The Anatomy of Our Troubles

By Molly Bice-Jackson - 4:10 PM

I forewarn that this will be lengthy. But, I hope, worth your time.

My father passed along an article to me that was first published and presented at an AMCAP conference in Salt Lake City earlier this month. It discusses something we all have in common. Our troubles. Our problems. Our trials. The author, or speaker, Dr. Terrence C. Smith, dissects the hard experiences we go through in life. He starts by telling of the first time he sorted laundry as a newlywed. Thinking he could get away with washing the whites and darks together, he went ahead and threw them all into the same load. We all know what happened next. He points out that just as laundry needs to be sorted, so must our troubles. There are really two piles. Pile #1 is sin. Pile #2- adversity. I won't talk as much about sin here, though I have my fair share, but will focus on the adversity pile, as mine seems to be toppling over as of late.

Dr. Smith lays out the treatment for the disease of sin (which most of us are familiar with)

-Exercise Faith in Christ
-Repent of our sins
-Baptism
-Receive the Holy Ghost
-Endure to the end/Forsake our sins

This was familiar to me and something I have experienced on more than one occasion. (Though the ordinance of Baptism and receiving the Holy Ghost are performed only once). What I have never been "taught" or thought about, was the treatment of adversity. What are the steps to healing my broken heart because of something that wasn't my doing? Losing my daughter had nothing to do with a bad choice I made. (Though I will admit I have tortured myself with the thoughts of, " I shouldn't have given her that apple slice!" "If only we would have started CPR sooner." "Why did we decide to go to our home ward that day instead of the Spanish Branch? Maybe this wouldn't have happened.") I have prayed several times to receive peace and forgiveness, hoping with all my heart that Lucy is not upset with me. It is a horrible feeling.

But going back to the question of healing adversity. Adversity is defined as troubles in our lives that ARE NOT sin. Has someone offended you? A spouse? A family member? Do you have trials and heartache in your life because of SOMEONE ELSE'S decisions. Or like me, just freak accidents, Mother Nature, living in a fallen, mortal world? Call it what you may, I think we all have our own piles of sin and adversity. And I need to know how to be healed! Do you?

Dr. Terrence C. Smith says, " The prescription for adversity is different to that for sin. It is principally for this reason that it helps if we sort our troubles. The first step is the same--Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. His atonement can take away or transform the damaging effects, the pain, and eventually all of the consequences of adversity in our lives. His atonement can convert the pain of adversity into growth, development, and even sanctification."

Why do we tend to think the atonement mostly in terms of fixing our sins? What about our adversity? Dr. Smith admits it is a complexity of our human nature. He wonders, "Why do we call the most beautiful and optimistic of Jesus' parables The Prodigal Son rather than The Forgiving Father." I agree with him that we fixate on our faults.

But not anymore. Not for me. Lucy has changed my heart. My vision is clear and my path is straight. Repentance and a desire to follow my Savior are a top priority for me. It's not always easy, but it is CLEAR. It is the adversity, turning my weakness into strength, trusting in God's will--that is my fixation.

So what is the second step? SERVICE. Faith is the first principle and service is the second in resolving adversity. When we have adversity in our lives, we must exercise our faith, and then we need to find a place in the world where we can serve.

Do you know much about the Book of Mormon? Have you heard of the prophet, Lehi, and his family of boys? One of the first stories in the Book of Mormon is about Lehi and his family leaving Jerusalem and heading into the wilderness. Two of his sons have great faith in their father, and the other two murmured and fought against the counsel of their father. Lehi's son, Jacob, suffered much affliction because of his brothers. He was faithful, and as a result, "suffered afflictions and much sorrow, because of the rudeness of thy brethren.." (2 Nephi 2: 1-3). But in a father's blessing, given to Jacob by Lehi, he was told, ..."Nevertheless, Jacob, my first-born in the wilderness, thou knowest the greatness of God, and he shall consecrate thine afflictions for thy gain. Wherefore, thy soul shall be blessed, and thou shalt dwell safely with thy brother, Nephi. And thy DAYS SHALL BE SPENT IN THE SERVICE OF THY GOD. Wherefore, I know that thou art redeemed because of the righteousness of thy Redeemer."

He was told that because of his life of service, he would be redeemed, saved from his troubles, due to the merits, mercy, and grace of Jesus Christ! If a prophet of old told his son it would work for him, by golly, it will work for me. It's just hard to know where to begin when I struggle to keep my head on straight. How can I serve another when I feel in so much need of service myself? The answer is: you just do it.

