Sometimes, in order to be successful in life, we must face difficult challenges head-on. Avoiding those challenges simply won’t work, and half-hearted participation will not produce satisfactory outcomes.
The prophet Jacob used the word “shrink” to describe the natural instinct to recoil from painful experiences. “It grieveth my soul and causeth me to shrink with shame,” he said, when he had to call his people to repentance. But he added, “Notwithstanding the greatness of the task, I must do according to the strict commands of God” (Jacob 2:6, 9).
Jacob, King Benjamin, and Alma all warned us that, if we are not prepared, we will “shrink with awful fear” when we stand before God at the Final Judgment. (See (2 Nephi 9:46, Mosiah 2:38, Mosiah 3:25, Mosiah 27:31.)
When Captain Moroni’s army was about to “shrink and flee” from a fierce enemy, he rallied them to victory by reminding them what they were fighting for (Alma 43:48).
As Jesus entered the garden of Gethsemane, “he began to be sore amazed, and to be very heavy.” To Peter, James, and John, He said, “My soul is exceedingly sorrowful unto death” (Mark 14:33-34). Then, He pleaded with His Father to spare Him the agony He was about to experience: “O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt” (Matthew 26:39).
Speaking many years later of that experience, the Savior explained to Joseph Smith, “[I] would that I might not drink the bitter cup and shrink” (Doctrine and Covenants 19:18).
On January 17, 1997, as Neal A. Maxwell walked to LDS Hospital in Salt Lake City, Utah, to begin 46 days of chemotherapy for leukemia, he held his wife’s hand and said, “I just don’t want to shrink” (Bruce C. Hafen, A Disciple’s Life: The Biography of Neal A. Maxwell , 16, quoted in David A. Bednar, “That We Might ‘Not…Shrink,’” CES Devotional for Young Adults, 3 March, 2013).
Later that year, Elder Maxwell taught the following in General Conference:
As we confront our own lesser trials and tribulations, we too can plead with the Father, just as Jesus did, that we “might not … shrink”—meaning to retreat or to recoil (D&C 19:18). Not shrinking is much more important than surviving! Moreover, partaking of a bitter cup without becoming bitter is likewise part of the emulation of Jesus.“Apply the Atoning Blood of Christ,” General Conference, October 1997
Today, I will not shrink from the challenges I face. I will remember the example of the Savior, who willingly suffered on our behalf, and who did not recoil from the task He knew He must complete.