Look to God and Live Alma 36-38
The phrase "look to God and live" has played a huge role in my life this week. I have been saying nearly every week that the Come Follow Me lessons seem timely, and for me, this week that was especially true. I have also been thinking a lot about the small and simple things in my life that truly have been enormous miracles.
Lately, I have been feeling very discouraged. I have tried to stay away from news because it is never anything but bad, but things have changed, and the bad news that brings me down no longer comes from just the media--I see it all around me.
The words used by Alma describe perfectly the way I have been feeling-- "sorrow", "tribulation" and "anguish of soul".
The state of the world
I knew this lesson was going to be important for me from the minute I opened the manual and read the opening paragraph. This sentence is the one that got me:
"What did Alma do about what he saw and felt? He didn't simply become discouraged or cynical about the state of the world."
I'm afraid I haven't been behaving very much like Alma. I have been discouraged, and I have felt extremely cynical.
I want life back. I want things to be the way they used to be, but the longer time goes on, the more I fear that it isn't going to happen.
But Alma's words from these chapters give me back the hope that I have been struggling to hold onto. Not that the world is going to go back to the way it used to be, but that there are good things to come. I can look to God and live...and not just the expected "next life" but in this life right now.
Follow the Prophet
I was talking to my sister not too long ago and we were talking about how through all that had been happening lately, it seemed as though the prophet has been kinda quiet. I'm not sure what I'm expecting from him, but maybe standing on a wall, calling people to repentance, kind of like Samuel the Lamanite?
The truth is, actually, he hasn't been silent at all, and neither have the Quorum of the Twelve. Their messages are quiet, and we have to be paying attention or we might miss them. But they are speaking.
I created a new Twitter account, and in this account, I followed President Nelson and the Quorum of the Twelve. If you don't do this already, I highly recommend it because you might be surprised how often they tweet! It makes for a nice beginning to my morning. Where I used to immediately open Facebook (I know that's a bad plan but it's also a habit and hard to break!) I now go to Twitter, and look for new messages that can bring hope to my day. It's kind of amazing what it has done to my soul!
And they definitely have a very clear message:
"Hear Him". That is their message. "Look to God and Live" They both kind of sound the same to me.
Finding hope in small and simple things
It's interesting that this is the week we learn about how God brings miracles into our lives by small and simple things. Something small and simple that was causing me a whole lot of grief came front and center for me.
I'm not here to boss anybody around, and I'm certainly not here to judge anyone else for their beliefs about masks. Believe me, I've seen enough lecturing from both sides of the fence to do me for a lifetime. So, no, this is not going to be a lecture either.
But it is my story, and I learned an important lesson about looking to God for my answers this week, so I hope you'll bear with me while I tell it.
Let's just start by saying this--I loathe masks. With every ounce of my being, I hate them. I'm not going to get into the details of why because it isn't important to the story and I don't need a rebuttal to my argument. The only thing important to know is the level at which I hate wearing them, hate seeing them, and hate hearing about them. My level of hatred is so high that I'm pretty sure my blood pressure goes up just thinking about them. I hope that gives a clear picture of where I'm coming from.
If you don't live in Utah, you may not know (but you've probably heard anyway because of all the contentious arguments happening) that last weekend we received a letter from the Area Authority asking all members to wear masks in public.
To say I wasn't super happy about that letter would be an understatement. This is why it's important to know how strongly I feel about masks. I've been firmly planted in the "no masks" camp, so being told that I needed to wear one didn't sit well at all.
So naturally, I turned to the internet for advice about how to proceed. Because we all know what great advice we can get from the general public, right?
I read all kinds of posts about the letter and how people were taking it. My favorite opinion was a man who wrote a very long post about how he'd prayed and thought about it and his answer was that he was NOT going to wear one.
That felt right. I agreed that this was probably the way I should go.
Except it still wasn't sitting right with me.
I needed my own answer
I talked to my sister and we decided that looking for our answers on Facebook was probably not the way to go. I left the internet and decided I needed to pray and study my scriptures and get my answers from a better source. But in the meantime, I was busy, so I didn't get around to that prayer for awhile.
