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When Our Trials Don’t End

If it’s true we have an all- knowing, all-powerful God on our side, why does He feel distant from us sometimes? Why do we feel as though we sometimes cannot feel or see? Why does it seem sometimes that our time at the well, alone—has been too long and maybe He’s not coming?

For one of my Sunday school lessons I did in the past, I had my husband sneak out during sacrament meeting and tape a gold star to the wall of our classroom because he is taller and can get it higher up than I could. The star was the size of my hand. I began teaching a Christmas lesson, and near the end of the hour I asked if anyone had noticed the star in the room. And in the two times of doing this in 2 different wards, no one ever had. 

It wasn’t hidden. It was just to the left of them, by itself. But just because they didn’t see it doesn’t change the fact that it was there. And similarly, even though many did not notice the star in the sky when Christ was born, that doesn’t change the fact that it was there and He was born.

But sometimes we get it a little skewed, huh? It’s easy to feel disconnected when we forget all the different ways God comes to us. And surely, when it’s not in our expected way, how easy it is to say He is not there at all. We hear testimonies in sacrament meetings of miracles and think, I’ve never felt that or received an answer like that or my trial hasn’t ended yet, I must be doing something wrong. I must not be good enough. He must not be there for me because He doesn’t speak to me or come to me the way I hear He does to others or the way I expect. 

But in those quiet times, or in those unchanging times–what if it wasn’t God that was failing me. What if it was me? What if I was improperly placing blame? What if I had it all backward? What if there was a different way to look at it all? What if there were different questions I should be asking? What good am I overlooking?

Through my times of anger and doubt in my trials and my experimenting due to my desperation, I had learned so many more adjectives of the Spirit and of God. What I had known and learned about Them thus far was actually limiting me from allowing Them to show me what else. I had unconsciously put a box around Them and what They were capable of doing and how things were “supposed” to be, that I was accidentally dismissing myself from experiencing and recognizing Their vastness of blessings and miracles.

So when we don’t notice it in ‘that’ way, wonder and doubt could take over. But what if He was answering me and coming to me outside of that box that I ignorantly put there to begin with? When I tried to take away these limits that I unconsciously put on Them, I was learning and noticing different ways They were showing me They were there and They were answering me and trying to guide me and teach me and bring me to better things, and it had just gone over my head. 

I roll my eyes thinking about all the time I spent wondering why it didn’t work out and where God was in all of this because I failed to see Him and His blessings amongst my ongoing trials.

Back in Joseph Smith days, as the pioneers were traveling west, one night in particular was counted terrible among the many bad. It was a brutal night of destruction and hatred where these tired and sacrificing saints were assaulted, murdered, driven out at gunpoint, and chased in the middle of the freezing night, separated from their few belongings, their horses if they were lucky to have one, and more tragically, their family members. They were forced off course and into the freezing Missouri River to escape their potential death. Thousands of Latter-day Saints were stuck in mud, terrified, hungry, wet, and freezing, but they knew that if they were to turn back, the mob would kill them. Where was God in this? Where was God in their sacrifice? Where was God in the course of them following the Spirit? God’s path? Where were their answered prayers of protection and safety? Ah, isn’t it a little too true to be funny that those are usually the first questions we ask ourselves? Isn’t it wild how subtle and smooth the adversary is? 

And just as the Saints were close to consumed with those questions and that doubt and pain and abandonment from God, a shooting star lit up the sky. And then another. And then another. In fact, there were so many shooting stars happening at the same time that it lit up the entire sky, endless meteors! Innumerable meteors shooting from every direction! Some reports estimated exceeding 100,000 per hour, and others guessed thirty flashes per second. The fiery show lasted throughout the entire night. It was so awe-inspiring that the intended mass slaughter planned for that following night, when the Saints were unprotected easy targets, was disassembled because those in the mob themselves were captivated in their tracks. God, in His vastness, brought forth beauty amidst darkness to show that He was still there with them. That He was mindful. That they were not alone in this and their faith was not in vain. 

The adversary confuses us in the best way he does, subtly masked as “logic,” we justify in our heads. We lose sight of God and His vastness of goodness. We’ve narrowed Him down to only a few adjectives and unconsciously dismissed the rest. We forget or dismiss or, like in my Christmas lesson, not notice everything else. Maybe people were looking for a baby to know Christ was born and not a star. Maybe we are so focused on looking for a resolution that we miss the shooting stars He sends to us.

And so we have life and all that goes with it, seasons of enjoyment and comfort or seasons of uncharted paths and unwanted situations and moments of darkness and chaos. And though He doesn’t always take away the chaos and darkness, like with the pioneers, He does always come to us to show us He is there for us. That we aren’t alone. And that our faith and our efforts are not in vain. How wise it would be to interrupt our readily available doubts and negative questions and to rethink God and His characteristics and all the many ways He comes to us. Though our situation may not change and our trial may not end, He sends us metaphorical shooting stars– He sends us blessings and signs during it all to show us He is still there. I wonder what we will find if we but take the time to look. 

All good things come from God. Including feelings. Every feeling of happiness, every feeling of comfort, every feeling of hope. Every feeling of forgiveness. Of strength. Of laughter. Of lifted weight. Of protection. Change. Every feeling of guidance is from and because of God. Every thought we have, even if fleeting, that tells us we can make it through another day, to just hold out a little longer and to keep going. Moments when we think, Ah, okay! Those moments that we can’t really explain, moments when our hearts beat just a little bit faster. Goose bumps moments. Moments when we feel our eyes water and we know if we blink, tears will fall. Moments when we feel our souls jolt and dance within us.

No, maybe He doesn’t come and take our situation away, and maybe He doesn’t come in the way we were hoping and expecting, but good will always be there because God really is always there. But like the star when Christ was born, and like the star in my classroom, and like the many, many ways He tries to get our attention every day, just because we may not see them doesn’t mean they are not there. Just because they may be different doesn’t mean that He is not there. xox AL

JUST RELEASED: Wildly Optimistic  Fireside CD: Choosing God in Hard Times More Than the Tattooed Mormon: HERE Cheers to Eternity: HERE. More products: journals, home decor, jewelry: HERE. Instagram: @alcarraway | Twitter: @alcarraway | Facebook  My husband’s Menswear Company just launched: Shop Carraway

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