Believe it or not, all of us struggle with this question in one way or another. Some of us struggle on a very basic level. Am I going to church, or not? Am I going to drink alcohol today, or not? Am I going to read my scriptures today or not?
Some of us are struggling with things that we know we should do but maybe don't want to do. Should I invite my friend to church, or not? Should I write that letter, or not? Sometimes we have definite impressions and instead of saying, "Hey, that's a great idea!" we say, "Oh Heck No, I am not doing THAT!" (This is usually me....)
Because that is my typical response to many things asked of me, obedience has been a learned art. Forever, my favorite scripture has been 1st Nephi 3:7:
And it came to pass that I Nephi said unto my father, I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded for I know the Lord giveth no commandment unto the children of men save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them.
And why is it my favorite, you ask? Well, because I tend to have a major attitude problem. My heart's desire is to do what the Lord asks of me. That is the innate desire of my heart. But many, many times, I am asked to do something I do not want to do, or something I am afraid to do, or something I feel I just cannot do. When I have those feelings, I remind myself of my favorite scripture. I remind myself that if the Lord is asking it of me, then He has already prepared a way for me to do what He asks of me. I just have to figure out what that looks like and align my attitude with the task at hand.
I LOVE Nephi's faith! I love that he does hard things. His brothers were saying, "Heck no, I am not doing that!" But Nephi said, I will go and I will do. At those times when I have the 'heck no' feelings, I look at some of the things the Lord asked of those men and women in the scriptures and compare what He is asking of me. It isn't usually to do things anywhere close to what He asked of them. Then I try to tell myself that I am not being asked to walk back to Jerusalem to get the plates, or live in the wilderness for eight years, or build a boat, so maybe I can just do what He is asking??!! I try not to compare what I am asked to do to what my neighbor or Susie Homemaker or Peggy Perfect or even Loafing Lucy is asked, because, let's be honest, those aren't really fair comparisons. I do not completely know what is going on in those women's lives, and even if I am close enough to them to know, I don't know the deep places in their hearts and how what is being asked of them affects them. I really, only know how being asked is affecting me. In those circumstance, the Lord tailors each person's learning curriculum. In other words, we all have our own IEP (Individualized Education Plan). It doesn't matter what Peggy Perfect is asked to do, because what is asked of her is for her IEP. What is asked of me is for my IEP. We cannot really compare, because we are on different tracks and usually in different places, learning different principles. Let's face it, comparing ourselves with others is not a tool the Lord would encourage, even though we all do it at different points, for good or ill.
If the behavior asked of me is difficult or undesirable on my part, then I recognize a couple of principles:
- The Lord loves me.
- He wants what is best for me and what will make me happy.
- He knows the results of what He is asking me to do.
- He knows why it is important for me to do whatever it is.
- He knows what growth and development is necessary for my eternal salvation (That would be the I [individual] in IEP).
- He is incapable of giving bad gifts. He doesn't give stones and serpents, only bread and fish. When He asks something of me, it is because He desires to bless me in some way and my obedience to His request is necessary for the blessing He has in mind.
- Sacrifice and obedience are the first laws of the gospel. They go together. Always, sacrifice is involved in obedience. It is only when I have made the sacrifice of obedience that the Lord is then allowed to bless me with the oil of testimony.
- Sacrifice hurts, that is why it is called sacrifice. If it doesn't hurt, it wasn't a sacrifice.
- I do not like pain.
- If left to myself, I would never do anything that caused me discomfort.
- Then I would never grow.
- There is a certain amount of pain and suffering (and a lot of obedience) involved in growth.
- Heavenly Father will not force me to participate. He suggests that I do what He asks. If I do, He blesses me. If I do not, well, sometimes there are consequences and sometimes I just do not receive the blessing. Sometimes I forfeit the blessing. (That is something I try really hard to consider when I am trying diligently to change my attitude so that I conform my behavior to obedience and willingly make the sacrifices necessary. Much harder to do than to say.)
- One day it hit me. Heavenly Father is God because He obeys the laws perfectly. He is perfectly obedient. There are laws, eternal laws, that govern the universe and beyond, laws like agency, opposition in all things, sacrifice, obedience, all blessings predicated upon obedience, etc (and many more I do not apparently know yet) but Heavenly Father knows them and has shown that He is not going to violate them, ever, which is why He is allowed to be who He is.
- If I want to be like Him, I have to learn to have that same kind of obedience, which is why my favorite scripture reminds me that anything He asks of me, I can do----because He already made a way for me to accomplish it. He wants me to succeed and He has planned the way for me to do so.