The Strength to Endure (A Quote)

“Our Heavenly Father, who gives us so much to delight in, also knows that we learn and grow and become stronger as we face and survive the trials through which we must pass. We know that there are times when we will experience heartbreaking sorrow, when we will grieve, and when we may be tested to our limits. However, such difficulties allow us to change for the better, to rebuild our lives in the way our Heavenly Father teaches us, and to become something different from what we were—better than we were, more understanding than we were, more empathetic than we were, with stronger testimonies than we had before.

This should be our purpose—to persevere and endure, yes, but also to become more spiritually refined as we make our way through sunshine and sorrow. Were it not for challenges to overcome and problems to solve, we would remain much as we are, with little or no progress toward our goal of eternal life. The poet expressed much the same thought in these words:

Good timber does not grow with ease,
The stronger wind, the stronger trees.
The further sky, the greater length.
The more the storm, the more the strength.
By sun and cold, by rain and snow,
In trees and men good timbers grow.”

“I Will Not Fail Thee, nor Forsake Thee,” October 2013 General Conference, President Thomas S. Monson

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Life is hard. And coming to terms with that…? Not always easy. Which is why I am so grateful for the gospel of Jesus Christ in my life and the blessings it offers. Those blessings, I have found, are what get me through the hardest nights.

Sometimes, in the midst of the hards times, I forget how blessed I am. I have so many lovely, loving friends. The opportunity to go to BYU – my dream school! I have been given the gift of a beautiful body from a God who cares (even if I forget it at times). I have a family that loves and supports me.

Most importantly, I have a loving Heavenly Father – one who understands and LOVES me, despite my setbacks and follies. I can’t even begin to to count how many times I have been delivered, or received a tender mercy from His hand.

So, what is life? It is a journey – a beautiful gift. We each get the opportunity to grow to be more like Christ. We get to be the blessing in someone else’s life – if we so choose. We get to wake up every morning with breath in our lungs, with beautiful, unique thoughts and ideas in our heads. We get to become whomever we want to be. We get to decide where this path will take us. We choose our actions. And we choose the people we get to know and love.

A lot of naysayers out there – at times, myself is included – do not see the beauty of life. “What’s the point?” they ask. “What is the point of this life we are living? It’s hard. Terribly hard. There are so many horrible things each of us go through in this life. Death. Sickness. Trials. If God loved us, why wouldn’t He make this life easy for us? I’m so TIRED of it all. So very tired.”

To those nay-saying thoughts, I first say, God does love you. We go through each of these things so we can enjoy the good times, and learn from the bad. The point of life is to feel – not go through it numbly, only knowing one emotion. It’s to learn and to grow. To enjoy and endure every second of it. It’s to touch a life and make an impact. To help the weary. To hold that precious, precious newborn child in your arms and know that life is precious, and that the opportunities we have here aren’t to be taken for granted. It’s to stand at the graveside of a loved one, knowing that you will see them again, that there is hope. It’s to achieve our goals, our dreams, our ambitions. It’s to better ourselves, and to allow others to help us along this journey.

There is so much point to this life, so much beauty, that it is almost impossible to describe. But I do know this. This life is a gift from God. No person – absolutely no one – is here by accident. We are here for a purpose. And you know what’s beautiful about that? You get to discover that purpose, and make it happen. You get to choose.

To each his own, but may we never forget the love that God has for each of His children. Because we are here to make the stand.

We are here to make the difference.

R. J. Carr

Are You My Soulmate?

When I started my first year of college, I will admit that I thought I understood what true love was. After all, it is just as simple as running into whomever the Lord wants you to marry right? Then it’s all uphill from there. No work. No messiness. Just honest to goodness true love.

I couldn’t have been more wrong.

The realization came in a steady flow of “oh!” moments after my most recent break-up. I realized that, in that particular relationship, one of the main reasons I had stayed was becuase I felt he was ‘the one.’ I felt that if I didn’t stay, and I didn’t marry him, that my one shot at happiness in this life would be thrown out the window. It was a very anxiety-producing thought process. I mean, at the time, it seemed that this relationship was my ONE shot of a happy marriage. So you can imagine how hard I fought to keep the relationship alive, regardless of my true feelings.

