Last week I attended a special church meeting, one that takes place twice a year and involves church members from all over our area, not just our small 'ward' congregation. I know some of the people from other wards, having worked with them in various capacities over many years. Some I know well, others not so much. But I do know that plenty of them are enduring almost unbearable trials in their lives and those are the ones I noticed coming into the meeting.
First I saw A and B, a couple with 5 darling children. She is suffering from ovarian cancer. Six months ago she was given six months to live. As of right now she is cheerful and energetic. The prognosis at this point is unclear. To add to their burden, one of their children has taken a rocky, tragic road in life. And her youngest is only 5.
Then I saw C and D, whose teenage son has been fighting an aggressive leukemia since childhood. Every time he receives a reasonably optimistic pronouncement from his physicians, it doesn't last long. Just last week he had another (of countless) surgery to remove new tumors. These parents go about their work and service without burdening others with their troubles.
E was sitting by himself. His wife no longer attends most church meetings, except that she comes over to the church building every week during Sunday School time to take care of someone else's handicapped child, so those parents can attend Sunday School. I am sad for E because he seems lonely, but he is married to someone uniquely special. Wow.
Some of the people I noticed at the meeting have had painful times in the past--the death of children, seriously wayward self-destructive family members, and so on. And how many of those at the meeting, I pondered, were battling circumstances unknown to others?
I believe faith in the Savior is the common denominator here. Each one could be home wallowing in self-pity and asking God "why me?" I once heard a wise person say, "why NOT me?" Would we turn to Him if we never had pain and trouble in life? Would be be so willing to help others if we in turn had never needed help during hard times?
Many years ago I learned a great lesson. We had had a rough Sunday morning at home, wrestling with a handicapped child and trying to get out the door on time. At sacrament meeting I sat in the back angry and bitter, wondering why all the other people in church that day could come in happy and cheerful, having had a delightful morning at home. It was only me who had burdens and no one else.
Then I heard the voice of the Spirit say, look in front of you. I looked. And saw the C family with their severely afflicted Down Syndrome son. In front of them was the R family, whose lovely teenage daughter was and always would be, confined to a wheelchair with spina bifida. Next row up was the N family whose son was deaf. And then the S family whose daughter was afflicted with a debilitating syndrome. And so on. On every single bench that day was a family who struggled with an afflicted child. I was ashamed and penitent. And since then I have realized that living in mortality is not meant to be easy. What character and faith would we have without our troubles? And the most important part of our lives is our Savior who is there to love, understand, and give us peace.