but also help bring me closer to our Savior. Your words and thoughts convey to me that, whether you realize it or not, you have already achieved both.

    You make an interesting comment: “This can be even more painful when others in our lives continue to expect us to make things better which are out of our power.” Not really knowing you or your situation, it sounds as though you have some people in your life who are truly unsympathetic towards you and do not fully understand what you are experiencing. Negative insensitivity at a time like this only adds unwanted pressure and does not bring any benefits. For whatever it’s worth coming from an anonymous face in the crowd, you have my support and eternal best wishes.

  6. There is no growth in the comfort zone, and no comfort in the growth zone.

    We send you our love...and wish we could send more...

  7. Thank you. There are no words to describe how much your posts help me. Our struggles are different but your courage, faith, ability to turn to the scriptures, and choice to find positive growth in your trials all help me face my own battles. Thank you for sharing your insights.

  8. Such an important topic.

    There is power in agency, in choosing to find purpose in our suffering, regardless of its cause.

    But that is hard, hard work.

    Don't you love it, though, when you can feel the light and power that comes when you do make little choices to not be overcome, to keep moving forward, to not give up for another day, or even sometimes, another hour?


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