"When we sin we need to turn from the sin towards a new way of treating ourselves--an INWARD mighty change of heart. In adversity, we need to reach OUTWARD to serve others and turn away from the tendency to constantly look inward in a negative way at our own life and its troubles with the predictable cycle of self-criticism, guilt, anxiety, and loss of self." (Dr. Terrence Smith)

Christ had only one pile of laundry. He had no sin. Only an overflowing, seemingly endless pile of adversity. Some saw this as weakness, and spat upon him, tortured and mocked him.

Which brings me to my last point.

Weakness.

As I said earlier, the atonement doesn't cover only our sins, but our adversity. And that part is very broad. God does not turn up his nose or turn away from us because of our weaknesses, or our sickness or heartache. He sees in them the seeds of our sanctification, a way in which we can be more like His Son. Weaknesses are a key pattern to how the Lord works with us. He has told us often that He purposefully picks the weak things of the world to accomplish His work.

In this article, Dr. Smith points out something very, very interesting. When Christ appears to the people in the Americas, at the temple Bountiful, he asks them to come forth and touch his wounds. Why his wounds? Usually we think to prove, as evidence, that He is who He says He is. But what about this--what if he wanted them to feel his weakness, his humaneness and scars, so that we might know that it's OK for us to be the same? " I think he calls us all to touch the woundedness in Him, and in ourselves, so that we can be one with Him. REAL INTIMACY COMES THROUGH SHARED WEAKNESSES, NOT STRENGTHS; OTHERWISE, HE'D HAVE US FEEL HIS BICEPS, NOT HIS WOUNDS."

YES! Hallelujah! This is something I have been struggling with. Some people seem to be more open. More open to my pain, more open to feeling and hearing and experiencing it with me. While others turn away because it is "too hard for them." Do you know how much it means to me to have someone acknowledge my pain through tears? Through an awakening of what this would mean in their own lives...and then sending me an email telling me about it? Or a card, or a phone call. It makes my pain so much less in vain. Does this mean we go around being negative and only speaking of our weaknesses? No. It's about honesty. And openness. It's about being real. Including celebrating our blessings. We may be making someone feel unnecessarily isolated because we choose not to share our weaknesses in appropriate ways. We may be causing our fellow sisters or brothers to feel even MORE weak, when we turn away from their pain and show them only our "best selves". Do you agree with me?

Take the example from this article about a Relief Society talent show, where women come and show their very best. Some may come away feeling diminished and alienated, like they don't measure up to other ladies in the ward. The activity of sharing strengths often produces feelings of personal insecurity and separation, if not downright competitiveness. (Church basketball with the men?)

But what about three or four of these same women in a Visiting Teaching moment...sharing some tender moments of the grief of losing a child, a failed marriage, a wayward teenager, a fractured testimony. Has this happened to you? You've wept a bit with your sisters and come away feeling a closer bond, feeling the wounds of a fellow sister, and had a connection, warmth, and uplift perhaps not possible from the talent show.

Again, Terrence Smith says, "I think there was something about touching Jesus' woundedness that built a Zion culture in ways that touching His strengths would not have done."

So there it is. Enough soapbox for you? Sin, Adversity, Weakness, Openness, Honesty. Things to ponder about. This is how I want to be:




Open. Honest. Unafraid to show my weakness but relying on the warmth of the Son to give me the energy to serve others.

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38 Loving Lines

  1. Thank you for sharing this with me,I agree with you completly. our lives are filled with many many trials and we need to share them with our friends, family, etc. you could be helping them maybe they are in a simular situation and you have a tip or an answer to there trial or maybe you just need someone to help you bare the laod.We will ever know unless we share "We are brothers and sisters"

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  2. Boy, you don't post very often, but when you do, it is pure gold!

    I agree with you completely, Molly...AND I LOVE the insight about why the Savior had the people touch His wounds. In fact, we were talking about that in Gospel Doctrine last week, and I hadn't felt satisfied with any of the answers we came up with in our discussion, but I am entirely satisfied with this one.

    I also agree that it is an act of generosity and courage to be willing to share our life experience in its fulness (weakness included), rather than maintaining (hiding behind) a facade of "strength" that only serves to put others off or make them feel more damaged/wounded by comparison. To me, true strength lies in having the guts to be real. We can't minister to each other's facades, that's for sure. "Fake on fake" is the ultimate exercise in futility. (It also keeps us from truly being known and understood, which is sad, because it's that moment of connection, of feeling known and understood, that is so healing.) As you know.

    Thanks so much for sharing. And for having the guts to be real. (I believe you will be like that girl in the picture, because the guts it takes to be real are also the guts it takes to be healed.)

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  3. Love this post. Reading it made me feel stronger than I have felt in a while! Thank you. You have taught me that one can survive the loss of a child, which has been my greatest fear. Lifting that fear from my life feels so, so good. Thank you for that, too. I am a better mother without that fear. My daughter thanks you.

