Hard times happen for a reason. The changes we need to make, the growth God wants us to experience, don’t come easily. When life seems particularly difficult, we may be experiencing a “growth spurt.”
When the prophet Abinadi was executed by King Noah, Alma, who had been one of Noah’s priests, was horrified at what he had been a part of. Like waking up from a bad dream, he recognized the destructive impact of his words and actions and was saddened to think of what he had done. But as he later explained to his people, this sadness eventually enabled him to become a force for good:
After much tribulation, the Lord did hear my cries, and did answer my prayers, and has made me an instrument in his hands in bringing so many of you to a knowledge of his truth.Mosiah 23:10
His son, also named Alma, experienced his own crisis when an angel warned him to stop trying to destroy the church. His description of his subsequent process of repentance sounds a lot like his father’s:
After wading through much tribulation, repenting nigh unto death, the Lord in mercy hath seen fit to snatch me out of an everlasting burning, and I am born of God.Mosiah 27:28
On August 1, 1831, Joseph Smith received a revelation on behalf of a group of church members who had recently arrived in Jackson County, Missouri. Some of them were unimpressed with this raw prairie and had hoped for a more comfortable place to live. The Lord explained to them that amazing blessings awaited them if they were first willing to pass through difficult times:
Ye cannot behold with your natural eyes, for the present time, the design of your God concerning those things which shall come hereafter, and the glory which shall follow after much tribulation.
For after much tribulation come the blessings.Doctrine and Covenants 58:3-4
He then ominously warned them to remember this promise: “that you may lay it to heart, and receive that which is to follow” (Doctrine and Covenants 58:5).
What was to follow?
Two and a half years later, they had been driven from their homes and found themselves temporarily living in nearby counties hoping for relief from severe persecution. At that time, Joseph received another revelation in which the Lord reminded them of the promise:
I have decreed that your brethren which have been scattered shall return to the lands of their inheritances, and shall build up the waste places of Zion.
For after much tribulation, as I have said unto you in a former commandment, cometh the blessing.
Behold, this is the blessing which I have promised after your tribulations, and the tribulations of your brethren—your redemption, and the redemption of your brethren, even their restoration to the land of Zion, to be established, no more to be thrown down.Doctrine and Covenants 103:11-13
Sister Linda S. Reeves has testified that the same principle applies in our lives:
The Lord has a plan for each of our lives. Nothing that happens is a shock or a surprise to Him. He is all-knowing and all-loving. He is eager to help us, to comfort us, and to ease our pain as we rely on the power of the Atonement and honor our covenants. The trials and tribulation that we experience may be the very things that guide us to come unto Him and cling to our covenants so that we might return to His presence and receive all that the Father hath.“Claim the Blessings of Your Covenants,” General Conference, October 2013
Today, I will remember that the tribulation I experience is essential to my growth. I will trust the Lord’s timing. The challenges I experience may last longer than I hope, but they will serve their essential purpose and lead to great blessings.