"That We Might 'Not... Shrink'"(Sorry, I think that the embedded video below is on autoplay! Hope your volume isn't on full blast like mine was.)
Being at home for spring break means that I forgot about a lot of things, including CES devotional broadcasts.
However, I kept thinking about this most recent address by Elder Bednar, and recognize it now as the Spirit prompting me to watch it. Today I finally got around to it.
I don't know if this address will mean as much to you as it does to me, and I'm sure that you'll get things out of it that I didn't. Still, I think it's so important that if you are preparing to serve a mission and you haven't seen Elder Bednar's talk "That We Might 'Not...Shrink,' you really should. You really, really, really should.
In fact, here it is.
Sister Bednar is the first to speak, and I think that she gives a great talk, but I wanted to focus on Elder Bednar's talk. For me, anyway, it delivered the message that I most needed to hear.
Death is a hard thing for me. A really hard thing. When I was about eleven my youngest brother was stillborn, and that event became my life's most defining feature. I was eleven, so I didn't really know how to deal with grief, and didn't have a strong testimony of my own about much of anything. So, instead of feeling sad but realizing that my family is eternally sealed together, I got mad. I got upset and mad and hated everything that reminded me of Aidan, including the weekly, then monthly, visits that we took to his grave.
It didn't hit me until recently that I've spent ten years feeling the same grief for my brother, and that the broken heart which has been in me since I heard about my brother's death has been weighing me down ever since. One of my greatest fears is dying before I can "do something" with my life, and I think that it's because I've allowed the loss of my brother on this Earth to make me fear and despise death.
Elder Bednar's remarks aren't about death, but that theme, beginning with the passing of Elder Maxwell and going to the story that he tells about a young couple dealing with cancer, was what first made me sit up and pay attention. In that same way that I've allowed my pain to create a fear of death in my life, I've allowed my fear to grow create pain where there ought not to be any. Some people might call it anxiety and give me medication for it, but I know better. I know that fear is Satan's greatest motivating tool to turn to misery and pain. Fear destroys faith.
Some of the doubts that reenter my mind day after day, things that I've already mentioned on this blog, are so strong because they're rooted in righteous desires. I want to continue my education, to get married and raise a family, to get a job that I love. All that Satan has to do is twist those righteous desires with fear, fear that somehow, if I go on a mission, those things will no longer be possible, and all of a sudden I'm doubting the desire that I have, and that has been confirmed by the Lord as the right path for me, to serve a mission.
Fear also erodes my faith, the faith that I have worked so long to attain. It introduces doubt into my faith, loosens a link in my armor, and the doubt soon replaces the faith that I had, destroying my armor. My faith becomes dependent upon good things that happen to me. If I say a prayer and then receive an immediate answer to that prayer, I have faith in it. If I decide to serve a mission but the paperwork doesn't go smoothly, the Lord must be telling me that I shouldn't go on a mission, after all (although He's already told me that I should).
Quentin L. Cook gave a great talk about faith and fear in the October 2007 general conference, right after he received his call to the Quorum of the Twelve, called "Live by Faith and Not by Fear." My favorite quote from it is this:
When we choose to follow Christ in faith rather than choosing another path out of fear, we are blessed with a consequence that is consistent with our choice.
Faith does not mean "I'll believe as long as my life goes according to my plans" or "I believe in the easy things, but the hard things are optional." As Elder Bednar said, you need to "reconcile your faith in Christ with the inevitability of His will." As a missionary, this will be indispensable. Sometimes, investigators will stop progressing. Sometimes you'll go for months without a single baptism. Sometimes you will get sick, or something will happen back home and you won't be able to be there. Sometimes, that boy or girl that said they would wait for you writes you a Dear John/Dear Jane and a few weeks later sends a wedding invitation. Sometimes you'll have a hard time with a companion.
Do not allow your faith to be dependent on anything. Have faith even when it's raining. Have faith when you're so tired you want to cry. Have faith when someone dies and you will never see them again in this life. Have faith when your hopeful future husband writes you a Dear Jane letter. As the Lord says in D&C 6:34-36,
"34 Therefore, fear not, little flock; do good; let earth and hell combine against you, for if ye are built upon my rock, they cannot prevail.
35 Behold, I do not condemn you; go your ways and sin no more; perform with soberness the work which I have commanded you.
36 Look unto me in every thought; doubt not, fear not."