Comparitive Grief

A few weeks ago I sat at a Stake Relief Society luncheon and listened to a few women share their stories of hardship and how they have overcome them.  One sister shared how she, with four children at home, had had breast cancer.  She talked about the pain and exhaustion chemotherapy treatments caused.  Another sister explained the trials and triumphs of having Multiple Sclerosis.   The third sister shared her experiences with raising a severely handicapped child as well as the challenges her husband had with debilitating depression.  It's easy to sit through such a meeting and think to ourselves, "Man!  If they have all those challenges and can be strong, what am I complaining about?"

But then the third sister said these words: "Having these challenges doesn't make me any better or worse than you.  My trials are mine and yours are yours."

Though I've heard this many, many times throughout my life, the moment and the way in which she said it really resonated with me.  I took a moment to acknowledge that pain is pain.  Though miscarriages are extremely common and though I already have six beautiful children, my pain was very real to me. 

Each of us will feel pain and suffer in some way, especially as true disciples of Christ.  Pain is painful for the one who suffers it.  Elder Neal A. Maxwell has so eloquently explained:

"Our individual experiences may not always be unique, but they are always authentic. God will even take into account our perceptions of, as well as our responses to, our trials. For those of us who do not, for instance, find claustrophobia a challenge, it is difficult to measure the terror that comes to those for whom it is such a challenge. Thus, a friend may seem to struggle unnecessarily long before finally prevailing with regard to a particular principle of the gospel. But for that individual, the struggle was real enough! ...We must remember that, while the Lord reminded the Prophet Joseph Smith that he had not yet suffered as Job, only the Lord can compare crosses (emphasis added)."

Brene Brown (there she is again!) also talks about this in her book, Rising Strong.  She says, "...pain and hurt are not immune to being assessed and ranked."  Someone may lose a husband and not show compassion toward the mother who just sent her last child off to college.  Another might be diagnosed with a life-threatening disease and not sympathize with a friend who just had knee surgery. A person who miscarries may not acknowledge her own pain because she knows a woman who could never bear children.  All of these scenarios involve pain, loss, and struggle.  Thus, each situation is in need of more empathy and compassion, not less.

Brown continues, "Hurt is hurt, and every time we honor our own struggle and the struggles of others by responding with empathy and compassion, the healing that results affects all of us."  

Because of our trials and struggles of this life, we have the power to heal one another!  We have the ability to, "succor those that stand in need of our [succor]" (Mosiah 4:16) and "mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort" (Mosiah 18:9)."  Though I may not enjoy the process, if this is even one portion of the joy I gain from struggling, I'm okay with that.  I know that my afflictions, and those of others, can be "swallowed up in the joy of Christ (Alma 31:38)."

 - - - - -

One day we will understand fully how complete our commitment was in our first estate in accepting the very conditions of challenge in our second estate about which we sometimes complain in this school of stress. Our collective and personal premortal promises will then be laid clearly before us. 
- - Elder Neal A. Maxwell


My General Conference Highlights

As you can imagine, my heart was yearning for words of peace and comfort all during General Conference....and boy did those words come! But, I have to admit, it was also very difficult for me to hear some of the things that were spoken.  My heartstrings were pulled in various directions as I listened to true principles of necessary opposition and inevitable heartache in this life. But overall, I was uplifted and reassured that truly all will be well and our Father in Heaven does know me --  as He does all of His children.  So, here are some highlights I gleaned from the 8 hours of instruction:

Elder Dalin H. Oaks
Opposition plays a central role in the Plan of Salvation. Elder Oaks said, "We grow and become refined through challenges and making difficult decisions."  My question: Why does refining need to hurt so much sometimes?  

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland 
He used one of my very favorite scriptures, "But call to remembrance the former days, in which, after ye were illuminated, ye endured a great fight of afflictions (Heb. 10:32)."  I love that verse!  We are not going to be on a "spiritual high" all of the time, but we can remember those moments when we did feel the Spirit and rely on those moments through our difficult times.  Love it!

Elder Donald L. Hallstrom
He quoted Elder Holland as saying, "You can have what you want or you can have something better." This was one of the many quotes that caused me to squirm in my seat.  Though I love this sentiment, I don't really like it.  The unknown is scary to me, maybe to most of us.  We want what we think will make us happy.  But, the Lord knows the end from the beginning.  I would like to see what He has that is better for me, but I'm not sure I want to wait for it (especially when I don't know what that might be).

Elder Gene R. Cook
Elder Cook encouraged us,  "See yourself in the temple." There was much said in Conference concerning temples and our temple attendance.  I have been greatly blessed to live near a temple most of my married life.  This past month the temple has been a sure place of peace and serenity for me.  I am truly grateful for this tender mercy from the Lord.

Elder Patrick Kearon
And there is much already being done and going around via social media on reaching out to the refugees thanks to Elder Kearon's talk (as well as Sister Burton's talk from the week before).  There is so much hurt in the world.  One of the surest ways to overcome our own grief and pain is in the service of others.  I have been inspired to "seek out the strangers" in my own sphere of influence.  We'll see where that leads.

Overall, General Conference was as encouraging and uplifting as usual.  As one friend put it so nicely, "It makes me feel good about myself while also causing me to want to be better."  There is an upward lift when we spend two days focusing on the words of our Father in Heaven through His living prophets.  I am so grateful to live in such a time as this!
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