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Sunday, July 1, 2018

The Fallacy of “God Will Never Test You Beyond Your Known Limits”


Modern Day Davids and Goliaths


These days, we rarely witness a circumstance where a modern-day David beats a modern-day Goliath.

In my estimation, one of the greatest D&G stories in modern history is that of the medal-round game between the US and USSR during the 1980 Winter Olympics men's ice hockey tournament. The game is so significant in the annals of sports, that it acquired its own moniker: “The Miracle on Ice”.

Even of you aren’t much of a sports buff, I know that when you learn the story of the “Miracle on Ice” (as depicted in the 2004 movie, “Miracle”), and especially the tactics of Coach Herb Brooks, you’ll add a lot to your arsenal of spiritual strategies.

In case you’re not familiar with the backstory or movie of the “Miracle on Ice”, let me give you some back-story: In 1980, the US was living in a malaise: high inflation, gas shortages, 51 Iranian Embassy hostages, lack of confidence in the government, escalating international tensions and more. The US needed something hopeful to believe in. Unbeknownst to anybody, it was 20 kids who did the trick.

"I will try you and prove you herewith"


Brooks believed that for his team to win the gold medal, he would need to shove the Soviet’s game right back at them -- a truly unbelievable challenge. The USSR’s team was a heavy favorite to win again. Its primary weapon was intimidation: it consisted primarily of professional players with significant experience in international play and an unbelievably high degree of speed and execution. By contrast, the US's team consisted exclusively of amateur players, and was the youngest team in the tournament and in US national team history. So, there’s your Goliath and David.

Brooks’ strategy to beat Goliath was epic:
"This cannot be a team of common men because common men go nowhere. You have to be uncommon."
He implemented a grueling, rugged, six-month long pre-Olympic strategy where he worked his team harder and smarter than any other Olympic hockey team ever had. As one team member later said, “We thought, ‘He can do anything he wants to with us. But he’s not gonna break us.’” Then, just weeks before the Olympics, Brooks turned the screws even tighter by bringing in new players for tryouts. But the team never cracked; they bonded even stronger.

Immediately before the team met the Russians on the rink, Brooks told his team,
“Great moments are born from great opportunity. And that's what you have here tonight, boys. That's what you've earned here tonight. One game. If we played them ten times, they might win nine.
But not this game. Not tonight. Tonight we skate with them. Tonight we stay with them. And we shut them down because we can. Tonight, WE are the greatest hockey team in the world. You were born to be hockey players. Every one of you. And you were meant to be here tonight. This is your time. Their time is done. It's over. I'm sick and tired of hearing about what a great hockey team the Soviets have. This is your time. Now, go out there and take it.”

And they did. They beat the strongest, fastest, most skilled team in the world by a score of 4-3. The Americans then went on and steamrolled over the Finns 4-2 to grab the gold. And in so doing, America’s victory didn’t resolve any of the crises I mentioned above. But it did jump-start a new era of confidence, healthy pride, belief and conviction. The nation’s spirit was revitalized. All because of an event that was far greater than a hockey game.

The Real Reason for Your Personal Descent


This post isn’t necessarily about sports, hockey, the Olympics, the 1980 US Olympic Hockey team or Herb Brooks. It is, however, a classic example of one compelling, paradigm-busting concept:

God will test you beyond what you think is your limit.

This philosophy probably flies in the face of what you’ve been taught since you were a child -- that God will never test you beyond your known limits. But if God were to test you up to your self-appointed boundaries, then how would you ever experience true, meaningful spiritual growth?

Like Herb Brooks, the Lord will give the righteous uncommon lessons in our path of discipleship:
“God will deliberately give us further lessons and experience which take us beyond the curriculum common to man and on into uncommon graduate studies or even post-doctoral discipleship. These trials are often the most difficult to bear. Our Father is full of pressing, tutorial love: ‘The Lord seeth fit to chasten his people; yea, he trieth their patience and their faith’ (Mosiah 23:21). Nevertheless we are assured that "all these things shall give [us] experience, and shall be for [our] good," if we endure them well and learn from them (D&C 122:7; 121:8). For we are to learn much by our own experience." (Neal A. Maxwell, Not My Will, But Thine, p.5; emphasis mine)
“All intelligent beings who are crowned with crowns of glory, immortality, and eternal lives must pass through every ordeal appointed for intelligent beings to pass through, to gain their glory and exaltation. Every calamity that can come upon mortal beings will be suffered to come upon the few, to prepare them to enjoy the presence of the Lord.” (Discourses of Brigham Young, p. 345; emphasis mine)
In my interactions, I run across people all the time who are enrolled in the curriculum that’s common to man. They prioritize the temporal over the eternal, the telestial above the celestial. And all the while, they think that by virtue of being a member of the church, by having a temple recommend and not having done anything too bad, they have their ticket to paradise punched.

