According to church leader Neal A. Maxwell (1974), God has created a customized curriculum for each one of us. He does this:
…in order to teach us the things we most need to know. He will set before us in life what we need, not always what we like (para. 2). The future “you” is before him now. He knows what it is he wishes to bring to pass in your life. He knows the kind of remodeling in your life and in mine that he wishes to achieve. (para. 3)
This includes happy, joyful, celebratory people, times and situations.
Yet, it may also include sorrow, tragedy, sadness, heartbreak, illness, sickness, and death.
The key is, embracing and loving your customized curriculum.
Regardless of what it is.
Mine, for instance, to name a few of the heavy-hitters, has included breast cancer, divorces, radiation-induced heart disease, and a benign brain tumor.
I’m still here though.
And walking, talking, breathing, learning, celebrating, excited, happy, etc.
Because, while living in Japan, some years back, a brave soul opened his mouth and introduced me to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
In fact, I was baptized into this church while living there only to learn I had breast cancer two days later. More was found three days later.
But how awesome that a loving Heavenly Father, knowing that cancer was in my customized curriculum, provided a gospel to help me through it and what other trials were to come.
Back then, though, I didn’t know I had a customized curriculum let alone fully understood what the gospel meant.
And I don’t fully now either. But I’m on my way.
And I’m excited about it.
That if I do my part. He will do His.
And not necessarily in the way I desire.
But in the way He knows best for me.
I also learned more about prayer. That it is, when I talk to Him. When I sincerely pour out my heart to Him and not just offer mere repetitious prayers.
And that when I want to know what He intends for me, I take time to listen after my prayers.
Oh, He answers alright, but it may not be what I asked for or how I intended.
We may at times, if we are not careful, try to pray away pain or what seems like an impending tragedy, but which is, in reality, an opportunity. We must do as Jesus did in that respect—also preface our prayers by saying, “If it be possible,” let the trial pass from us—by saying, “Nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou wilt,” and bowing in a sense of serenity to our Father in heaven’s wisdom, because at times God will not be able to let us pass by a trial or a challenge. If we were allowed to bypass certain trials, everything that had gone on up to that moment in our lives would be wiped out. It is because he loves us that at times he will not intercede as we may wish him to. (para. 6).
Adds Wilcox (2010), “Let us continue to pray for the removal of our thorns, but if our prayer seems unheeded, may we hear the whisper of the Lord, ‘Peace, child, I am at work’” (p. 13).
Additionally, I learned that answers to prayer come in His timetable, not mine.
After all, He knows what I need better than I.
For example, my asking to be healthy, but getting a cancer diagnosis. Looking back, although I was a train wreck when I first heard my diagnosis; today, so much good, blessings and miracles have come out of it.
“Given time, the Lord can extract the most good out of the most unfortunate of circumstances. Our love of God is more than matched by his love for us. That is why he will not allow negatives to remain negative. He will find a way to change the dynamics of our trials and turn them to blessings” (Wilcox, 2010, p. 8).
For instance, when I had my brain tumor removed last June, it was one of the most spiritual experiences for my husband and I. It actually was one of the best experiences in my life. Through earlier trials, He schooled me to embrace and love my brain tumor to further refine, teach and humble me.
we must pray, therefore, not that things be taken from us, but that God’s will be accomplished through us. What, therefore, may seem now to be mere unconnected pieces of tile will someday, when we look back, take form and pattern, and we will realize that God was making a mosaic (para. 13).
Wilcox (2010) agrees: “It is in the crucible of adversity that the gold of godliness is refined, molded, and shaped to perfection” (p. 9).
God has also provided instruction for us.
Wilcox (2011) even refers to them as letters from God.
So He didn’t just bring me (and you) here to navigate this life without instruction.
The frustrating thing for Him, I am sure, is that often we don’t pray to Him unless there is a crisis. The same with reading His books of instruction.
Instead, we rely on the arm of flesh –our own and others thinking– and not the arm of God.
Yet, believes Wilcox (2010), “Learning is one of the best ways to cope with adversity” (p. 128).
I know when I have been most happy and at peace, is when I pray and read the scriptures daily.
When I have hope and faith.
And not doubt and fear.
How grateful I am for a Heavenly Father that provides a customized curriculum for each one of us that refines, molds and shapes us to become more like Him so that He can use us as one of His tools to help build up His kingdom of God.
Praying for Trials
Some time ago I lived in a small town in rural Southern, Utah. There, people actually prayed for trials.
They knew that they were a means to become like God.
I’m not quite sure I am there yet with praying for trials, but when they come, today I embrace them and ask Him, “What do you want me to learn from this?” and “What do you want me to do with it?”
After all, it is not about me, but Him.
I’ll just go where He wants me to go.
And do what He wants me to do.
Even if I don’t understand.
FHE: The Book of Mormon. (2017). Retrieved from http://www.ldsliving.com/FHE-The-Book-of-Mormon/s/75294
History of LDS scriptures. (2016). Retrieved from https://www.lds.org/scriptures/history?lang=eng
Maxwell, N. A. (1990). But for a small moment. Retrieved from https://speeches.byu.edu/talks/neal-a-maxwell_small-moment/
Mormon Channel. (2017). Retrieved from https://www.mormonchannel.org/listen/series/enduring-it-well-audio/his-small-moment-nancy-maxwell-anderson-and-cory-maxwell-episode-55
Wilcox, S. M. (2010). What the scriptures teach us about adversity. Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book Company.
Wilcox, S. M. (2011). The Michael Wilcox collection. [CD ROM]. Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book Company.