Dr. Gary G. Taylor
ERM Class – Session 4 Notes
Hanging in there when life gets difficult.
Why should I try so hard to do the right thing when it doesn’t seem to be working for me?
You may feel this way yourself at times, or perhaps you have a friend who says something like this to you: I’m uncomfortable in Church. I don’t seem to feel anything or get anything out of praying or studying the scriptures. I do good things for others and they just seem to take advantage of me. So why should I keep trying?
Here are some possible answers:
There may be a positive outcome that you don’t see. For example, the Spirit may be with you but you can’t feel it because you are depressed, anxious, or distracted in some way. When this is true you are also not likely to recognize the positive influences of the Spirit in your life, even though they are there. Furthermore, the results of good works are sometimes delayed and can’t be seen. For instance, you may have an unseen positive impact on others; and/or you may be growing in ways that you don’t recognize at the time.
The Lord values effort and intent even when results are minimal. Doing ones’ duty (being dependable and reliable) is what really counts, not blowing away “the competition” by doing things perfectly, or doing so much better than others. God knows that real progress takes time, repeated effort, and repeated failures.
Being obedient and serving faithfully when results are meagre proves that you are not a “fair weather” disciple. It’s easy to be upbeat and feel great about yourself and the work you are doing when things are going well. It’s not so easy to maintain a positive attitude and effort when there are no obvious results from the hard work. Knowing this, the Lord is likely to appreciate our diligence and commitment even more when we persevere through adversity. For one thing, our doing so is a statement of strong character. It shows us to be the kind of person that He can count on no matter what. That will certainly be one of the important conditions on our eventually receiving all of the blessings He has in mind for us (D&C 84:38). Our faithfulness through adversity is also a strong statement of love and support for Him. When we do the right thing, even when there is no immediate reward for doing so, we are demonstrating love and appreciation for our Creator.
Any great accomplishment requires great sacrifice. Great athletes certainly have talents in certain areas that most of us do not. Those talents, however, must be honed through hours of commitment and practice in order to produce consistently great performance. What is true of all worldly success must certainly be true when we are talking about accomplishments that will make a difference through eternity. To obtain those blessings, good coaching is required (as obtained from the Spirit and in scripture), as well as mistakes along the way, tests of faith, perseverance, and continued faithfulness in spite of all obstacles.
It’s part of what is required to become holy. In ancient days, sacrifice meant to make something or someone holy. That may still be one of the best definitions. Enduring disappointment and staying faithful to the end in spite of our trials could be a necessary part of the process of our becoming holy. Realizing and remembering this could give meaning to even one of our worst days.
It’s the least we can do. Hanging in there when it doesn’t seem like we’re getting much out of it for ourselves is at least something we can do out of respect for Him. In fact, exercising our agency in this way may be the only gift that is uniquely ours to give. Whenever we are feeling a little sorry for our self, it can be very helpful to review all that the Savior endured on our behalf. Our burden, however oppressive, will always pale in comparison. (See (D&C 19:18; D&C 122).
When things aren’t going well, here are some good thoughts that we can use to remind ourselves of what really matters:
I’m here to prove myself. When things are at their worst, I have the best opportunity to do that. Serious growth requires serious challenge.
I will do my best and God will do the rest. If it still doesn’t work out the way I hope, I know that it won’t matter in the long run.
My Father in Heaven is fully invested in me being successful in this life; and with His help I can solve every problem and do everything that really matters.
It may seem like it at times; but God has promised that I won’t be tested beyond my ability to cope (I Cor. 10:13).
I’m not going to be happy and at peace all the time; and that’s the way it must be if I am to grow into the person I want to become.
I want to do this. It isn’t something that I have to do.
Any sacrifice I make is the least I can do in appreciation for the incredible gifts I have been given.
Want to be resilient? Here are a few of the necessary ingredients:
Take decisive action to accomplish your goals (as opposed to simply day dreaming or perpetual planning without taking action). Don’t wait until you are confident of success. Don’t give up if you have immediate failures. If after solid effort Plan A doesn’t work out, look for Plan B. Then invest fully in Plan B without fretting or feeling guilty about the loss of Plan A.
Look at challenges as an opportunity and not a threat. Don’t blame others for failure, or give up before giving important goals your best effort. Look for positives from your effort even if the results don’t measure up to original hopes.
Remember what we knew before we came here. Before we became mortal, we understood the Plan of Salvation and shouted for joy at the prospect of coming here (Job 38:7). Why were we so happy? Because we knew that no matter what negatives we experienced in this life, it would be well worth it. And we also knew that we would have God’s help and that with reasonable effort on our part, we would be successful.
Believe that with the help of the Lord, you can influence and in many cases even control outcomes. Resilience involves the belief that with imagination, effort, input from others, and input from the Spirit, we can generally make things turn out the way we want them to. This “can do” attitude is tempered with the understanding that some things are beyond our control and must be accepted. This combination of positive attitude and acceptance of reality allows us to concentrate energy on what can be accomplished rather than on what is beyond our control.
Develop caring and supportive relationships with others. Anything you can do to promote close relationships with others will help establish a foundation for resilience. That means that we need to avoid holding grudges and/or putting up walls to close relationships. We need a friendly, outgoing bearing—which can be developed if it doesn’t come naturally. We need to accept others as they are rather than trying to change or control them. Within reason, we need to be willing to serve others and put their needs ahead of our own.
Develop the ability to compromise and find balance in what you do. Perfectionism is the enemy of resilience. Wanting to do things perfectly, and putting solid effort into doing everything we do perfectly, is ideal. Needing to be perfect is a recipe for anxiety, it leads to all or none behavior, and it can result in misdirected energy and frequent feelings of failure.