Purpose in Pain

LDS Beliefs

It is common for people of faith to believe there are consequences for sin or poor choices, this accounting for pain, suffering, or trials in life.  While this is true, I don’t believe that trials are always associated with sin.  Sometimes, bad things just happen.  Why?

Trials, disappointments, sadness, and heartache come to us from two basically different sources. Those who transgress the laws of God will always have those challenges. The other reason for adversity is to accomplish the Lord’s own purposes in our life that we may receive the refinement that comes from testing. … [Some trials] are evidence that the Lord feels you are prepared to grow more  ~(in Conference Report, Oct. 1995, 18; or Ensign,Nov. 1995, 16).

The bible provides examples of trials being for our growth and good.  We have the story of Job, a good and righteous man who endured many afflictions.  Job grew in faith and understanding through his trials.  Additionally, Job’s challenges have taught generations of readers about enduring faithfully.  In St. John we read of a man, born blind and healed by the Savior:

And his disciples asked him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?

Jesus answered, Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him. ~ St. John 9:2-3

I don’t believe these two examples fully illustrate the scope of why we have trials.  Essentially, I believe trials are for our growth and help us come closer to achieving our potential.  If we endure through them faithfully, they serve as blessings in wisdom.

Life never was intended to be easy. Rather, it is a period of proving and growth. It is interwoven with difficulties, challenges, and burdens. … Yet these very forces, if squarely faced, provide opportunity for tremendous personal growth and development. The conquering of adversity produces strength of character, forges self-confidence, engenders self-respect, and assures success in righteous endeavor  ~(in Conference Report, Oct. 1981, 13; or Ensign, Nov. 1981, 11).

Some people beat themselves up when going through trials, wondering what they’ve done to deserve such hardship.  Often, it’s not about our weaknesses but rather our strengths.  Many of the best people I know have undergone horrible trials with grace.  They are inspiring to me and have touched my life deeply.

The pains of trials aren’t necessarily about what we’ve done wrong, but what we are able to do right – and how our influence can touch others.  There are certainly things I’ve learned and experienced through trials in my life that I now use in teaching and protecting my children, helping friends or loved ones, and so on.  Many times life’s challenges help us to learn, build character, increase in faith, teach and serve others, all helping us become greater than we are.

~Chickout 😉

Related Video/Post: Beauty in Surviving Life and Joying in Motherhood

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About atmchick

I'm a well grounded (a)typical Mormon (Latter-day-saint) chick.

Posted on May 7, 2010, in LDS Beliefs and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 11 Comments.

  1. Marzee, Mona recommended that I look at your website and I’ve really enjoyed what little I’ve seen so far. Thanks for your thoughtful insights. I, too, have pondered a lot about pain and trials. I know that some of the pain in my life is brought by my own stupidity, but I think for the most part my trials really are not my “fault” and instead are great opportunities for blessings although sometimes that takes a long time to see. I really appreciated what mydearuniverse said. What a DIFFICULT trial to go through, but I really respect what she’s learned from the experience. May I always be able to respond to my trials with such an attitude. Thanks for your thoughts.

    Sara Lyn

    • Thanks for visiting Sara Lyn and for your kind comments on the site.
      I think what you say is true . . . it often takes a long time to see the blessings of trials. Sadly, some of us don’t recognize trials as blessings in disguise. Thanks again – I’ll have to stop by your blog as well.

