In 1914 when the inventor Thomas Edison was 67 years old, his factory in West Orange, New Jersey, went up in flames. Everything he had worked for was gone. His son Charles searched frantically for his father and finally found him, calmly watching the fire. Charles was understandably worried for his dad. “He was 67 — no longer a young man — and everything was going up in flames. When he saw me, he shouted, “Charles, where’s your mother?” When I told him I didn’t know, he said, ‘Find her. Bring her here. She will never see anything like this as long as she lives.’” What an outlook on life!
The next day, as they surveyed what was left, the great inventor remarked, “There is great value in disaster. All our mistakes are burned up. Thank God we can start anew.” What an attitude!
The problem with us is that we tend to place value on the wrong things. I have often told my martial arts students that “there is much more to life than the martial arts.” It is so with any of the mundane things we get caught up in. The material things we place such value on will not leave with us when our time comes to exit this life. Our character, forged through our attitude in facing trials and hardship certainly will. What will it be, bitterness because “life is unfair” or that quiet dignity which comes from our faith in God?
I love to look at the faces of older people. On some, there is a hard look. The ones I enjoy most are those faces which easily break into a kind smile. “That person,” I think to myself, “has endured much. Grief, heart ache, and sorrow have formed that sweet smile.” There is something to be learned from “Smile,” a song Nat King Cole made famous:
Smile though your heart is aching
Smile even though it’s breaking
When there are clouds in the sky, you’ll get by
If you smile through your fear and sorrow
Smile and maybe tomorrow
You’ll see the sun come shining through for you
Light up your face with gladness
Hide every trace of sadness
Although a tear may be ever so near
That’s the time you must keep on trying
Smile, what’s the use of crying?
You’ll find that life is still worthwhile
If you just smile
None of us ask for trials, but they will come. There are the self inflicted trials which come by way of sin and transgression. The lesson here is that in order to be truly happy, we must return to our God. Repentance is required. Let us be about that business. He awaits with open arm to receive us, as we approach him on bended knees, and a true willingness to “go and sin no more.” Only through humble and sincere repentance will peace come.
There come also the trials which are meant to refine us, for God’s own purposes. Indeed there may be scars, those spoken of by a dear friend in her battle over cancer and the scars left after surgery: “The scars show victory in the trials and tribulations I went through this past year. The scars show strength in Gods word and in His faithfulness. God keeps showing me that all of those “scars” have built up my faith, made me stronger than I ever thought..” (1) Ah yes, that is the why of it, and her attitude is the correct one.
There is the Refiner’s fire in the face of hearache in the loss of a loved one. In and through each and every trial, we are wise to inquire, “What wouldst Thou have me to learn from this, O Lord? Help me to understand, help me to endure, and in all things, Thy will be done! Help me learn the lesson thy Son exemplified in Gethsemane, when He pled before thy face: “O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.” And later He pled twice again: “O my Father, if this cup may not pass away from me, except I drink it, thy will be done” (2)
Yes, if we would be sanctified “unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ,” (3) we must be corrected and chastened, “For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth” (4)
In speaking to my children and those I love, my prayer is that each of us might accept trials for the tools of Divinity that they are. May we fully understand that “…all those who will not endure chastening, but deny me, cannot be sanctified” (5) Having learned this, may we always include in our grief laden prayers, the words “thy will be done.” May we learn to smile sweetly, and may kindness come to pervade our very soul.
(1) “One Year Later with Scars” Michelle Perzan
(2) Matthew 26:39, 42, 44
(3) Ephesians 4:13
(4) Hebrews 12:6
(5) Doctrine and Covenants 101:5 see also Hebrews 12:10