Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Awake, My Soul! No Longer Droop In Sin

With it being New Year's Day, I took some time this morning to make some goals for the new year.  I don't generally like to make too many, since that just becomes overwhelming and then I don't do any of them, so I just like to set one or two in three areas: physical, spiritual, financial; and then I usually set some goals I want to do better as a family.

As I was doing that, I began to feel a little overwhelmed by how many more things I could list if I were the kind to make more extensive lists.  One of my goals last year and again this year is to read my scriptures every day.  So after making my list of goals, I began to read.  I thought about writing in my blog today and was looking for scriptures about change and new beginnings, so I was reading little bits and pieces throughout all the different books.  Somewhere in my search I turned to James and read, "But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.  For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass: For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was...Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world."  (James 1:22-24, 27.)

I went on to the next chapter to read about not judging others and showing mercy and that faith without works is dead.  I began to feel very inadequate.  I wondered will I ever be this?  Will I ever fit the description of charity given in 1 Cor. 13 or Moroni 7?  Will I ever be the mother, friend, daughter, follower of Christ that I should be?  That I want to be?  And not just when I'm old and gray, but now when my children need me to be patient, long-suffering, kind, and loving?  I was feeling pretty rotten, and discouraged by my weaknesses.

Then my mind turned to Nephi.  I admire him so much.  I admire his faith, his obedience and his courage.  In my own weaknesses I have thought of his words that he knew the Lord would provide the way for him to be obedient and I have found comfort that He would do the same for me.  Today my thoughts turned to the time that this man of great faith, a man who exemplified  what I hope to become, still also got discouraged by his weaknesses too.  So I decided to read again the verses in 2 Ne. 4:17-35.  I won't quote the whole selection here, but here are some highlights that I loved and that I related to this morning:

"Notwithstanding the great goodness of the Lord, in showing me his great and marvelous works, my heart exclaimeth:  O wretched man that I am!  Yea, my heart sorroweth because of my flesh; my soul grieveth because of mine iniquities.  I am encompassed about, because of the temptations and the sins which do so easily beset me.  And when I desire to rejoice, my heart groaneth because of my sins; nevertheless, I know in whom I have trusted.  My God hath been my support; he hath led me through mine afflictions...He hath filled me with his love...He hath confounded my enemies...Behold, he hath heard my cry by day, and he hath given me knowledge by visions in the nighttime... O then, if I have seen so great things, if the Lord in his condescension unto the children of men hath visited men in so much mercy, why should my heart linger in the valley of sorrow, and my flesh waste away, and my strength slacken, because of mine afflictions?...Awake, my soul!  No longer droop in sin.  Rejoice, O my heart, and give place no more for the enemy of my soul... Do not slacken my strength because of my afflictions.  Rejoice, O my heart, and cry unto the Lord, and say: O Lord, I will praise thee forever; yea, my soul will rejoice in thee, my God, and the rock of my salvation."

The Lord is merciful and will help us.  We should not get discouraged or frustrated.  Nephi's words reminded me of one of my very favorite scriptures--Psalm 116:1-8:   "I love the Lord, because he hath heard my voice and my supplications.  Because he hath inclined his ear unto me, therefore will I call upon him as long as I live.  The sorrows of death compassed me, and the pains of hell gat hold upon me: I found trouble and sorrow.  Then called I upon the name of the Lord; O Lord, I beseech thee, deliver my soul.  Gracious is the Lord, and righteous; yea, our God is merciful.  The Lord preserveth the simple: I was brought low, and he helped me.  Return unto thy rest, O my soul; for the Lord hath dealt bountifully with thee.  For thou hast delivered my soul from death, mine eyes from tears, and my feet from falling."

 It is good to examine ourselves and our lives and make changes where necessary, but as Pres. Uchtdorf counsels, we must be patient with ourselves.  In his book, Forget Me Not, he says, "I want to tell you something that I hope you will take in the right way: God is fully aware that you and I are not perfect....God wants to help us to eventually turn all of our weaknesses into strengths, but He knows that this is a long-term goal.  He wants us to become perfect, and if we stay on the path of discipleship, one day we will.  It's okay that you're not quite there yet.  Keep working on it, but stop punishing yourself." 

He goes on to say that we should be thankful for the small successes we have.  "These successes may seem tiny to you and they may go unnoticed by others, but God notices them and they are not small to Him."  This reminds me of the scripture in Alma 37:6-7:  "...but behold I say unto you, that by small and simple things are great things brought to pass; and small means in many instances doth confound the wise.  And the Lord God doth work by means to bring about his great and eternal purposes; and by very small means the Lord doth confound the wise and bringeth about the salvation of many souls."

And so I hope that my small efforts to pray each day, read my scriptures each day, and spend a little more time dedicated to playing with my children each day will be those small and simple things that become great.  That my simple list of goals will place me on the path to become the person I hope to become.  I will try to be patient and trust that the Lord in His mercy will make up the difference that I cannot.  And I will seek to be happy and cheerful in that journey, rejoicing in the Lord and in His boundless love and mercy and remembering the many blessings He has given me each day.