Influenced by the talk given by Elder L. Todd Budge in the October 2019 General Conference
A fact of this life is that all of us will experience sorrow. What is sorrow? It is a “feeling of deep distress, anxiety, or pain caused by loss, disappointment, or other misfortune suffered by oneself.” Sorrow originates either from our actions or actions beyond our control (i.e., actions of others or life events). Sorrow from our actions can either lead to godly sorrow that causes us to repent or worldly sorrow that causes people to only feel bad when they were caught. My talk will focus on events beyond our control and how to overcome the sorrow from them. I borrow from the thoughts and ideas of Elder L. Todd Budge’s talk Consistent and Resilient Trust from the last general conference and the experience of the Jaredites found in Ether in the Book of Mormon for my talk
To begin, I don’t know what the Brother of Jared was feeling when building barges. I imagine that he experienced much sorrow. I too have traveled the ocean, but my travels were on a large cruise ship rather than these smaller barges. Nevertheless, I have felt the power of the waves and the motion sickness that ensues. If I were in the brother of Jared’s situation, I know that I would experience deep distress and anxiety about crossing the ocean, let alone building the barges in the first place. Furthermore, the scriptures don’t even mention how the Jaredites acquired food to sustain them in their journey. On the cruise ship, I have stood on the upper decks and looked out into the ocean and its pure darkness. I try to imagine what this experience would be like if the cruise ship lost power and all the lights went out. No wonder the brother of Jared was concerned about lighting the Jaredite barges. Brother Budge asks, “When striving to live as the Lord commands and righteous expectations are not met, have you ever wondered if you must go through this life in darkness?”
Although we may never need to build barges in our lives, the sorrows that we experience are real and happen to each of us. They may be so insurmountable that they feel like this great darkness that the brother of Jared was concerned about. For example, many of my family members have experienced sorrow because of the actions of other family members. I have a friend I work with that can’t physically have children. Another couple we are friends with has struggled with each of their children: their first had cancer, another was diagnosed with “failure to thrive”, and another died at birth. This past Christmas we suffered the flu which switched from physical suffering of aches and pains to emotional suffering of depression.
In life, I see two outcomes to our sorrow: (1) we let it break us or (2) we overcome it. Overcoming sorrow may not be easy and it may not be fast. The Jaredites spent 344 days in the barges to cross the ocean and they likely didn’t have motion sickness pills. Nevertheless, we learn from the scriptures that the Jaredites successfully traversed the ocean.
In the personal examples I mentioned above, my family members have let sorrow break them to where they resent each other and don’t talk to one another. Additionally, harboring these negative feelings have dampened the effects of the Spirit and have caused many of these family members to leave the church. On a more positive note, my friends who couldn’t have kids, have adopted two children and live optimistic lives. The couple with all the issues with their kids have consistently and resiliently been able to overcome these situations and are a strong example of what it means to overcome sorrow and adversity.
Budge quotes a 13th-century poet who states, “Sorrow prepares you for joy. It violently sweeps everything out of your house, so that new joy can find space to enter. It shakes the yellow leaves from the bough of your heart, so that fresh, green leaves can grow in their place. It pulls up the rotten roots, so that new roots hidden beneath have room to grow. Whatever sorrow shakes from your heart, far better things will take their place.”
I am a witness that sorrow indeed wipes everything clean so we can experience new joy. I appreciate good health a lot more after having experienced the flu over Christmas. I appreciate having children even more after having experienced several miscarriages. In addition, I believe these events have enabled us to experience empathy with others at a much deeper level.
So how do we swallow our sorrows instead of letting them swallow us? Brother Budge states, “The good news of the gospel is not the promise of a life free of sorrow and tribulation but a life full of purpose and meaning—a life where our sorrows and afflictions can be ‘swallowed up in the joy of Christ.’”
The key here is to consistently and resiliently rely on Christ. To consistently rely on Christ means that we will follow Christ over time regardless of circumstances. To resiliently rely on Christ means that with His aid we will be able to withstand or recover quickly from difficult conditions.
Heavenly Father declares to the brother of Jared that, “Ye cannot cross this great deep save I prepare you against the waves of the sea, and the winds which have gone forth, and the floods which shall come.” (Ether 2:25) Consistently and resiliently relying on our Savior and Heavenly Father is vital to be ready for adversity that comes our way.
I envision myself as the brother of Jared pushing off from the beach and saying, “Here goes, let’s hope the waves don’t wash us back to the same beach we embarked from.” However, the Jaredites likely had more faith than this as they boarded their “barges, and set forth into the sea, commending [i.e., entrusting or surrendering] themselves unto the Lord their God.” (Ether 6:4) They had this faith even though “many times [they were] buried in the depths of the sea, because of the mountain waves which broke upon them.” (Ether 6:6)
Have we felt buried below the sea of trials in our life where it is hard to breathe? What do we do in these situations? Are we out swimming in the harsh waters of sea on our own struggling in vain to stay afloat? Or are we in the safety in the barge of our Savior’s care to protect us from these mountainous waves?
Although the Jaredites “were driven forth,” there was “no monster of the sea [that] could break them, neither whale that could mar them; and they did have light continually, whether it was above the water or under the water.” (Ether 6:10) Furthermore, “the wind did never cease to blow [them] towards the promised land.” (Ether 6:8)
Ultimately, the Jaredites “did land upon the shore of the promised land. And when they had set their feet upon the shores of the promised land they bowed themselves down upon the face of the land, and did humble themselves before the Lord, and did shed tears of joy before the Lord, because of the multitude of his tender mercies over them.” (Ether 6:12)
From Lehi’s vision of the tree of life, we learn there was one distinguishing feature between those who partook of the forbidden fruit and fell into forbidden paths and those who partook of the forbidden fruit and remained faithful despite the taunting from those in the great and spacious building. This difference is that the first thing the group did that remained faithful was that they fell upon their knees as a representation of their humility and gratitude for the bounteous blessings they had been given. Gratitude despite our sorrow and trials can help us experience joy in the long run.
Although we may shed many tears through our sorrows, these tears can be tears of joy. We have shed tears through miscarriage, but eventually tears of joy came in eventually having kids. We have shed tears in depression, but tears of joy came in recognizing the love and support received and given during these difficult times. We have shed tears in seeing family and friends choose different paths from the church, but we constantly shed tears in seeing how the blessings of the gospel have enriched our lives and the lives of others.
Brother Budge expresses this joy by stating, “If we are faithful in keeping our covenants, we too will one day arrive safely home and will bow before the Lord and shed tears of joy for the multitude of His tender mercies in our lives, including the sorrows that made space for more joy.”
I testify that sorrow can prepare us for joy. Our tears can be tears of happiness. If we just endure, whether it be a day, 344 days like the Jaredites, or a lifetime, joy is promised to those of us who consistently and resiliently trust in and follow our Lord Jesus Christ. If you feel the mountainous waves of sorrow seem to overcome you, I invite you to not just come to Christ but run to him and let him bear your burdens.
In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.