Happiness is not the absence of trials, but rather the pathway through them. It would be flippant of course, to say that we should always be happy, even in dire circumstances, or struggling under a load of great stress. But, to be able to find hope through our trials will bless our lives with greater understanding, patience, and happiness.
The Blessing of a Heavy Load
“Sometimes we mistakenly may believe that happiness is the absence of a load.”David A. Bednar
David A. Bednar, an apostle of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, shares the story of a friend who learned that a heavy load was exactly what he needed to survive a difficult situation.
He relates that his friend had, after some time, convinced his wife that they needed to buy an expensive, four-wheel drive pick-up truck. Once convinced, the man desired to show his wife how useful the truck was, and so took it up into the mountains to haul back a load of firewood for their home.
As the man drove, snow began to fall. But, the place he needed to go to cut down the tree for firewood was further up the mountain, and he continued to drive in the increasingly heavy snowfall.
Once the man reached his destination, he pulled off the side of the road, only to hear his tires spin in the snow. He was stuck.
While he tried to think of how he would get himself—and his truck—out of this precarious situation, the man proceeded to cut the firewood and put the heavy load into the back of his truck.
When he finished, the man got back into his truck with blind hope that it might no longer be stuck, only to discover that the heavy weight of the load of firewood was exactly what the truck needed to gain traction on the road and pull him safely out of his predicament.
Our Trials Carry Us Forward
Like the truck, our own tires spin fruitlessly without a bit of weight. Sometimes, when we are experiencing a period of ease in our lives, we become complacent. During these periods of affluence, we may lose focus, become slothful or indulgent—unknowingly putting ourselves into a hole we will have to climb out of later. We may even find ourselves creating problems where there are none, because we are accustomed to operating in stressful environments.
In the history of the world, periods of affluence are followed by periods of depression. The cycle works together to create a balance in both the universe and in ourselves. Things that would be difficult to learn in periods of relative peace, are learned quickly when forced upon us.
On the other hand, periods of ease allow us to breathe and gain the respite we need to tackle the next difficulty that arises.
The cycle of stress and ease works together in harmony, refining our spirits and uncovering hidden talents. It strengthens our resolve and builds empathy as we use the trials we have endured to comfort and build up others.
When we have a heavy load to carry, our purpose becomes clearer. We are reminded of our frailty, we build and strengthen relationships with others as we reach out for help, and it is often through those periods of trial that we become our best selves—discovering the hidden talents of grit, resiliency, humility, and patience.
“A woman is like a teabag—you can’t tell how strong she is until you put her in hot water.”Eleanor Roosevelt
A Refresher Course in Patience
Trials help us develop patience—an attribute I, for one, have never been particularly good with and often need a refresher-course in. Maybe it is for this reason that we are periodically appointed trials by a wiser, more preceptive Divine being.
With our own limited vision, we crave ease and comfort. We shun the very thought of misfortune, only recognizing the trouble and burden it brings to our lives. When the burden unavoidably does come, we feel victimized by its menace and become angry, despondent, or any other number of emotions employed as an avoidance tactic.
We forget, however, that the greatest times of growth in our lives often come at the hand of trials. Even the strongest, Zen-masters among us need a period of adjustment when new trials begin before we can start our methodical plod through them.
How to Apply Patience in Trials
Our human frailty restricts us from throwing our arms open wide to greet and accept our trials with welcome familiarity. Nor should we have to. But, we should allow them space in our lives and learn to endure them patiently.
When we can endure trials with patience, instead of run from them, bemoan our unfortunate state, or even deny their existence, we allow the trial to help us grow.
We can be patient in our suffering by:
- Focusing on the things we can control
- Maintaining normal routines as best as possible
- Seeking guidance through the lessons at our disposal
- Practicing self-care
Perhaps the greatest challenge of applying patience in our trials is being able to compartmentalize our negative emotions and responses and keep them from seeping into our personal relationships. Strive to be yourself—whether that be gentle, funny, kind-hearted, flamboyantly extroverted, whatever—during your trials and not let them rewrite your existence. This is a testament that you are able to endure them with both patience and understanding.
Patience Brings Understanding
“When we long for life without difficulties, remind us that oaks grow strong in contrary winds and diamonds are made under pressure.”Peter Marshall
Instead of wishing for our trials to disappear, seek understanding in the midst of our trials.
First, believe that our trials have a purpose. Take time to reflect on your past, the trials you have survived, and what attributes were developed or strengthened during those periods.
What did you learn about yourself from a particular trial? Maybe you learned to like yourself a little more, that being alone is an opportunity for personal development. Perhaps you found a strong and capable voice you never had to use before and didn’t know existed deep within you.
Maybe all you really learned is that there is always a light at the end of the tunnel if you never give up. That is enough.
When you take the time to recognize your increased strength, the lessons you have learned through your trials, even the very good that, though sometimes small, is always around us, the burden becomes lighter.
When we understand the purpose behind the trial, bearing it becomes more manageable.
Such understanding does not remove the burden. But, we should not want it to be; as it is only with pressure that we gain the “traction” that enables us to move forward.
Understanding Creates Hope
If we are humble enough to stop hiding from or being angry with our burdens, each trial we are forced to endure can also bless us with understanding. That understanding creates hope.
Hope is not a sure knowledge of the relief as it is to come, but rather, the belief that it will come.
When we have hope that there is purpose in our trials and that with patience, perseverance, and understanding we will triumph over them, hope works to transform us: our thoughts become clearer, our actions become more purposeful, and we carry greater peace in our spirits.
“[Hope] is manifest in confidence, optimism, enthusiasm, and patient perseverance.”Dieter F. Uchtdorf
It is hope that is the guiding force in those who are able to remain happy in the midst of trials. Sure, they may falter, they may be momentarily sad or frustrated. But their countenance overall is peaceful. They are guided by a firm understanding that whatever their particular trials may be, that their trials have a purpose in refining our spirits, and that they will gradually overcome.
Let us strive to be people who act confidently and optimistically as they walk with determination through their trials. Derive strength from hope and continue pushing humbly and patiently forward.