Sunday, June 25, 2017

They of the Last Wagon

I worry. And if I was a betting woman, I would bet that most of you reading this, also worry. (All three of you!)

But don't worry! I've learned the three of us are not alone! Most humans worry. In an address by John S. Tanner, he relates the following: "According to Parley P. Pratt, the pioneers who endured the first terrible winter in the Salt Lake valley suffered more from fear than from actual hunger." Brother Tanner continues; "Uncertainty can be more chilling than winter, doubt more gnawing than huger, tempest of the mind more fearful than

pelting rain." Brother Tanner emphasizes the human propensity to worry as he quotes Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, whom "describes a peculiar reaction evident in many people picked up by the Soviet secret police: "Sometimes the principal emotion of the person arrested is relief and even happiness!" Solzhenitsyn explains, there is a kind of exhaustion that is worse than any kind of arrest." Brother Tanner nails it when he states: "Not knowing when or if an affliction will end is often more taxing than the affliction itself."

I've felt this affliction of the unknown. I'm sure you have too. How do you remedy it? How do you find the strength to continue when your spouse is unemployed, or a child suffers a debilitating illness or the evil of the world seems insurmountable? I believe the answer is faith. Faith in what or whom? I would suggest, faith in God and His promises. 

At times, faith in God is hard. We can't see God or the "distant scene". I relate to the father of the afflicted child in the New Testament book of Mark. In essence, the Savior asks the father of an afflicted child, "How long has your son been afflicted? The father responds, "since he was a child." In verse 23 we read: "Jesus said unto him, If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth. And straightway the father of the child cried out, and said with tears, Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief." (Mark 9:23-24)

The father had enough faith to ask the Lord for his help to heal his son, but was his faith sufficient for his son to be healed? My answer is: yes! In verse 27 we learn, " But Jesus took him by the hand, and lifted him up; and he arose." My take-away from this narrative is this: if we have the faith enough to ask the Lord for His help, He will meet us half way in our seemingly "belief/unbelief" impasse. Also, I've learned, if your faith is failing, feel free to surround yourself with those of unfaltering faith. 

Relating the plight of pioneers of 170 years ago, making the trek across the unforgiving desolate plains, J. Reuben Clark shares with us a mighty metaphor for living by faith:

… Back in the last wagon, not always could they see the Brethren way out in front, and the blue heaven was often shut out from their sight by heavy, dense clouds of the dust of the earth. Yet day after day, they of the last wagon pressed forward, worn and tired, footsore, sometimes almost disheartened, borne up by their faith that God loved them, that the restored gospel was true, and that the Lord led and directed the Brethren out in front. Sometimes, they in the last wagon glimpsed, for an instant, when faith surged strongest, the glories of a celestial world, but it seemed so far away, and the vision so quickly vanished because want and weariness and heartache and sometimes discouragement were always pressing so near.
When the vision faded, their hearts sank. But they prayed again and pushed on, with little praise, with not too much encouragement, and never with adulation. … Yet in that last wagon there was devotion and loyalty and integrity and, above and beyond everything else, faith in the Brethren and in God’s power and goodness. …
So through dust and dirt, … they crept along till, passing down through its portals, the valley welcomed them to rest and home. …
So when the view of our future seems obscured by the "heavy dense clouds of the dust of the earth", may we have the desire to cultivate sufficient faith- the faith of "they of the last wagon."