Instead I spent the entire day being furious about everything that crossed my path. If I wasn't angry, I was crying. Everything was a disaster, and I was mad at every member of my family that day for reasons that I now don't even remember. I went to bed that night feeling hopeless and alone, and before I even made it there I'd spent an hour in the bathroom crying where no one could see me.
Needless to say, the prayer didn't happen that night. The adversary was clearly working overtime on me that day.
Sunday morning I was alone.
I realized that it was time to get my answer. I started a prayer that I couldn't even finish because I couldn't even speak.
You might be thinking, this sure is a lot of agony over a mask. But it wasn't just the mask. It was everything. Like I said before, I was feeling "anguish of soul" over the state of things, and the mask was just that little bitty straw that got laid on my camel's back.
When I finished the prayer, I went to my scriptures. I was reviewing last week's lesson, and I read this:
"...he was spoken of by Moses, yea, and behold a type was raised up in the wilderness, that whosoever would look upon it might live. And many did look and live.
But few understood the meaning of those things, and this is because of the hardness of their hearts. But there were many who were so hardened that they would not look, therefore they perished. Now the reason they would not look is because they did not believe that it would heal them.O my brethren, if ye could be healed by merely casting about your eyes that ye might be healed, would ye not behold quickly, or would ye rather harden your hearts in unbelief, and be slothful, that ye would not cast about your eyes, that ye might perish?"
I had been waiting for the Prophet to speak
I wanted guidance from the Prophet, and here it was. No it didn't come directly from President Nelson, but it came from the man that holds the keys and authority for this area, and I'm sure he was acting with the blessing of the prophet.
I had no idea why he was asking us to wear masks. But I do know this--sometimes we are asked to to things and we aren't given a reason, and maybe we don't understand. But this is a small and simple thing, and if I am not willing to do a small and simple thing like putting on a mask, what is going to happen when the Lord wants me to do something that is actually HARD?
Maybe this is another "type", like the staff of Moses, spoken of in the scriptures. Maybe putting the mask on, just because I was asked to, without knowing the reason, is me, looking to God, to live.
The mask will not save me. My opinion of masks hasn't changed at all. I still hate it, and I won't wear it because the governor mandates it, or because someone lectured me on Facebook, or because I am fearful. But I will wear it as a symbol that I have faith that God is leading me to a better place if I will just follow Him.
The miracle that followed
By small and simple things, great things are brought to pass. That is what happened to me after I realized what I needed to do.
After reading those verses and knowing my answer, I prayed again. I let the Lord know that I was on board. I would follow the guidance I had been given, even though I didn't understand the reason.
IMMEDIATELY... all of the tension, depression, and anxiety I had been feeling melted away. Since last Sunday, when I made my decision, I have felt overwhelming peace and hope. My mind has been clear, and I have been set free. It is honestly the first time I have felt completely at peace since this pandemic started.
And maybe my eyes have been opened...
Because my heart has been softened, I feel like I am gaining some understanding.
Maybe He wants me to wear a mask to calm the contention that is happening between the mask people and the non-mask people... (Sadly, it has raised a whole new area of contention.)
Maybe it's to alleviate the fear and anxiety that many people feel... I am not afraid of the virus like many people are, but I know that for some, that fear is very real. Maybe I wear a mask just to help those people feel a little less afraid.
Whatever the reason, I know that the Lord has one, and He has a plan. And all of this fits in it. It isn't my job to always know why or how everything will come together, I only know, and learned very strongly this week, that I need to trust Him.
It's been a GREAT week, and I'm looking forward to another great week. And if you see me out there wearing my mask, know that I put it on as a token of my faith in the Savior and a loving Heavenly Father that knows the way.
This week's lesson helps:
Alma Testifies to his son Helaman
The Simple Miracle That Helped the Whitmers Further the Work of the Book of Mormon
Book of Mormon Stories Chapter 30--Alma Counsels his Sons