This blog is based on a question. It’s probably something I shouldn’t ask, but asking led to a meaningful answer – which has given me important insight. I’ll share the question and the answer a little farther down in this message.
Speaking of questions we shouldn’t ask…there really are some we should avoid.
- How much do you weigh? Unless you are a wrestling coach, I’d avoid that question. Also, if you are associated with Sumo wrestling – it’s probably okay. I think they are quite happy when the scale is higher than the day before. That’s a good thing for them.
- Unless you are a loan officer I probably wouldn’t ask the question…How much money do you make?
- This one might be a little touchier for women – How old are you? I think there is an exception. Once people reach the age of 90, perhaps it’s okay to ask because at that point it is a badge of honor. Whoa! You’re 97!! That’s amazing! But any time before 90 years old, just maybe shelve that question.
- And have you ever asked the question “When is your baby due?” and received the dreaded response – “Oh. I’m not pregnant.” No matter how pregnant a person looks, never ask that question. You are setting yourself up for disaster – it’s too risky. I suggest avoiding it.
Some questions are really good though. Sincerely asking someone “How are you doing?” can help them feel loved and supported. It can open the door to a meaningful and helpful conversation. Asking Heavenly Father the question “What is your will for me right now?” keeps us on the covenant path and brings happiness.
Some questions we avoid, but some questions we ask!
The gospel of Jesus Christ was restored, because Joseph Smith had the courage to ask his question.
Sheri Dew said, “The Lord loves inspired questions asked in humility and faith because asking inspired questions leads to knowledge. It leads to revelation. It leads to greater faith. And it leads to peace. Not asking questions, on the other hand, closes off revelation, growth, learning, progression, and the ministering of the Holy Ghost.”
So…what was my question?
It was just one word.
I know we are often told, don’t ask “Why.” Don’t ask “Why me.” Don’t ask “Why is this happening?”
We are supposed to ask “What can I learn from this?”
But I asked why recently – in humility and faith – and I like where the learning took me.
Let me share a couple examples of situations that made me ask “Why?” I was listening to the book “Saints.” You might have seen it in the Gospel Library app. Or maybe you bought a copy from Deseret Book. It is the history of the restoration of the gospel. It is a fabulous account of the early saints and what they endured.
You know as well as I do, the saints went through unbelievably hard trials. They were bullied and abused by people who had once been their friends, they were chased from their homes and communities, they built temples that were burned down, they went hungry and cold, were abandoned by family members, they lost loved ones, they pulled handcarts during blizzards.
God could have prevented the cruel treatment. He could have provided means for food, clothing and shelter. He could have stopped the storms of every kind. This is God’s church they were working so hard for. They were helping build The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The saints were standing up for the truth – they crossed oceans because they believed. They walked across a country on foot because of faith. They were doing it all because God asked them too. So, why was it so hard? This was the restored gospel of Jesus Christ – this is the good news. God can do anything – He is all powerful and all knowing. They were trying to do HIS work! Why didn’t God make the path a little easier for them?
Another example. There was a time in my life when I had been pursuing a goal I felt inspired to pursue. I know Heavenly Father spoke to me through the spirit and wanted me to use my time and energy for this goal. There were blessings along the road for sure, but it was not an easy journey. I had to struggle and fight. It was discouraging at times. I wondered, “Why?” If God lead me here and wanted me to accomplish this, why isn’t it easier? Let me share a couple of things I wrote in my journal during this time.
· I’m not sure why it has been so hard.
· Usually I’m able to keep being faithful and trusting even when it’s bumpy, but this time is a complete battle.
· This is exhausting me.
Have you ever felt that way? When we are doing what God has asked us to do – when we have prayerfully received an answer and are moving forward with it – why is it so hard? Why don’t things fall into place easier? Why is it such a struggle?
One last example. I have a friend who battled breast cancer a while ago. One Friday afternoon, I texted to check in and see how things were going. She texted back and things were going pretty good – she had 5 more chemo treatments left. It was a struggle, but she was getting through it. Then the next day at 2:02 pm I got this text from her. “Apparently I didn’t have enough on my plate. My husband passed away this morning.”