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  4. You put into words what I myself have not been able to express lately. It meant so much to me when a friend I ran into at the store, whom I hadn't seen for a while, wept like a baby at the passing of my sister. She acknowledged my pain through her tears and it was just what I needed. I had just started to think no one cared. Thank your thoughts and the message of Dr. Smith.

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  5. i am a FIRM believer in sharing my load with others. when my husband and i experienced a pregnancy and miscarriage, people seemed to be turned off by my openess and disire to share my feelings and experience of it all. but i seriously was able to heal so much faster through sharing it, because i could talk it out and express my feelings... and i seemed to actually LEARN from it, rather than just going through it. and it brought me closer to a lot of people, and i realized who my REAL supporters were. i think that is why i am so drawn to your blog and your life... you are open and honest and willing to share your experiences- whether they are happy OR sad. why share anything else? thank you for your example and light. i admire you greatly :)

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  6. Molly,
    Thank you for that awesome post. It is something I needed to hear, and you have so eloquently put it out there for me. You are so open and honest with your thoughts and feelings, and that is something I really admire about you. It is hard for me to be so open about my thoughts, but a quality I sincerely admire and would love to emulate. My thoughts and prayers are never far from your family and your sorrow. It is interesting that you are suffering so much, and yet serving and helping countless others with your testimony and teachings and your blog. Thank you for serving, and for sharing!

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  7. Hi Molly...I've been reading your blog for a few weeks now and wanted to come out of lurking and say that you have touched my heart many times. I really appreciate your openness and honesty - I've had some crazy days lately and it has helped to sit down and read through some of your entries and realize that I am blessed beyond measure. You are a shining light and I pray for comfort and strength for you and your husband.

    I'm not sure you know me at all...I remember seeing you in high school - I'm Amy's age. I found your blog through Karyn Mann's blog. I just wanted to say thank you!
    Mandy (Kington) Bridgeforth

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  8. Beautiful. Thank you for the ways you show your honest self to strengthen ME & countless others!

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  9. Your pain is not and never has been in vain. We have all felt how much you miss your dear Lucy and lived with you as you have searched for the answer of "why your life story has to contain such a sad chapter as the loss of your beloved Lucy." We have cried along with you, most of the time not knowing exactly what to say. Hoping, with all of our spiritual might and muscle, that all that we believe is true - that you haven't lost Lucy forever. That we haven't lost our loved ones forever. That we won't be lost forever. Your willingness to share your feelings through and about this trial has been a service to all of us. Keep sharing. Keep going. We are with you. Its through your story and our stories that we come to know the "realness" of the atonement.

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  10. Molly,
    Your words amaze me and touch me and I seldom comment to tell you this because I feel I have little to offer. No real abiity to help you and vick through this time. I have only been given a glimpse of what you are going through. Having never been able to give birth on my own I have brought 6 children into my home and had to watch two of them leave me. They were still alive but I was powerless to protect them from those whose care they been put in. I had to rely on my faith and my prayers and my Heavenly Father to help me through those trying times. We have been blessed to have both those precious girls returned to our care and have adopted one and we are in the process of adopting the other. I have often asked why me in our situation and while I have no answer to that question I try and rely on the atonement for peace and help and I am so grateful for your thoughts and your example in the face of such heartache. I am very touched by this post.I pray the Lord continues to send the comfort and help you need and I am so grateful for the lessons I have learned through you and Vics examples.
    Love,
    Jamie

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  11. Molls,
    Are you going to give this as a lesson or a talk in church sometime? You should. It is wonderful. I'm going to share it with my RS presidency.
    Love,
    Michelle

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  12. I feel that you are giving service constantly through the feelings and thoughts you share on your blog. I know for me, having also lost a child, you have served me many times by helping me sort through emotions I buried - just by reliving it through your tears and pain. You have helped me remember lessons I learned as I dealt with those first months of grief and also take a deeper look at the lessons that I still learn from this experience in my life to this day. So, thank you for serving me and so many others unselfishly. May you be blessed for your service.

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  13. Beautiful, Molly.

    I so enjoyed your take on this...and I REALLY needed to hear it tonight.

    Thank you again for being just like you said you want to be...open, honest, and unafraid.

    You are an inspiration to me.

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  14. I have never commented before, but have been touched by your words many times. I have been thinking about the "Talent Show” a lot lately. I love it when in conversation, topics come up and I realize I'm not the only one who is going through that particular trial or issue. I'm finding that satan gives us a false sense of perfection of others so we will feel less confident in ourselves and not reach our full potential on earth. Recently through the tender mercies of the Lord, I have found confidence in myself and realized we are all in this for the long hall together. The only person who walked this earth perfectly was the Savior himself.

