A Perfect Hope in Christ
I have been thinking about the topic of this talk for awhile. I have reviewed many of the subjects that I have read and written about, whether it was for church or for a school assignment. I listened to the General Conference addresses given at the beginning of last month. I thought about my experiences in life, even though I have not been on the Earth for very long. Most importantly, I have prayed, and studied the scriptures. And each time, my mind has come back to the same subject. I was a bit confused as to why, since it is not a virtue that I feel especially strong in. But as I studied, I once again came across a certain verse, which is found in the twenty-seventh verse of the twelfth chapter of the Book of Ether, and reads, “. . . I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.” I do not know why God does many of the things that He does, whether it is a spiritual prompting to talk about a certain subject, or the different flaws that each person has. Really, all I can do is to simply follow His commandments and exhortations, and to have the faith that doing so will result in good. And I have chosen to do so. Today, I will speak about hope.
Like many other words, especially when used in different contexts, hope has many definitions. The worldly outlook on the word hope is a bit warped compared to how people of the Church see it. Regular hope is admirable in today's society, but it is not considered perfect. It can pertain to small and trivial matters, or something much more important. I may hope for a sunny day, or a rainy day, depending on my mood. Some people may hope for a good score on a test, or for a certain movie to be entertaining. I may hope for the world to be a better place. I may hope for the crime rate to drop. I may hope that this life here on Earth will be enjoyable. Unfortunately, however, this kind of regular optimism, which is a manifestation of hope, is sometimes regarded as naive, since there is usually a chance of that hope failing. Of course, this does not mean that always looking on the bright side is a bad thing, and in fact, it helps us develop godly hope even more quickly. However, godly hope is different. Where there was a small expectation of failure before in the everyday sense of the word, hope in God and Jesus Christ are unfailing.
The difference between these two types is slight, but important. For example, when I said I may hope for a sunny day, I am putting my trust in something that is very unreliable, which is the weather. But when I put my hope in the Father and His Son, I am putting my hope in two living beings that are unchanging. In fact, God is sometimes referred to as the Eternal Father, such as in the sacramental prayers. Christ is also called the Rock of our salvation, and whose doctrine is the foundation of our most basic beliefs. Also, because of this permanence, and the Father and Son's omniscience, hope in them is not restricted to short term events, even though it is still applicable. What this means is that although all we may see is the now, God and Christ are able to see the end result, which, if we do well while here on Earth, is salvation. This hope for the end result of salvation, which is referred to in Hebrews 6:19 as an “anchor of the soul,” can be a refuge for us, a feeling to retreat to even when the world seems at its darkest. What we do in those times of tribulation is not forgotten, and as it states in verses 10-11 of the same chapter in Hebrews, “. . .God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labor of love, which ye have shewed toward his name . . . And we desire that every one of you do shew the same diligence to the full assurance of hope unto the end.”
However, it's kind of hard to only think of hope in Christ all of the time, since He is not physically here with us. That is why it is a good idea to find hope in ourselves and those around us, especially those who embody the different attributes of Christ. A certain Christ-like attribute that I can easily think of is that of diligence, and I'm pretty sure that my father knows the meaning of it pretty well. He has had a hard working life for the past few decades, and sometimes has had to perform his physically demanding job for days at a time, often with no sleep whatsoever. Because of his diligence, I was able to be raised in a good home, and even though my family may have started out a bit short on physical necessities, we are now reasonably well off. Because I had this environment to grow up in, my mother was able to raise me very well, seeing as how she, like my father, knows the meaning of diligence as much as any hard working parent. My parents exemplify the hope that through diligence, we can make our homes a better place for our children. Both of my parents were sure to teach this to their children, to make sure that we would work hard when tasks were set before us.
One of these tasks was that of paying for college. As many of you may know, I attended BYU last year. I was fortunate enough to receive a scholarship, because of the time and diligence that I put into my schoolwork. This is because, true to their self-sufficient nature, my parents decided early on that if any of their children would attend college, they would pay for it themselves, and that help would be given only when it was both necessary and deserved. Of course, my parents were still kind, and sent me packages every once in awhile, but they were adamant about their children giving as much effort as possible to make their own way in life. That is why, once I had worked long enough to save up for college, I had it in my mind that I was on my own. However, when I started to go to my new classes, I felt overwhelmed. I knew that I had to keep my GPA as high as possible in order to maintain my scholarship, but it was harder than any other mental exertion that I had ever had to deal with. I did not think that I could do it. My confidence in my abilities began to drop, and my hope for a successful college career plummeted. Like we sometimes do in relation to our lives, I believed that my happiness was hinged upon earthly success. I focused on the now, instead of keeping in mind the rewards that await us if we focus on eternal matters, instead of just the temporal.