  2. As a survivor of childhood rape, I have thought about this a lot, and come to a few conclusions.
    -First, I was raped because someone was selfish. God does not prevent people from being selfish. He doesn’t draw a line and say, “Sorry, this behavior is too selfish. I won’t allow this to go on.” If he did, his “line of selfish intervention” would be pretty obvious and faith would cease. Instead, God only intervenes when certain actions would frustrate his plan, and like it or not, pain is in the plan.
    -Second, compassion (or love) is the great cure for emotional pain. I lost my virginity when I was five. At the time, I didn’t fully comprehend how significant an event this would be in my life. The pain came in layers as my understanding increased and as I realized the full impact of my perpetrators actions on my future life. But as I matured I also learned about my perpetrator’s life. And I felt sorry for him. Not that I excuse his actions, but I realized I had many opportunities he didn’t have. I had a good family, educational opportunities, fabulous goals within my reach. My attacker had none of these. I felt compassion, and I could no longer hate him. It turns out being raped is not the end of the world.
    -Lastly, I don’t understand everything about emotional pain, but I understand a little more every day. I have hope that someday I can understand everything.
    I have thought, ‘What good is it to believe in God that can’t or won’t protect me?’ But I don’t think having his protection is the point of believing in God. I believe in God because he exists. I believe in God because he is perfect. Believe in God because he understands all thing. Believing in God makes me better person, regardless of what happens to me in this life.
    Hope that made sense.

    • mydearuniverse-
      I’m sorry for your trial and am humbled that you’re sharing something so personal and sacred. I barely know how to respond or what to say.

      It really is wonderful that you’ve had the strength to learn and love through such an experience and are willing to share your wisdom with us.
      I especially liked your final thought, “Believing in God makes me better person, regardless of what happens to me in this life.” Sometimes it really is that simple. You make it so clear.

      Thank you.

  3. Marzerkins,

    What a good post this was. I remember once being so frustrated about a bunch of dumb overwhelming stuff I had to do and then having a little insight of simply, “It’s ok for things to be hard. Things are supposed to sometimes be hard.” That is so good for me to remember with the day to day trials and dilemmas we have and I often forget, so thank you.

    As for the more horrific stuff — a child being kidnapped and molested or something that awful. I don’t know and I don’t think we can fully know why sometimes we might be protected from the free agency of others while other times we suffer horrendously for it. I do know this though. When I was just a little 9th grader, I couldn’t stop thinking about these questions. I couldn’t stop wondering HOW God could allow such things to happen. I prayed and prayed, and I never got a complete answer, but what I did get was inspiration to flip my scriptures open where they landed on the verse in Proverbs 3:5 that says, “Trust in the Lord with all thing heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.” I knew He was telling my troubled little 14 year old mind something. I knew He was telling me that my earthly understanding couldn’t fully comprehend how this will all work out — how He can allow those things, but that I must trust Him. There is a quote from one of the twelve saying something about how the Lord’s will of justice may grind slowly but it grinds well — it may not be here or in the time frame we would like that evil will be punished, but it will, and somehow, in a way unfathomable to us, even the most atrocious wounds will be healed, will be made up to those we have suffered them. You know, when we hear the story about 1/3 rd of the host of Heaven following Satan — not wanting Christ’s plan of free agency, it seems like, “Haha, how could they have been such fools.” But I am sure it was not some simple decision. I mean 1/3rd of our siblings? That is insane. But sometimes I can see how hard it would have been to embrace the plan of free agency — we had to have it — we had to be allowed to make our own decisions and suffer and learn, but that also meant we might have to suffer the terror from the poorly used agency of others. It is all pretty overwhelming and frightening, but I do believe that the things that seem most terrible down here truly might somehow, with the eternal understanding we will one day have and the vision of everything before and everything still to come, will seem ok and will be made ok by our own Father who loves us more hugely than we love even our own children — and our own Savior who wasn’t some distant God, but who wept over the sins of his brothers and sisters and their losses and pain.

    Wow. Look what you’ve started.

    • Nancy-
      Thanks for sharing your experience and the insight you have. There are so many good things in your comment. I especially appreciate the scripture you shared. A lot of struggle in life does require faith and trust in God (endurance too). I think it’s especially hard to see suffering without proper justice. It’s comforting to know that all will be accounted for.

      Additionally – the teaching came to mind that God will never give us more than we can bare (or bear?) which is a big comfort. (I wish I could cite a scripture on that – can someone help me out?)