So you tell me: How can one expect to live in the company of the elect if they’re not on the same spiritual level as the elect? How can average, ordinary latter-day saint Jane or Joe possibly equate themselves to the likes of  the greatest righteous mortals to ever walk the planet?
"If we obtain the glory that Abraham obtained, we must do so by the same means that he did. If we are ever prepared to enjoy the society of Enoch, Noah, Melchizedek, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, or of their faithful children, and of the faithful Prophets and Apostles, we must pass through the same experience, and gain the knowledge, intelligence, and endowments that will prepare us to enter into the celestial kingdom of our Father and God. How many of the Latter-day Saints will endure all these things, and be prepared to enjoy the presence of the Father and the Son? You can answer that question at your leisure. Every trial and experience you have passed through is necessary for your salvation." (Discourses of Brigham Young, p.345; emphasis mine)
Many scriptures support Brother Brigham’s last sentence there. Afflictions are for our experience (D&C 122:5-7) and gain (2 Nephi 2:2), a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory (2 Corinthians 4:17; D&C 63:66) and ultimately, our exaltation (D&C 121:7–8).

Even our Lord himself demonstrated that He must descend below all things so that he could ascend above all things:
"He that ascended up on high, as also he descended below all things, in that he comprehended all things, that he might be in all and through all things, the light of truth; which truth shineth." (D&C 88:6-7)
Such experiences could very easily be described as “Abrahamic Tests”, where God tests you in a manner similar to that which Abraham faced when commanded to sacrifice Isaac. We read in D&C 101:4–5:
“Therefore, they must needs be chastened and tried, even as Abraham, who was commanded to offer up his only son. For all those who will not endure chastening, but deny me, cannot be sanctified”
(For more about Abrahamic Tests, I highly recommend you read two speeches:


Yet as we read in the story of Abraham, God provided a ram in the thicket -- a solution to the dilemma Abraham had to wrestle with.

But what if you’re asked to go through a test when there’s no immediate ram in the thicket?


Beyond Abrahamic Tests


I occasionally meet people who desire to have their calling and election made sure. While this is clearly a worthy desire, it seems at times that they lack a clear understanding of what they are asking for. They believe that they can obtain this blessing by praying, fasting, reading their scriptures, going to church, paying tithing, being charitable, learning the mysteries, etc.

I don’t think God hands out such supernal blessings just by us doing the ordinary. The US Olympic Hockey team didn’t get its gold -- and Abraham didn’t receive the Abrahamic Covenant -- just by doing the ordinary. They had to do the extraordinary, stretching themselves far beyond what they -- and others -- considered possible. This may have been what Brother Joseph was alluding to when he said:
“After a person has faith in Christ, repents of his sins, and is baptized for the remission of his sins and receives the Holy Ghost, (by the laying on of hands),which is the first Comforter, then let him continue to humble himself before God, hungering and thirsting after righteousness, and living by every word of God, and the Lord will soon say unto him, Son, thou shalt be exalted. When the Lord has thoroughly proved him, and finds that the man is determined to serve Him at all hazards, then the man will find his calling and his election made sure, then it will be his privilege to receive the other Comforter, which the Lord hath promised the Saints, as is recorded in the testimony of St. John, in the 14th chapter, from the 12th to the 27th verses. (History of the Church, 3:379-381; emphasis mine).
I’ve noticed that sometimes, people kind of gloss over that “at all hazards” section. Bad move. We need to be prepared for the fact that “all hazards” may at times mean that there will be no immediate ram in the thicket, no immediate angel to stop the knife, as there were with Abraham. You may be stuck in your Abrahamic Test for years...and maybe for the rest of your life.

Is such a thing even possible? Could God try and test us with no solution, maybe in this life?

Yes.