I was in shock. Tim and I both were. How could this be? That doesn’t make any sense? Why would Heavenly Father take her husband – her greatest source of strength while she is going through cancer?
Have you ever had similar thoughts? Have you ever set out on a course that you knew Heavenly Father wanted you to travel only to have roadblock after roadblock and detour after detour get in your way? Have you received answers and then questioned them when the going got tough?
Elder Holland says it this way. “Every one of us runs the risk of fear. You do, and I do. That is exactly the problem that beset the children of Israel at the edge of the Red Sea. The record says, “And when Pharaoh drew nigh, the children of Israel lifted up their eyes, and, behold the Egyptians marched after them; and they were sore afraid.” Some said, “Let’s go back. This isn’t worth it. We must have been wrong. That probably wasn’t the right spirit telling us to leave Egypt. It would have been better for us serve the Egyptians than die in the wilderness.”
I have to believe we have all had moments of doubt and fear when we were just simply trying to do what God wanted us to do.
“Be as candid about your questions as you need to be; life is full of them on one subject or another. But don’t let those questions stand in the way of faith working its miracle. Honestly acknowledge your questions and your concerns, but first and forever fan the flame of your faith, because all things are possible to them that believe.” Elder Holland (“Lord, I Believe,” April 2013)
As I’ve prayed about the question why, I’ve felt answers come. I am beginning to understand a little bit more about the why. I was lead to study the doctrine of sacrifice.
Sacrifice: an act of offering something precious to deity, surrender of something for the sake of something else, to give up for an ideal, belief or end.
You’ve heard of a sacrifice hit – in baseball when a batter successfully advances one or more runners by bunting the ball for an out. The batter gives up the chance to hit a double or triple or even a homerun so that someone else who is already on base can get closer to scoring.
The hymn Praise to the Man declares, “Sacrifice brings forth the blessings of Heaven.”
Joseph Smith taught this about sacrifice, “For a man to lay down his all, his character and reputation, his honor, and applause, his good name among men, his houses, his lands, his brothers and sisters, his wife and children, and even his own life also – counting all things but filth and dross for the excellency of the knowledge of Jesus Christ – requires more than mere belief or supposition that he is doing the will of God; but actual knowledge, realizing that, when these sufferings are ended, he will enter into eternal rest, and be a partaker of the glory of God. “
“A religion that does not require the sacrifice of all things never has power sufficient to produce the faith necessary [to lead] unto life and salvation; for, from the first existence of man, the faith necessary unto the enjoyment of life and salvation never could be obtained without the sacrifice of all earthly things. It was through this sacrifice, and this only, that God has ordained that men should enjoy eternal life; and it is through the medium of the sacrifice of all earthly things that men do actually know that they are doing the things that are well pleasing in the sight of God.”
“It is vain for persons to fancy to themselves that they are heirs with them, who have offered their all in sacrifice, and by this means obtain faith in God and favor with him so as to obtain eternal life, unless they, in like manner, offer unto him the same sacrifice, and through that offering obtain the knowledge that they are accepted of him.” (Lectures on Faith.)
Learning that sacrifice prepares and readies us for eternal life puts a whole new perspective on it. It gives heartache and hardship meaning and purpose. We will each be asked to sacrifice in different ways, but the results are leading us to the same place – Home.
I recently reflected on my journey of sacrifice and wrote in my journal about what I had learned from it. Recording those thoughts was an insightful exercise. It helped to recognized what I’ve gained and how it has brought me closer to Heavenly Father. I’m not claiming that “why” is always the right question to ask. But in this case, asking “why” helped me understand with deeper insight and see with clearer vision.
I couldn’t help but think of the greatest sacrifice ever made.
I’m grateful for a kind Father in heaven who allows us to ask questions and who lovingly sends answers. I’m grateful that our sacrifices matter and aren’t in vain. I’m grateful that God loves us and works side-by-side with us for our happiness.