7.16.2017

The Joy That Is Set Before Us

I did bear my testimony last fast Sunday, but I was in a different ward... and it was really short... and I don't really remember it (other than being about the restoration of the priesthood and authority of Jesus Christ).

So, here is my talk from last month. Read or don't read to your own peril.

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One of my most favorite quotes is from President Ezra Taft Benson which says:
"Nothing is going to startle us more when we pass through the veil to the other side than to realize how well we know our Father and how familiar His face is to us."
I love this quote because the first time I heard it, it almost took my breath away. The Holy Ghost witnessed to me it was true and also my mind opened a little bit to the realization that I really did live before this life. I really did live with God, my Father; I am His child. And someday, when I see Him again, I will recognize how well I know Him and how well He knows and loves me.

Romans 8:16-17 says:
The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.
Everything in those verses is beautiful and comforting, except that one word "suffer." That one isn't very pleasant...

I remember one time I had a frustrating problem. I don't remember exactly, but I think it was one of those incredibly annoying times when we'd turned in our library book, but the library said they didn't have it. I opened my scriptures, hoping for something comforting along the lines of, "It will be okay. It will all work out. They'll find the book on their return shelf just like they always do."

But instead I read this, in Doctrine and Covenants 24:8
Be patient in afflictions, for thou shalt have many.
At first it was like a blow. Suddenly, all my burdens seemed very, very heavy and the life ahead of me seemed very, very long and I wasn't sure I could handle it. But then it actually became kind of freeing, like the scripture was saying to me: Chelsey, expect this stuff... something like this is going to happen every day. There's no need to be shocked and surprised every time. Just roll with it; be patient with it.

Along those lines, here's another scripture I sometimes come across when I'm wondering why things aren't going the way I want them to. It's both a loving rebuke and a promise of good things to come.
1 Peter 4:12 Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ's sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy.
As most of you know I bear my testimony every month. I started this because of an answer I received to my question and prayer: how can I strengthen my family? At first I was thinking, "Oh, this is for my children." But now I know: this is for me.

Almost every month, something happens to test my testimony and then my own words come back to me, comforting me.

Within a week of sharing how the words of "Come, come ye saints" had strengthened me, I learned that in a space of three weeks we would be backpacking with all the kids for a few nights into the uintahs, driving somewhere else to stay a couple nights and some other large thing I can't remember.

I remember sitting in the shower wondering how I was going to do it, when my testimony and the first line of the song came into my head.
"Come, come ye saints. No toil nor labor fear, but with joy wend your way. Though hard to you, this journey may appear, grace shall be as your day." 
I'm not sure I really understood before then what "Grace shall be as your day" meant. It means that God will lift me and give me the exact amount of strength I need in the very hour I need it.

And for the backpacking trip that happened in an interesting way. The words of my young women's lesson came into my mind a week early and they came back to my mind during long hikes in and out with rain and hail and small, tired children, during uncomfortable nights, and pretty much every other situation that could be considered stressful and I was lifted and rejuvenated by the Holy Ghost through the words of that lesson every single time.

And ever since then, whenever I feel I have a long, hard task ahead of me, the words "Grace shall be as your day" float through my mind and I know that God will give me the strength I need, when I need it, and together we'll make it through.

Something that struck me fairly recently was reading President Nelson's talk on joy from two conferences ago. I'd read this talk several times, but I don't think I really got this part until the last time I read it.

He says:
"Joy is powerful, and focusing on joy brings God’s power into our lives. As in all things, Jesus Christ is our ultimate exemplar, “who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross.” Think of that! In order for Him to endure the most excruciating experience ever endured on earth, our Savior focused on joy!"
I don't know why I didn't really get it before, but I love this thought that to get through the hardest event and experience the earth has ever known the Savior focused on the joy that was set before him. 

He knew, better than anyone, I'm sure, that "after much tribulation come the blessings" and he did not focus on the tribulation, but he focused on the blessings that would come afterwards.

And at the same time I realized this, I thought, "I can do this! I've done it before--most often when I was a kid, but I can do it again!"

Preparing a family to move to a foreign country is not easy, and there are hard times ahead, but I've tried to always be thinking and to not forget: Hey, we're moving to Portugal!! Because it really is something I've always wanted to do; it's a dream come true for me. (And I am excited, even though with my personality, I don't really look excited.)

Romans 8:18 reads
For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.
When I read this scripture, I don't think that Paul wants us to focus on the sufferings of this life, but he's trying to get us to focus on the glory that will come after--the joy that is set before us!

God is literally our Father; He knows us perfectly and He loves us. He is not torturing us here on earth; He is blessing us. He has told us many times that the things that await us are incredible and amazing, wishes come true, for everyone, really, but especially for those who love and serve Him.

I'd just like to end with a few descriptions of what comes after this life.

Paul continues in Romans 8 with:
For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, 39 Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. 
1 Corinthians 2:9
But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. 
We are told in Doctrine and Covenants 76 that the glory of the telestial, the lowest heaven---the place reserved for those who are liars, and sorcerers, and adulterers, and whoremongers, and whosoever loves and makes a lie. These are the guys who will suffer the wrath of God on earth--even their kingdom surpasses all understanding. And the glory of their kingdom differs from the celestial kingdom as a star differs from the sun. The celestial kingdom is reserved for those who have been valiant in the testimony of Jesus.

But section 76 goes on to say:
114 But great and marvelous are the works of the Lord, and the mysteries of his kingdom which he showed unto us, which surpass all understanding in glory, and in might, and in dominion;
115 Which he commanded us we should not write while we were yet in the Spirit, and are not lawful for man to utter;
116 Neither is man capable to make them known, for they are only to be seen and understood by the power of the Holy Spirit, which God bestows on those who love him, and purify themselves before him;
117 To whom he grants this privilege of seeing and knowing for themselves;
118 That through the power and manifestation of the Spirit, while in the flesh, they may be able to bear his presence in the world of glory. 
I know that God the Father is my Heavenly Father. I love Him and I know He loves me. I know that someday I will return to Him and I will know Him. I know that His Son Jesus Christ lives.

I know that Jesus Christ and God the Father appeared to the boy Joseph Smith to restore the gospel of Jesus Christ and His authority to the world to prepare the world for His second coming.

In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.