As we enter a new year, most of us make resolutions and try to set a course that will take us to the end of it unscathed and, possibly, better. I for one, need to do this because I believe that every day is a day earned and an opportunity to be had. At the same time, when I look back to the last few years, I also see that while opportunities are multiplying so are the challenges and the difficulties we have to face. In fact, it is fair for me to say that all of us will face more remarkable opportunities and challenges in this new year than we have had before.
Understanding the true nature of the principle of “opposition in all things” being an integral part of our life is vital to our true happiness and the success of achieving the goals we will set for 2015. If we wish to be a light for ourselves and others, we cannot allow that such a light be hidden. Let me illustrate with a story.
A long time ago noted preacher Dwight L. Moody told his congregation the story of a captain who was attempting to bring his boat to the Cleveland harbor one very dark and stormy night. The waves rolled like mountains, Moody said, and not a star was to be seen in the clouded sky. He pictured the boat rocking on the violent waves as the captain peered through the darkness for the sight of a signal light by means of which to guide his vessel to safety. When he finally spotted a single light from the light-house, he turned to the pilot and asked:
“Are you sure this is Cleveland harbor?”
“Quite sure, sir,” the pilot replied.
“Then where are the lower lights?” the captain continued.
“Gone out, sir,” the other man answered.
“Can you make the harbor?” the captain asked anxiously.
“We must, or perish, sir,” the pilot replied.
But despite his strong heart and brave hand, in the darkness he missed the channel. With a resounding crash the boat piled up on the rocks and then settled slowly to a watery grave. Moody concluded with this admonition to the congregation: “Brethren, the Master will take care of the great light-house; let us keep the lower lights burning.”
Somewhat, I truly believe that because of all the challenges we face, we have a rendezvous with destiny, which will involve some soul stretching and some pain. Renowned educator Neal A. Maxwell once stated: “We so blithely say … that life is a school, a testing ground. It is true, even though it is trite. What we don’t accept are the implications of that true teaching—at least as fully as we should. One of the implications is that the tests that we face are real. They are not going to be things we can do with one hand tied behind our backs. They are real enough that if we meet them we shall know that we have felt them, because we will feel them deeply and keenly and pervasively.” Let’s face it: being true to our values and beliefs is not easy. Having said that, although Life may not seem fair, it is worth living. It is both a gift and an opportunity. Maxwell also said: “We may at times assume that [life] requires merely that we endure and survive when, in fact … it is required of us, not only that we endure, but also that we endure well, that we exhibit “grace under pressure.” This is necessary, not only so that our own passage through the trial can be a growth experience, but also because (more than we know) there are always people watching to see if we can cope, who therefore may resolve to venture forth and to cope themselves. Every time we navigate safely on the straight and narrow way, there are other ships that are lost which can find their way because of our steady light.”
It boils down to patience and persistence as I learned very early in my life to never give up.
Former Lufthansa Vice President of Operations, Dieter Uchtdorf told the following story in a talk entitled “Continue in Patience”: “In the 1960s, a professor at Stanford University began a modest experiment testing the willpower of four-year-old children. He placed before them a large marshmallow and then told them they could eat it right away or, if they waited for 15 minutes, they could have two marshmallows. He then left the children alone and watched what happened behind a two-way mirror. Some of the children ate the marshmallow immediately; some could wait only a few minutes before giving in to temptation. Only 30 percent were able to wait. It was a mildly interesting experiment, and the professor moved on to other areas of research, for, in his own words, “there are only so many things you can do with kids trying not to eat marshmallows.” But as time went on, he kept track of the children and began to notice an interesting correlation: the children who could not wait struggled later in life and had more behavioral problems, while those who waited tended to be more positive and better motivated, have higher grades and incomes, and have healthier relationships. What started as a simple experiment with children and marshmallows became a landmark study suggesting that the ability to wait—to be patient—was a key character trait that might predict later success in life.”
Patience—the ability to put our desires on hold for a time—is a precious and rare virtue. Unfortunately, in this day and age we want what we want, and we want it now. Therefore, the very idea of patience may seem unpleasant and, at times, bitter. Nevertheless, without patience, we cannot reach our deepest dreams. Indeed, patience is a purifying process that refines understanding, deepens happiness, focuses action, and offers hope for peace.
Jeffery R. Holland, former President of Brigham Young University, once shared the following personal experience. When he was young, he and his little family set out to cross the United States, every earthly possession they owned packed into the smallest trailer available. No money, an old car, they drove exactly 34 miles up the highway at which point their beleaguered car erupted. The young father surveyed the steam, matched it with his own, then left his trusting wife and two innocent children, the youngest just three months old, to wait in the car while he walked the three miles or so to the southern Utah metropolis of Kanarraville, population then, 65. Some water was secured at the edge of town, and a very kind citizen offered a drive back to the stranded family. The car was attended to and slowly—very slowly—driven back to St. George for inspection.
After more than two hours of checking and rechecking, no immediate problem could be detected, so once again the journey was begun. In exactly the same amount of elapsed time at exactly the same location on that highway with exactly the same pyrotechnics from under the hood, the car exploded again. It could not have been 15 feet from the earlier collapse, probably not 5 feet from it! In Jeffrey Holland words: “Obviously the most precise laws of automotive physics were at work.”
Now feeling more foolish than angry, the chagrined young father once more left his trusting loved ones and started the long walk for help once again. This time the man providing the water said, “Either you or that fellow who looks just like you ought to get a new radiator for that car.” For the second time a kind neighbor offered a lift back to the same automobile and its anxious little occupants. He didn’t know whether to laugh or to cry at the plight of this young family. “How far have you come?” he said. “Thirty-four miles,” Elder Holland answered. “How much farther do you have to go?” “Twenty-six hundred miles,” he said. “Well, you might make that trip, and your wife and those two little kiddies might make that trip, but none of you are going to make it in that car.” Elder Holland stated later “He proved to be prophetic on all counts.”
Many years later, Dr. Holland drove by that exact spot where the freeway turnoff leads to a frontage road, just three miles or so west of Kanarraville, Utah. In his mind’s eye, for just an instant, he thought perhaps he saw on that side road an old car with a devoted young wife and two little children making the best of a bad situation there. Just ahead of them he imagined that he saw a young fellow walking toward Kanarraville, with plenty of distance still ahead of him. His shoulders seemed to be slumping a little, the weight of a young father’s fear evident in his pace. In the scriptural phrase his hands did seem to “hang down.” In that imaginary instant, Dr. Holland couldn’t help calling out to him: “Don’t give up, boy. Don’t you quit. You keep walking. You keep trying. There is help and happiness ahead—a lot of it—30 years of it now, and still counting. You keep your chin up. It will be all right in the end. Trust God and believe in good things to come.”
No matter how old you are, whether in the prime of life or longer in years, there is always hope. Have a wonderful 2015!