I do not believe that sheer suffering teaches. If suffering alone taught, all the world would be wise, since everyone suffers. To suffering must be added mourning, understanding, patience, love, openness and the willingness to remain vulnerable.
—Anne Morrow Lindbergh, Hour of Gold, Hour of Lead: Diaries and Letters of Anne Morrow Lindbergh, 1929-1932 (1973), p. 3
Alma the Younger told the poor among the Zoramites that their afflictions gave them a great opportunity. If they chose, they could respond to their challenges by humbling themselves before God and repenting of their sins. If they did so, He would have mercy on them (Alma 32:12-16).
At the end of a massive war that lasted many years, Mormon explained the effect of the war on the survivors:
Because of the exceedingly great length of the war
between the Nephites and the Lamanites
many had become hardened,
because of the exceedingly great length of the war;
and many were softened
because of their afflictions,
insomuch that they did humble themselves before God,
even in the depth of humility.
Many were hardened; many were softened. The suffering was the same, but its effect on the individual depended on their humility.
The people of King Limhi suffered much. Their captors “would smite them on their cheeks, and exercise authority over them; and began to put heavy burdens upon their backs, and drive them as they would a dumb ass” (Mosiah 21:3). Three times they went to battle to free themselves, and all three times they lost, incurring heavy casualties. There were so many widows in the land that the king commanded every man to provide for them, so that they wouldn’t starve (Mosiah 21:17).
The turning point in their story came when they intentionally adopted a different attitude toward their situation. Instead of being filled with anger, they chose to humble themselves:
They did humble themselves even to the dust, subjecting themselves to the yoke of bondage, submitting themselves to be smitten, and to be driven to and fro, and burdened, according to the desires of their enemies.
And they did humble themselves even in the depths of humility; and they did cry mightily to God; yea, even all the day long did they cry unto their God that he would deliver them out of their afflictions.
Immediately after the people adopted this attitude of humility, the Lord began to bless them. He softened the hearts of their captors, so that their burdens became lighter. They produced more food, so that they didn’t suffer so much hunger. Then, the Lord sent a messenger from Zarahemla—Ammon—who helped them escape. All of these blessings came after they chose humility.
Today, I will choose to humble myself before God. I will remember that the difficulties I face can be a blessing for me, but only if I react to them with an attitude which invites God to bless me.