BLOG: (August 15-21) Psalms 49-86, "Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and he shall sustain thee"
It’s been quite a week for me and my family. Last minute divinely-guided changes in our schooling plans sent me running all over town to register children for school and make sure they had what they needed to start school the next day. That was Tuesday. On Wednesday, five of my children attended their first day of school. On Thursday, my kindergartner had her first full day of class (Wednesday was just kindergarten orientation) and I learned that being home with a two-year-old all day is not easier than being home with seven kids of varying ages. ("All of my helpers are gone! When am I supposed to clean? Cook? Study? Shower?") I’m still figuring all of that out. It’ll come. But it was a bit of a shock to expect life to slow down once school started (“I’ll just have one kid at home! It will be so easy!”), and instead have life intensify. I’m still reeling a little.
President Eyring has said that “if you are on the right path, it will always be uphill.” I know this, and yet somehow I am still surprised when following a prompting leads to challenges. ("Wait - I did what You said, aren’t things supposed to get easier?")
President Eyring was right. The Lord's path for us is always uphill, and that means when we follow a prompting, often that will lead to things getting harder - not easier - at least at first. Heavenly Father’s goal is not to make life easier for us. His goal is to make life better for us, and to prepare us for opportunities and blessings that are still ahead - which He does through giving us opportunities to learn and grow through hard work and effort and exercising faith. I did not expect my day-to-day life to get harder when I followed the prompting to put six of my children in school this year. I thought things would get easier. But instead I found myself off balance, working to find myself again, trying to figure this out, tired and sometimes discouraged. This is normal, and it is part of the growth process. As I struggle, I grow.
Here’s the good news: even though the right path is always uphill, we don’t have to climb that hill alone.
I love this verse in the 55th Psalm:
Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and he shall sustain thee: he shall never suffer the righteous to be moved. (Psalm 55:22)
I am still learning how to do this. I forget regularly, and try to soldier on, carrying my burden alone. I did that again this week. I do it often. Every new challenge seems to knock me off balance a little, and I have to figure out how to move forward all over again. And often I think I have to do that figuring out all on my own. This time, as hard as I tried to do the math, it just didn’t add up. I could not figure out how to do all the things that needed to be done. I was praying about it, and shuffling things around, trying to make it all fit, and I simply couldn’t do it. I finally realized the reason it wasn’t working was I was trying to do it all myself. I needed to ask for help, and let others carry some of the burden with me. And I had to let the stress go, and trust the Lord that if He asked me to do this, it really will be the best thing for my kids, and for me, and He will help us.
The Lord desires our eternal happiness. That comes through growth and through becoming more like Him. When He invites us to do something, it is often harder for us, at least at first, because we have to grow into it. But as we cast that burden - our stress and fears and overwhelm - on Him, we will find that with His help and sustaining power we can do whatever we are asked to do. In a powerfully instructive talk about this subject (go read it!), Elder Bednar taught that the Atonement of Jesus Christ has two interconnected and inseparable parts: the redeeming power, to cleanse us from our sins, and the enabling (or empowering) power that makes it possible for us to do and become more than we are on our own. He said, “Grace is the divine assistance or heavenly help each of us desperately needs to qualify for the celestial kingdom. Thus, the enabling power of the Atonement strengthens us to do and be good and to serve beyond our own individual desire and natural capacity” (Source). God asks a lot of us, sometimes. But He never asks us to do it alone. His Atonement provides the sustaining and empowering power to do whatever He asks us to do. At the same time that He is inviting us to do something that feels bigger than we feel capable of, He is also offering us His strength and capacity to help us do that thing. An invitation to do something that makes us stretch is also an invitation to become more than we already are, to grow into that role or responsibility or capacity. We know we can’t do it, and so does He. But He also knows that with Him, we can. And that is what He is asking of us.
A friend once told me that while he was serving his mission, after a while he started getting excited when he learned about a new mission rule or a commandment, because he knew every opportunity to be obedient was a package deal that led straight to more blessings, and he needed all the blessings he could get. I have learned that the same is true of the Lord’s promptings to us - our personal commandments. They may not make life easier at first. But they are for our good, and they absolutely do lead to more blessings as we choose to trust and obey. Like the widow of Zarapheth, often when the Lord wants to help us, He gives us a chance to obey Him first, and that act of faith and obedience opens the door to His help and sustaining power. In choosing to trust and obey Him, and to ask for His help, we give our burden to Him, and He sustains us. He turns what we already had into enough.
The process often looks like this:
We are struggling. We ask for help.
The Lord gives us a prompting, an opportunity to act in faith.
We obey (thinking things will get easier if we do).
Things don’t get easier; in fact, they often get harder at first.
We think we are doing something wrong because we wanted things to get easier and instead they got harder. (WE ARE NOT DOING SOMETHING WRONG. THIS IS PART OF THE PROCESS.)
We cry out to the Lord for help. We keep trying.
It is hard, but the Lord sustains us from day to day so we can do what we need to do.
Eventually things get easier AS OUR CAPACITY TO DO WHAT WE ARE ASKED TO DO INCREASES.
The Lord doesn’t take away our struggles. He gives us the strength and capacity to endure and/or overcome them ourselves, over time, as we exercise faith in Him.
As President Nelson taught, the covenant path “is rigorous and at times will feel like a steep climb. This ascent, however, is designed to test and teach us, refine our natures, and help us to become saints. It is the only path that leads to exaltation” (Source).
The fact that it is hard does not mean we are doing something wrong. But sometimes, for me at least, it does mean I haven’t fully accepted the Lord's invitation to cast my burdens on Him and let the enabling power of His Atonement strengthen, sustain, and empower me. I know He is ready and waiting to help us when we come unto Him. He will not give us anything we can’t handle with His help. So cast your burdens upon the Lord. Ask for His sustaining, empowering, power to help you do what you are called to do. If you are on the right path, it will always be uphill…but the Lord will be walking it with you, strengthening and sustaining you, and when you reach out for His hand He will always be there to help you through.