It was a few weeks after the break-up, though, that I came to a realization. The Lord (nor the universe) does not tell you whom to marry. There is no, “You HAVE to marry this one…or else,” concept going on here. It is a, “Here, let me give you several opportunities, and I will let you decide who you want to marry.” A scary thought, right?

Well, maybe at first it is. Having that much responsibility is scary. But, honestly? As soon as I grasped the concept, I felt such freedom and utter happiness. I have the right to CHOOSE who I want to marry. To CHOOSE who I want to spend the rest of my life with. There is no, “Well, if I hadn’t been here at this certain time, then I wouldn’t have met this guy, and if I hadn’t met this guy, then we wouldn’t have started dating, which MUST mean that we are just MEANT to be together.” There is only, “Oh. I met this really nice guy here. And I really like him. If things work out, I could totally be with him.” See the difference? One is a “you must” while the other is an “opportune moment.”

But I digress.

What shocks me the most is how many people in our day and age are caught-up in this soul mate trap, or the “this is the only person the Lord wants me to marry” trap. What ever happened to finding the right kind of person and choosing to love them? I mean, has society gotten so lazy that we now leave our love up to fate? “Oh I fell in love with this guy! We are totally getting married!” and “Man, I fell out of love with this guy, we have to get a divorce.” No. NO. NO. Let me make something very clear. Love is a choice, not something that happens to you. Again. Love is a choice, not just something that happens to you.

Now, I will back up a moment and say that, yes, emotions are a very important part of relationships. You should, by all means, have an initial interest in said person, a desire to love said person, and a ‘falling in love’ feeling for said person. BUT, you should also realize that this is not all there is to love. Because not only is there the emotional aspect to love, but there is the cognitive (attitude – choosing to love) and the behavioral (actions – serving) parts to love.

And, let’s be honest, attitude and behavior is much more stable than emotions. Because, whether or not you want to admit it, the emotion of love is not always going to be there for your significant other. It is times such as these that your attitude and behavior are the most important. In a way, recognizing the importance of these two aspects of love, is what creates a mature love.

Honestly, I feel that the biggest mistake that people in our society make today is thinking: “Oh. I don’t feel that love for them anymore.” *Panic* “Let me pull back and try to figure out why that is.” Really, what it should be is, “Oh. I’m not feeling love for this person right now. What more can I do to re-kindle that love?” Unless, of course, that relationship is abusive, then you should leave that relationship.

I think the coolest thing to note out of all of this is that we have a choice. We get to choose who our soulmate will be. Because, if you think about it, before marriage, the opportunities of finding the right type of person for you is endless. But, once you are married and have grown together, there is no better person out there for you. No person that will fit you as well as the person you are married to. So, by all means, it is a process of becoming someone’s soulmate. You get to chose. And you still get a soulmate — though the better term at this point would be a ‘one and only.’

A favorite quote of mine, goes as follows

“There are those who do not marry because they feel a lack of “magic” in the relationship. By “magic” I assume they mean sparks of attraction. Falling in love is a wonderful feeling, and I would never counsel you to marry someone you do not love. Nevertheless — and here is another thing that is sometimes hard to accept — that magic sparkle needs continuous polishing. When the magic endures in a relationship, it’s because the couple made it happen, not because it mystically appeared due to some cosmic force.

Frankly, it takes work. For any relationship to survive, both parties bring their own magic with them and use that to sustain their love. Although I have said that I do not believe in a one-and-only soul mate for anyone, I do know this: once you commit to being married, your spouse becomes your soul mate, and it is your duty and responsibility to work every day to keep it that way. Once you have committed, the search for a soul mate is over. Our thoughts and actions turn from looking to creating” (President Dieter F. Uchtdorf: The Reflection in the Water)

Anyway, I hope this blog gave you something to stop and think about. This topic certainly has gotten me to thinking, and the realizations I have come to have certainly brought me a great deal of happiness.

Love is choice. May we never forget it.

R. J. Carr

*A Special Thanks to Dr. Jason Carroll, who’s lecture helped to refine my realizations and conclusions discussed in this blog.*