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Facing Challenges with Courage

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Kyle Gill, Full Stack Engineer, Q&A

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Doing hard things

I was blessed with a mother who always told me I could do hard things, whether it was

  • sports (I played on several competitive teams)
  • Piano (I took lessons for many years)
  • even cooking with her and making things from scratch

My Mom believed in me.

Even still, at 12 years old my boy scout troop had a pretty grueling backpacking trip planned and I didn’t care what my mom thought, I was not excited about doing hard things.

Like Calvin’s dad would say in Calvin & Hobbes, I was told I would “build character”, not exactly motivating to a 12 year old.

I was worried about:

  • a heavy pack
  • friends that would make it when I wouldn’t

My mom helped load my pack with beef jerky and water and sent me off. Turns out, I was just fine—it was hard—but, coming down I felt a little stronger, and I confirmed a lesson my mom had been trying to teach me.

I could do hard things.

Elder Nielsen of the 70 said:

Maybe we don’t always feel up to the challenge. But our Heavenly Father sees us as fearless builders of His kingdom. That is why He sent us here during this most decisive time in the world’s history. This is our time!

We can face challenges of the world with courage.

(If you’re curious, I found the same hike online on All Trails just to see years later what it’s actually like, and this is what the description says:

The Lake Mary Trail is relatively short and easy, that features beautiful wild flowers.

It is a whopping 1.3 miles.)

Reflecting on that experience years later, I feel like a learned a lot from something so little and insignificant. It paints more context around the insignificance of my challenges when I consider how the Savior bore a cross on his walk through Jerusalem to Golgotha, a path referred to as the “Via Dolorosa” or “Sorrowful way”, He must have had a much heavier pack.

Hard things throughout history

Continuing on, throughout history, God’s children have been faced with seemingly insurmountable obstacles and tasks.

  • Noah and the ark
  • Nephi building a boat
  • The pioneers in the winter, crossing the Sweetwater river
  • Me trying to earn the swimming merit badge in ice cold Bear Lake

(a lot of these have to do with water)

(and it seems all my anecdotes have to do with boy scouts)

The point being: trials and challenges don’t go away with advances in technology, or comforts of a 1st world nation, challenges are constant. They’ve always been, and they always will be. Some, like unforgiveness, don’t go away with time or money, some, like chronic illness, don’t go away at all.

Daniel prophesied (Daniel 2:44) of God setting up a kingdom in the last days that shall “stand forever”.

If challenges are constant, will we be constant? Will you and I stand forever?

In the Old Testament, Sarah was almost a hundred years old when the Lord told her she’d have a son. Her response: she laughed. Can you imagine how embarrased you might be if God came to you telling you something, and you laughed? Oof. It seemed almost silly and felt incomprehensible.

Recall how God responded to Sarah and Abraham.

The Lord spoke in a brief but powerful way in Genesis 18, He said:

Is any thing too hard for the Lord?

Shortly after, Sarah had a son: Isaac.

God helps us through our own challenges to teach us

If in so many cases throughout history God helped another one of His children that he loved, wouldn’t he help us? In addition, if there is really nothing that is too hard for the Lord, I believe, he can help us. More specifically, the Atonement of Jesus Christ can help us.

If it is brain cancer, death, addiction, betrayal, heartache, sacrifice, loneliness (which are all things I’ve seen friends of mine face in faith), God can help us, and he is often preparing us for something more.

Elder Nielsen also said speaking of his own challenges:

I didn’t realize at the time how this experience would prepare me for future opportunities. I needed to learn that I could be strong and courageous in the face of difficult situations.

Of the examples I referred to before (Noah, Nephi, the sweetwater pioneers), it’s important to look at what they did later that God prepared them for.

  • Noah lived a few hundred more years and was compared to Job and Daniel for how righteous he was
  • Nephi later built the first temple in the Americas as a prophet
  • Brigham Young said of the sweetwater pioneers “that this act alone would immortalize them”
  • (stay tuned for what earning my swimming merit badge prepared me for, maybe this, thought that’s a little underwhelming)

Prophets and faithful people before us were people just like us. Challenges were constant for them too. What sets these examples apart is that they were righteous and followed the Savior.

Elder Bennett said:

whenever we willingly act with faith in Jesus Christ and take another step, especially an uncomfortable step requiring change or repentance, we are blessed with strength.

I know that God helps us in our challenges.

Ponder anew

The words in the 3rd verse of the hymn Praise to the Lord, the Almighty hit me with a litte extra “umph” one General Conference.

Ponder anew, what the almighty can do

I’d invite everyone to ponder anew, what God can do in their life. Regardless of the challenge, there is something God can do if we involve Him. Pray, read scriptures, partake of the sacrament, repent, live worthy of the Spirit, invite God into your life. I’ve found that when I ponder ways God can work in my life, the Spirit will guide me to something that helps. Recently it was recording my promptings as to-dos, and then acting on them. My life has been richly blessed as a result, and I’ve handled challenges I didn’t think I was capable of handling.

To summarize my thoughts:

  1. We can do hard things
  2. Challenges are constant
  3. God will help us
  4. God is preparing us

Past challenges have helped teach me how I can face future ones with courage. I know God is aware of me. I know he can do miraculous things in my life.