      Also, I found these words from our current Prophet, Thomas S. Monson:

      The Apostle Paul declared, “God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.”1

      None of us makes it through this life without problems and challenges—and sometimes tragedies and misfortunes. After all, in large part we are here to learn and grow from such events in our lives. We know that there are times when we will suffer, when we will grieve, and when we will be saddened. However, we are told, “Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy.”2

      How might we have joy in our lives, despite all that we may face? Again from the scriptures: “Wherefore, be of good cheer, and do not fear, for I the Lord am with you, and will stand by you.”3 (“Be of Good Cheer,” Liahona. May 2009)

      It’s nice to know that we are not alone in our trials, that our burdens are lifted, that we may be comforted, and that God is always mindful of us.

  4. Although I understand your perspective, where it comes from faith, but in a realistic standpoint – thinking about the horrific things some people go through around the world, especially children – I find it hard to believe that God allowed it to happen because they were strong enough to endure it or because someone needed a lesson. I’m talking about the instances where people are mutilated in war, or children have been raped or suffered horrible cancers, etc. Why do some people who have the capacity to be great parents never can have children and then others who shouldn’t even be near children have hundreds? I find it hard to believe that an all loving God would purposely let something happen or cause something horrific to happen, just to teach a lesson. I think the victims or the family of the victims, would not find comfort or justice in that at all. And I don’t believe God functions that way.

    • Cynthia-
      I appreciate your point and believe it has validity. While writing this post I often thought of people who do experience horrific things and might think, “What comfort is that? Are you saying that God let this happen to me because I’m ‘strong’ enough to handle it? Thanks, but no thanks. Next time I’d rather skip the trial.” I can see how my post could feel like a slap in the face.

      What I shared doesn’t account for all things and I don’t fully understand the scope and meaning in our trials/suffering. I think much of it also relates to the fact that other people have choices, and consequences for their actions affect others. Still, I think we all have the opportunity to progress through trials, however they come about.

      Somebody this week wondered what sin(s) they committed to deserve their current challenges. My main purpose in this article was to share my belief that trials in life aren’t always in consequence to sin.

      Why do you think horrible things happen to good people?

      • True – some things happen because of your sinful choices (i.e. steal = jail time; or drug use = health, money, family, legal problems) and some things happen to strengthen us as a result of answered or “unanswered” prayers and some things just happen because life happens and because of someone else’s sinful choices (example violence against the weaker). I think these are the probing questions, the controversial ones, that can bring someone closer to God or further away. And no matter what happens, it will truly be a test of your faith and your choice in outlook (glass half full, half empty). I’m always asking myself “what good can i take out of this experience?” Like when I look back on my life, I don’t ask “why did that happen to me?” about specific traumatic experiences. I know that it happened because of someone else’s sin and I don’t believe God had any intention of it happening to me. As I cried, my Heavenly Father did too. So now my self-talk has changed to, “now how can I move forward from that in a positive way? how can I be better and stronger?” Through my experiences and other people’s experiences that I know about personally or have read about, etc..I have learned not to tell anyone who is going through anything that “it’s God’s will”. How do we know for certain? We really don’t. And it is definately true and I agree with you, not every trial is in consequence to sin. I don’t know who said it in our church leadership, but even if you are an active member, you pay your tithe and fast offerings, you fulfill your calling dutifully, you pray at home and do every single thing you are supposed to do correctly…you will still experience trials and tribulations. it is the human condition. (sorry for writing too much) Love ya! 🙂

        • Cynthia-
          I love what you’re writing. Never apologize for writing “too much” – it’s great. Some of my favorite lines from you:

          “As I cried, my Heavenly Father did too. So now my self-talk has changed to, ‘now how can I move forward from that in a positive way? how can I be better and stronger?'”

          So good. I think that’s key. It’s easier to mope and question, “Why me?” but I think it’s destructive. You take a much wiser path.

          I also like your thoughts about good people and trials, how even when we’re doing the best we can . . . we still have trials – it’s part of life. Trials are meaningful, even if we don’t understand them.

          Thanks for “writing too much” 😉

  1. Pingback: Beauty in surviving life and joying in Motherhood « A (?) typical Mormon Chick

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