In 2013, Elder Uchtdorf shared a poem written in 1872, by John Godfrey Saxe about the Six blind men of Indostan who went to see an elephant. Each man touched only a single part of the animal, the ears, tail, leg, etc., and then attempted to describe the whole animal. Although accurate in their particular portion of the elephant they had touched, when they attempted to describe the whole animal, they were all wrong. They were simply unable to see the complete picture. They lacked the proper perspective.
For many of us, it may be equally difficult to see the big picture when we are engrossed in our daily grind, and focused on the struggles we may be experiencing. These last few months have provided plenty of opportunities to struggle.
Paul encouraged patience in our perspective when he said, “For now we see through a glass darkly; but then face to face; now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.”
-1 Corinthians 13:12
It can be enormously difficult to see through the “glass darkly” to understand our big picture, or the nature of life’s elephants given our limited view. It is difficult or even impossible to understand the reasons for the struggles we face. Especially when they are completely overwhelming.
We read of another example of this in the Book of Genesis. After Adam and Eve had partaken of the fruit, and had been sent forth out of the Garden of Eden, their life had obviously changed. The easy life was over. The struggle had just begun. The days of ease and plenty had suddenly come to an end.
The Lord explained their change in scenery this way…
“I will greatly multiply thy sorrow…
Cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life…
Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee…
In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground;
for out of it was thou taken:
for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return”
At first glance, this seems like a severe punishment, or banishment into a life of misery, from which there could be no relief nor hope for happiness. It would be hard to see it any other way.
But, there was a little sprinkling of a hint that suggests another possible motive. The Lord stated that He would multiply their sorrow, and that the curse would be “for [their] sake”. And, if we keep reading, only a few verses later, the Lord opens our eyes to the proper big-picture perspective, which is His perspective.
“And the Lord God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us…”
The Lord saw the Fall of Adam and Eve as progress towards becoming more like Him, not moving further away. Maybe the obstacles in our paths aren’t stumbling blocks alone, but can also serve as steps that continuously lead us up and forward.
In Hebrews, Paul teaches about how, and why, the Lord often intervenes in our lives.
As we read these verses, let’s maintain the belief that the Lord has our well being and divine development in mind. Let’s swap out the word “chastise” and replace it with the word “challenge”, and see if it helps us realize what the Lord is trying to accomplish.
“…My son, despise not thou the [challenging] of the Lord, nor faint when thou art [challenged] of him:
For whom the Lord loveth he [challengeth], and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.
If ye endure [challenging], God dealeth with you as with sons;
for what son is he whom the father [challengeth] not?
Now no [challenging] for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous:
nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.
Wherefore lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees.”
It has been a rough few months, but let’s us lift up our hanging hands, strengthen our feeble knees, and maybe try and expand our view to account for the eternal perspective. The Lord loves us. He sends us challenges to overcome in order to help us develop into our best selves.
Just this week, in our come follow me lesson, Alma counsels us that we…
“…should be humble and be submissive and gentle; easy to be entreated; full of patience and long-suffering; being temperate in all things; being diligent in keeping the commandments of God at all times; asking for whatsoever things ye stand in need, both spiritual and temporal; always returning thanks unto God for whatsoever things ye do receive.”
I know that if we keep our eyes open to the Lord’s eternal plan for us, and allow ourselves to be changed into who we can be, we can look forward to hearing the words from Heaven, just as our first parents did, that we have “become as one of [them]”