Today, I was pondering a prophecy of the Savior written by Isaiah and later quoted by Abinadi (Isaiah 53:3-6, Mosiah 14:3-6). I was thinking about the contrast between worldly power and spiritual power as illustrated by the Savior’s experience. Isaiah dramatizes it by juxtaposing the Savior’s experience with our natural response to it:
|What He experienced||Our response|
|He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief;||and we hid as it were our faces from him;|
|he was despised,||and we esteemed him not.|
|Surely he has borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows;||yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.|
Isn’t that description at least a little bit relatable? When we see someone who is unsuccessful and unpopular, don’t we have an instinctive tendency to pull back, to observe the situation with some caution, and even to wonder what that person did to deserve his or her misfortune? Aren’t we somewhat inclined to ask ourselves how we can avoid their fate? How would we feel, then, if it turned out that they were not only innocent but that they had chosen to suffer this misfortune on our behalf!
When I read the following phrases out loud, I emphasize the words “we” and “our,” because for me, that captures the heart of Isaiah’s message: How ironic it is that the man who looked so unfortunate by worldly standards made it possible for us to receive an eternal reward:
But he was wounded for our transgressions,
he was bruised for our iniquities;
the chastisement of our peace was upon him;
and with his stripes we are healed.
(Isaiah 53:5, Mosiah 14:5)
As I think about those words today, I feel a desire to be careful how I react to the misfortunes of other people. Why do different people suffer in different ways? We don’t know. But, as the Savior demonstrated, suffering is not failure. If I had known the Savior when He was alive, would I have recognized His divinity, or would I have been distracted by His outward appearance? Would I have judged Him by the standards of worldly success or would I have been attuned to His abiding spiritual power?
This question has real implications for how I treat other people. “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of these least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me” (Matthew 25:40).
Today, I will remember that the Savior didn’t look successful during His mortal life. Those who judged Him by a worldly standard failed to recognize the Son of God standing among them. If I apply a worldly standard in my interactions with other people, I will likewise fail to recognize their intrinsic worth as sons and daughters of God.