When the people of Alma miraculously escaped their captors and arrived in the land of Zarahemla, the people there “knew not what to think” (Mosiah 25:8). They were filled with mixed emotions: They were horrified at the treatment which the people of Alma had endured, but they were grateful for the goodness of God in delivering them. One factor which caused them to be filled with joy was “the immediate goodness of God, and his power in delivering Alma and his brethren out of the hands of the Lamanites” (Mosiah 25:10).
A review of the history might be helpful here, because, from the perspective of the people of Alma, their deliverance was anything but immediate. When they were taken captive by Lamanite soldiers, under the leadership of a man named Amulon who had a personal grudge against Alma, their suffering was so severe that “they began to cry mightily to God” (Mosiah 24:10). The immediate response to this prayer was not what they had hoped. Their captors commanded them to stop praying, on penalty of death. They continued to pray, but only in their hearts. Still, they were not freed from captivity. Instead, the Lord comforted them and strengthened them so that they were able to bear their burdens. Only after they had demonstrated their faith and patience in the Lord were they miraculously delivered from captivity (Mosiah 24:11-17).
In light of those events, why were the people in the land of Zarahemla grateful for “the immediate goodness of God” toward the people of Alma?
In the most recent general conference, Elder Kyle S. McKay provided two answers to this question:
- God’s timing is different from our timing. “When the Lord or His servants say things like, ‘Not many days hence’ or ‘The time is not far distant,’ it can literally mean a lifetime or longer. His time, and frequently His timing, is different from ours.” So, like the people of Alma, we may need to exercise faith and have patience. An experience that seems to never end when you are in the middle of it, can seem very fleeting after it is over.
- God does bless us immediately, just not always with the full blessing we seek. Elder McKay provided two examples of people who faced difficult trials which would last months and even years. In both cases, as they turned their hearts to God in their darkest hour, He filled them with His love. They felt comfort and assurance that He would be with them through their afflictions. “God’s love is immediate,” said Elder McKay. “nothing can…separate us from the constancy and immediacy of His divine paternal love” (“The Immediate Goodness of God,” General Conference, April 2019).
No wonder that Amulek promised the Zoramites that, “if ye will repent and harden not your hearts, immediately shall the great plan of redemption be brought about unto you” (Alma 34:31). You may face a difficult road. Your challenges may be far from over, and you may endure unforeseen challenges in the future. But God’s love for you is constant and current. He will not abandon you, and He will strengthen and comfort you if you will turn your heart to him.
Today, I will be grateful for “the immediate goodness of God.” I will remember that, what seems like a long time to me, may actually be very brief in retrospect and with an eternal perspective. I will also remember that God’s love is constant and that I will receive His strengthening influence—His grace—as quickly as I am able to open my heart to receive it.