In preparation for Katie's mission, she and I have recently been reading blogs of letters from missionaries serving in the France Paris mission. We came across Soeur Kayleigh Johns, who entered the MTC in February of this year and then began serving in the Paris mission in April. Her blog, Kales Takes Paris, is full of her cute personality. (She could be Katie's companion! She could be Katie's trainer!) Despite her strong testimony, her arrival in the mission field was challenging. In this blog post and this blog post, she revived my fuzzy 'missions are sure hard' memories with details and deep emotions. She is a hoot to read most of the time and has a deep testimony of the Gospel, but she summed up so clearly why trying to share the Gospel with others can be so heart-wrenching and needs to be prepared for. It has been a walk down memory lane for sure.
In hindsight, I am so grateful I served a mission for so many reasons. For one thing, it prepared me for so many of the life challenges I have faced. Life can be hard, and it's good to learn how to deal with that reality early on in healthy ways.
BUT...why do things, good and right and inspired things, have to be so hard?
To be honest, I don't know. But having a family can sure be hard sometimes. Serving in the church (or supporting your husband as he serves in the church) can sure be hard sometimes. Sending off a missionary is pretty hard, too. And that's not even talking about the real trials and challenges and problems that come along in life, like illness, job loss, financial struggles, and emotional problems.
One of the things that helps me when life feels hard is reading just the right quote by a leader of the Church. I love that feeling when a quote speaks to my exact concern or problem. Here are three of the quotes that have helped me when things have felt hard:
From The Crisis by Thomas Paine, written in 1776 before the start of the Revolutionary War:
These are the times that try men's souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives everything its value. Heaven knows how to put a proper price upon its goods; and it would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as FREEDOM should not be highly rated.
I believe you can replace FREEDOM with any good and righteous thing you are seeking after. Family life, missionary work, an education, etc. This quote gives me courage to press on.
From Teachings of Gordon B.
I hope you are enjoying your work and service. I know that it is demanding. I know that it is strenuous. But what a tremendous opportunity we all have. What better thing could we be doing? How could we better spend our time? We are dealing with the very fiber of eternity. We are dealing with the salvation and exaltation of our Father’s children.
I love the sentence We are dealing with the very fiber of eternity. Any work we do to help in the work of the Father literally affects eternity. That really puts things in perspective, even really hard things. Truly, what better way to spend our time??
Finally, one of my favorite quotes about hard by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland from a talk given at the Provo MTC on 20 June, 2000:
Anyone who does any kind of missionary work will have occasion to ask, Why is this so hard? Why doesn’t it go better? Why can’t our success be more rapid? Why aren’t there more people joining the Church? It is the truth. We believe in angels. We trust in miracles. Why don’t people just flock to the font? Why isn’t the only risk in missionary work that of pneumonia from being soaking wet all day and all night in the baptismal font?
You will have occasion to ask those questions. I have thought about this a great deal. I offer this as my personal feeling. I am convinced that missionary work is not easy because salvation is not a cheap experience.Salvation never was easy. We are The Church of Jesus Christ, this is the truth, and He is our Great Eternal Head. How could we believe it would be easy for us when it was never, ever easy for Him? It seems to me that missionaries and mission leaders have to spend at least a few moments in Gethsemane. Missionaries and mission leaders have to take at least a step or two toward the summit of Calvary.
Now, please don’t misunderstand. I’m not talking about anything anywhere near what Christ experienced. That would be presumptuous and sacrilegious. But I believe that missionaries and investigators, to come to the truth, to come to salvation, to know something of this price that has been paid, will have to pay a token of that same price.For that reason I don’t believe missionary work has ever been easy, nor that conversion is, nor that retention is, nor that continued faithfulness is. I believe it is supposed to require some effort, something from the depths of our soul.
If He could come forward in the night, kneel down, fall on His face, bleed from every pore, and cry, “Abba, Father (Papa), if this cup can pass, let it pass,” then little wonder that salvation is not a whimsical or easy thing for us. If you wonder if there isn't an easier way, you should remember you are not the first one to ask that. Someone a lot greater and a lot grander asked a long time ago if there wasn't an easier way.
Those thoughts have carried me many, many times. When I want to cry to heaven, "Does this have to be so hard?", I just remember that the Savior, who also asked a version of that question, knows what I am going through. He will bear my burdens. He will send comfort. He is there.
Why is life hard, even when we are doing good things? That is a good question for another blog post. However, I know there is purpose in the struggle and that our Father in Heaven is not unaware of us and has given us many things to support us when times are hard. And I am so grateful.