Paul faced that reality. He said,
“And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me. . . . For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:7–9).
Many suffer from a thorn in the flesh or a weakness that is excruciating, which God may see fit not to remove. Some endure debilitating addictions they wish they never had. Others live with mental illnesses for which there are no cures. And a few have survived -- and are frequently reminded daily -- of abuses so horrific, so heinous, that they could only be accurately described as “satanic”.

All of us know people, faithful people, who are afflicted with some debilitating illness that lasts and lasts, maybe for a lifetime. Neither prayers nor fasts nor tears nor blessings nor medicine relieves the condition. All that is left is to patiently endure.

On this note, I'd like to introduce you to my friend, Cheryl (not her real name). She's a married LDS housewife in her 40s, has several kids and is deeply spiritual. She’s the kind of person you could be sitting next to in Sacrament Meeting or Relief Society, yet you’d never know it. You need to read her story:


A Real-Life, Modern-Day Story of Extraordinary Spiritual Descent and Ascent


Touching the Depths of Hell

For 11 years, I suffered from severe, chronic pain. Four of those years were accompanied with periodic, months-long insomnia. If you’re unaware of chronic pain, click here for a handy pain scale chart. My pain was routinely (all hours, every day) between 4 and 10. As for the insomnia, without sleep, the body builds up toxins within your body and mind. Imagine what this can be like if you haven’t slept a couple of days. For me, I literally was awake the entire night, from sunset to sunrise, at all times of the day for days, weeks and months straight.

You’re probably thinking, “Where were the anesthesiologists, pain and sleep doctors?” They had no suggestions and no desire to help. I don’t even know if they believed me. Once, I was given sedation at the ER. They said it would knock me out. It didn’t. After all, so many people say things like, “I didn’t sleep last night.” What they usually mean is that they didn’t sleep well, or they woke up several times. That wasn’t me. Far from it.

I’m not sure if you can imagine what chronic pain + chronic insomnia can do to a person, but I can tell you through first-hand experience that you experience a living hell. In the darkness, depression and despair of my decrepit body, I can honestly say that I have experienced the depths of hell. I say that because I would be on my back, in the bathroom, stretching out my hands, begging God to either take away the pain or to take me home. Day after day, hour after hour, minute after minute, no relief came. I had to walk this path alone.

Yet through it, I never denied Christ, Heavenly Father or Mother. I couldn’t. I wouldn’t.

Alone.

Naturally, one would seek a priesthood blessing through all of this. I had dozens of them. Dozens. They would say that I am a daughter of God, that God was aware of me and God loves me. I was told to keep praying, keep reading my scriptures, go to the temple -- all the basics. Yet to be honest, not one of them was a blessing. They were closer to prayers given by the person giving the blessing.

In my desperation, I asked God if there was one priesthood holder in my stake who could bless me. Give me at least temporary relief. Just give me a breather. Please, just one priesthood holder! I received a definite word in my mind:

No (including my husband).

The Spark of Life

Shortly thereafter, my 19 year-old son was about to go on a mission. He had recently received the Melchizedek Priesthood. He believed my pain was real. He saw the torment and torture his mom had experienced for years. His heart was moved to compassion, and wanted to help and make sure I didn’t suffer while he was away for two years.

The day I asked my son to give me a blessing, I received revelation on what he should say and do. When he gave the blessing, it was profound. He said he was shocked by the feeling that he had while giving the blessing. He could feel the power of God working through him.

On that day, for the first time in many months, I got relief. I could sleep. Not a lot, but a little bit. Enough for my mind and my emotions to start healing. Between that day and the day he left on his mission three weeks later, he grew in his confidence in the power of the priesthood. And I grew in confidence that somehow, some way, I was turning a corner in my life.

As I look back on it, I’m amazed that my 19 year-old son was the least - the youngest - of all the Melchizedek Priesthood holders in my stake. But his blessing had more results, more fruits, than all the others combined. It’s true: “out of small things proceedeth that which is great.” (D&C 64:33).

-  -  -

So that’s Part 1 of Cheryl’s story.

In my next post, I’ll pick up right where I left off. You’ll see how Cheryl was healed, and almost instantly released from the depths of hell by one person with extraordinary faith and priesthood power. You’ll also read about how far she has ascended, to heights that are just as high as the depths she experienced (and perhaps more).





2 comments:

  1. Thank you so much for this message. It is an answer to my prayers.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Gripping, wonderful, POWERFUL DEEP TRUTHS!!!

    ReplyDelete