This all culminated on one early morning in September of last year. I had gotten out of bed a few hours before anyone else in my dorm, and like I usually did, I was preparing for the day after exercising. But that day, I was not doing very well. I was thinking of three exams that were coming up, one after the other. The fact that they were the first tests of my college experience made the situation even worse. I started to focus on them, and started getting a little worried. Eventually, that worry grew. It was all I could think about. I started to despair a little. My hope was dwindling. I am not exaggerating when I say that I thought that if I did not do well on those tests, I would be a failure. And, like we sometimes do, I equated my failure or success in this temporary life to the failure or success in infinite spiritual life. I forgot how that even if I was not a successful student, I could be successful in my duty to God. The result of all of this was extreme anxiety. However, I was sure to make one choice, which changed the outcome of that day. I knelt down, and I prayed. On my knees, I addressed my Father in Heaven, and, for the lack of a better word, complained about my inadequacies. I started to get emotional. Tears began to form, and a few started to run down my face. I began to be very disappointed in myself, since I was at BYU, a place where only a small number of people are fortunate enough to attend. “My situation is nothing compared to what other people have to deal with. Why can't I do this?” I wondered. That was when a thought came into my mind. I didn't feel as though I was the one who came up with it, and instead, I felt like it had been placed there. But even though my own thought processes were not the source of this idea, it didn't seem entirely foreign. In fact, it seemed like I was just being gently reminded of something that might have been there all along. That something was the example of my parents, and the Christ-like diligence that they have displayed in their lives. I thought about my father, who at one point worked for nearly an entire week without sleep. I thought about my mother, who raised five children while my father was away. I thought, “I must be kidding myself. They have done so much. And all that I am asked to do is learn. All I have to do is maintain a scholarship. What do I have to complain about?”
It was at this point that my hope started to return, and in a few ways. I thought about how if other people can accomplish so much, and overcome huge difficulties, why I would be any different. Why shouldn't I be able to do it? I put hope in the diligence that I had been taught, and I acted upon it. What's more, I thought about the kindness of my parents, and how I had doubted their wish to see me succeed. I realized that even if I failed, and lost my scholarship, and was unable to pay the price for college, they would help. If I had given all of my effort, they would see that, and fill in the rest. I put hope in their kindness and their love. I put hope in my own and in my parents' Christ-like attributes. Indirectly, I put my hope in Christ.
And that hope did not fail. I was able to be successful that first year, and the exams that I was worried about were overcome. I diligently studied, and I received my reward. More importantly, I did not forget the hope that God reminded me of that morning, and I thanked Him for it. In fact, I got into the habit of thanking Him before every test and exam, and during any hardship that I was currently experiencing. I learned that when I put my hope in God, His Son, and the help that they give to men through their attributes, it cannot fail.
However, as I began to realize near the end of this situation, and as many of you are probably thinking, the trial that I endured while at BYU was nowhere near some of the afflictions that others endure. I was blessed to even be in those circumstances, and to be where I am today. God has given me so much that it doesn't seem fair sometimes. I live in America, which may have problems, but as far as I am concerned, is the best nation on Earth. I live in California, which might have a wet fall season, but is amazing. I was born into the Church. I have a loving family. I'm allegedly intelligent. I have had good friends, whether here or while I was at BYU. I have a chance to repay God in some small way while I serve my mission. In fact, even when I am serving Him, He gives back more to me than I could ever imagine.
All these blessings seem even greater when compared to the trials that Christ himself endured. And even though my own experiences may not be much of an example to draw hope from, seeing as how blessed I was even in the midst of my “hardship,” we can always find hope in the example of the Son of God. He experienced greater pain and anguish than any of us can ever imagine. When He took upon himself the sins and the afflictions of the world, His pain was so great that He bled from every pore. Our ordeals pale in comparison to His. He was surrounded by the publicans and sinners of the Earth during His earthly ministry, and the people that He was sent to preach to even crucified Him when He had done nothing but live up to His divine heritage. And even while He was in the midst of all these tribulations, He still had hope. He was able to put trust in His Father's Plan, and that, when given the choice, there would be men and women that would utilize His Atonement in order to make their way back to God. He, even when suffering absolute pain in the Garden of Gethsemane and the torture of the crucifixion, did not give up hope in His brothers and sisters.
And neither should we. We must never give up hope in ourselves, our fellow man, and the promise of God that whether it will be in this life or the next, we will be happy not according to our earthly success, but by our honest effort in keeping the Lord's commandments. We will all be delivered one day. We can put our trust in the assurances of God, that we will be saved from our pains here on Earth. In fact, God reminds us multiple times in the scriptures that the difficulties experienced here are not for our discomfort, but for our education and growth. Even when the worst of trials come upon us, we should remember that it is for our good. Now, there are many scriptures that contain this promise, but I have a particular favorite, and is found in the D&C. It is found in the seventh and eighth verses in section 122, and reads, “And if thou shouldst be cast into the pit, or into the hands of murderers, and the sentence of death passed upon thee; if thou be cast into the deep; if the billowing surge conspire against thee; if fierce winds become thine enemy; if the heavens gather blackness, and all the elements combine to hedge up the way; and above all, if the very jaws of hell shall gape open the mouth wide after thee, know thou, my son, that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good. The Son of Man hath descended below them all. Art thou greater than he?”
I know that we can find hope in Christ's example, no matter how serious our current circumstances are. He made an infinite sacrifice, and received an infinite reward: eternal life, the chance to live again with His family for eternity. I may not have the most experience in the world, and I may not have the most wisdom. I may not have been through the greatest trials that can come upon us, and have in fact been blessed more than I deserve. But even if I don't know anything else, I know one thing, and it is this: no matter where we are, Christ has known what it is like to be there. He knows how to endure it, and how to help us do the same. And He will help us. All we have to do is ask, and to never to give up the hope that when the time comes, He will answer us. And we will receive a greater reward than we can ever imagine.