32 And in the days of your poverty ye shall cry unto the Lord; and in vain shall ye cry, for your desolation is already come upon you, and your destruction is made sure; and then shall ye weep and howl in that day, saith the Lord of Hosts.
Our mortal life is designed in a way that creates a space between many of our decisions and their consequences. Some decisions, like touching a hot oven, have immediate consequences, and we tend to choose wisely in those cases. But for many of our other decisions, there is a delay between the decision and the consequence. That delay is part of what makes this life a “probationary state” (Alma 12:24, Alma 42:4). Because we don’t experience the full punishment for our bad decisions immediately, we have time to repent voluntarily. But we will only do this if we have the foresight to recognize that consequences are coming and that we need help.
In the first chapter of Isaiah, the prophet speaks about future consequences in the present tense:
Your country is desolate, your cities are burned with fire: your land, strangers devour it in your presence, and it is desolate, as overthrown by strangers.
And the daughter of Zion is left as a cottage in a vineyard, as a lodge in a garden of cucumbers, as a besieged city (Isaiah 1:7-8).
His goal was to help his people visualize the direction they were heading and take corrective action now, before it was too late. (See Victor L. Ludlow, Isaiah: Prophet, Seer, and Poet, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1982, pp. 74-75.)
Likewise, in the passage above, Samuel the Lamanite warns the people that desolation, destruction, and poverty are in their future. When the consequences come, they will cry for deliverance, but it will be too late. The time to plead for deliverance is now, before the consequences occur.
Today, I will remember that the consequences of my actions in this life are delayed for a reason—so that I can exercise faith and freely choose repentance. I will strive to see clearly the future consequences of my current actions and let those consequences motivate me as though they were immediate. I will choose to repent now rather than wait for the consequences of my actions to be evident.