I love the way Nephi teaches of Moses’ people as they journeyed in the wilderness (1 Nephi 17):
Nephi has an opportunity to liken the Jews’ toil in the wilderness to that of his brethren, who also find themselves absolved from a land of tribulation (Jerusalem) and left to be rule-makers themselves. Though the wilderness is in many ways God’s “clean slate” (a land untouched and filled with potential), man left to his own devices often equates the wilderness to barren lands, easy to get lost in and just as turbulent as lands left behind. In my own study of the gospel, I liken a wilderness to those tiresome and bleak journeys we often need to take, not knowing certain truths and not “succeeding”, at least to our own understanding.
In Relief Society on Sunday we discussed adversity and trials, and our teacher asked us, “why is this a part of our Father’s plan for us?” I thought of it. Why would it be a necessity for us to pass through such hardship? To be tried or proven? To be more like our saviour, who suffered so greatly for us in Gethsemane? I reflected on the times that I have struggled in my life, carrying burdens too great through rough terrain. Those moments were never easy: I had struggled and ambled. Felt helpless and alone at times. Felt conflicted and unsure. Truly the Lord had straightened me with His rod.
I thought of my struggles and wondered, “how would I be different without those hardships today?” I wouldn’t have learned too many great lessons about myself or my saviour’s atonement. I wouldn’t know what I was capable of overcoming. I wouldn’t know Him as well. I wouldn’t know what it is to turn to Him.
Nephi makes this observation too. As immense and powerful as our creator can seem, we often forget what’s most important about Him: He is simple and He is loving, and His plan for us is the same. Nephi recalled that Moses’ people were commanded simply to look, and something so small and simple would make them whole. Yet many would not turn to their God in obedience, and perished because of it. I definitely see this same conflict in my life in ways big and small. Too often I contend with the spirit and believe that the road to healing could be more gruesome and turbulent than remaining in the wilderness.
An answer to our teacher’s question resounded: we pass through trials and adversity in order to draw closer to Him. When we look to God for deliverance and commit to being obedient to His direction, when we are humbled and acknowledge our dependence on divinity, we draw closer to Him, and become more like Him. We understand better the principles of His plan for us. The process is at times difficult for us, but it straightens our course, and by extension, our very selves.