Sunday, March 6, 2011

Out on a Limb

I like comparisons, or rather, I like healthy comparisons. Lately I’ve been thinking about some challenges in my life and how they seem to have something in common. The “something” is a recurring theme with a lot of variations. I think I know the theme well enough now that I’m not going out on a limb to share it.

When I was a kid, I liked climbing trees. I don’t remember ever falling out of a tree, or breaking my arm, but I do remember getting stuck in a few places where I needed some help. Feeling stuck is not a comfortable place to be. I don’t have to be hanging from a branch with four fingers to dislike it. Sometimes being in a place where I don’t feel like I can move without help is hard enough. That’s where faith comes in. It is a definite part of the theme.

The feeling of being stuck has been a familiar companion to my most difficult challenges. More often than not, it seems I am presented with a riddle that has no solution. The questions I have asked myself were not hard to understand, but the answers were elusive. Here are a few of my own examples.

How will my wife and I pay off a student loan and afford to start a family? How do I tell my boss I am uncomfortable with a company decision without losing my job? How can I possibly fit time in an already busy schedule to accept a calling and serve in my church? How can I complete my deadline at work without working on the Sabbath? How can I be at an important school play for my daughter and not neglect my client? With all that is expected of me, how will I possibly get everything done?

Whatever my questions may have been, I seem to have faired alright. In spite of elusive answers, my life hasn’t come to a screeching halt, and there isn’t a single question that has stopped me from moving forward. Yet, I have a tendency to freeze up when I am afraid. I avoid the choices I don’t want to make. Regardless of what is real, the way I perceive my circumstances can make it difficult for me to make good choices, especially if I worry too much about all the “what ifs.” The fact that I have navigated each of my challenges in the past is evidence that there was a way to do it.

This pattern of getting through difficult situations points to a significant personal observation – my biggest challenge has been my fears, not my circumstances.

The most successful way I have found through my challenges is to face them, and more importantly to face them with faith. Is this easier said than done? Yes. But, having the faith to believe that there is a way is a very important step. While many of my challenges have had the appearance of being impossible, or at least very unfavorable, not one of them has stopped me. One by one, I tackled each riddle, left my comfort zone, faced my fears, and went out on a limb. Where I thought I was stuck, I became a little less so by working to find a solution. My next step has been to turn to God.

If I truly believe that “with God nothing shall be impossible,” (Luke 1:37) and I won’t be tested “above that which I can bear,” (Alma 13:28) then I should also have faith in God that He will provide a way to get through every challenge. I can have confidence that He has already provided a way for me to get unstuck. This may be through my own efforts, or it may be from someone else who isn’t clinging to a branch. In whatever the circumstance, He will provide help. "Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you," is what He has promised. (Matthew 7:7)

Truer than finding a lost object in the last place you think to look, needed help often comes when you are at the end of your rope, or at the end of a branch. It comes right when you think you can’t possibly do any more. This is because you “receive no witness until after the trial of your faith.” (Ether 12:6)

God is our loving Father in Heaven. He wants us to be like Him. We become more like Him as we put our faith in Him – faith enough to do as much as we possibly can before He steps in. It’s the faith to act and face our circumstances, even when we are afraid or don’t want to. As we learn to face our fears and replace them with faith, we learn how to get unstuck faster. It happens with His help.

If you ever feel like you are being tested as much as you can possibly bear, hold on and turn to God. Don’t give up. God intends to test our faith to make us stronger. If you feel like you have to make an impossible decision, remember that help will be on its way. That’s what He has promised, and it’s worth remembering when you are stuck out on a limb.

What I Believe…

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