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  15. all i can say is thank you, for sharing this, my husband tells me all the time annmarie we do not own the corner market on sorrow, everyone has adversity and no one is immune to it. Molly, I am so sorry about lucy,

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  16. Wow Molly. I don't know you -- but what a beautiful post. I have learned so much from these insights. Thank you for sharing. It is true, when we are truly vulnerable and share sorrow heart to heart, we each come away stronger from our wounds. Thank you.

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  17. We do know you and Vic, but not very well. Wade is Tim and Becky Hinrichs' son. You used to be in the same ward before the split, and Wade and I came up a lot for the weekends. I remember playing with Lucy during sacrament meeting a couple of times when she was very little. She was a little shy with me but I always thought how gorgeous that blonde hair was.

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  18. You don't know me. I am one of Joy's friends. I really enjoyed this post. I have been thinking a lot about the atonement recently and how it's not only for sin but also to help us heal from our afflictions. Thanks for laying it all out. Even though I don't know you or Lucy I weep just about every time I read your blog. You are a great strength to those that read your blog. Thank you.

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  19. What a wonderful lesson. Thanks for sharing this. I absolutely agree with you!! I feel so much closer to those who I identify with--those who share their weaknesses and problems.
    Service is the answer. I need to get out there and offer more of it. I'm usually of that same mind---I NEED the service, how can I offer it? But I need to turn that thinking around. Thanks so much! You've inspired me (yet again).

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  20. Thank you for sharing YOUR wounds. You have served me SO much through your thoughts and feelings.

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  21. Dear Molly,
    You don't know me, but I feel inspired to tell you that you are such a strength to me! Kristyn and Paul were in our old ward. We love them! Our family, too, has gone through losing a child. No one can even begin to understand the pain that it causes a mother and father. We were a little more prepared for our little girl's death, but that didn't make it any easier. I feel so blessed to have found your blog. You are such an inspiration to me and you make me want to be better and try harder! We just passed four years without our sweet baby girl. It feels like yesterday. As I was reading your family's story, I couldn't help but feel your pain. Thank you for reminding me to share my thoughts, experiences, and trials with others. I have been wanting to comment on your blog for some time now, but I felt that since you didn't know me, I wouldn't comment. But reading this last post, makes me realize that we need eachother! We knew this life would not be easy, but we are all in this together. To lift eachother up and strengthen one another. You inspire me!

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  22. Yes, yes and yes. I NEVER thought of that moment with Christ in the America's like that before. However, I have often felt that sharing in my weakness binds hearts, much more than sharing in my awesomeness...although that's not to say I'm good at it. Molly, you're a champ.

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  23. I don't know you or your family and am not even sure how I found myself reading this blog. But I am so glad that I did....even if I felt so overwhelmed with sadness at times. Your daughter Lucy was -and is - so beautiful. I'm a pediatric RN and have had the sacred privilege of caring for the littlest of angels, even those who were meant to return to live with Heavenly Father. There is such grief, but the intense clouds of sadness also come with beams of joy for having had the chance to live and love. I wish for you and your husband a healthy, loving and happy life - yes, even with the profound loss of Lucy. Thank goodness for the plan of salvation which will reunite her with you. Congratulations on your pregnancy and may you be healthy. You are a gifted writer and I wish you all the best.

    Kathi

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  24. What a perfect post this was. I know I can always turn to you to hear truth and honesty. I 100% agree that people shouldn't be afraid to talk about or feel negative things. Nothing is wrong with saying how you feel, and its ok to not be happy every minute of every day.

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  25. Sweet Miss Molly,

    Words alone can not express my admiration and gratitude for you and your beautiful testimony and words of encouragement. I have not suffered the loss of an angel as you and so many other parents have. I can only imagine how the past 5 months have been for you and your husband. I have shed tears of sorrow for you as I have read the tender memories and expressions of love for your little Lucy. What a treasure you and Vic are to your celestial daughter. I'm so happy to know that you will soon have a new bundle from Heaven to bless your home on Earth.
    I so appreciate your most recent post quoting Dr. Smith's speech given earlier this month at the AMCAP conference. Although my trials do not compare to yours, I have found much comfort and strength from you sharing your testimony and insight of gospel principles at this time in my life.
    Thank you for sharing your life with so many, including me. You are adorable!

    Stephanie Driessen
    Mendon, UT

    P.S. If you have access to the talk given by Dr. Smith I’d love a copy. Thanks!

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  26. absolutely fantastic message. i love it. i hope i can be more open and honest about my weaknesses. thanks for sharing YOUR weaknesses with all of us and thanks, especially, for sharing the deepest thoughts and feelings of your heart. love you!

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  27. Dearest Molly, I have been following your blog for about four months now. You are a dear friend to my cousin Brook Rasmussen. I stumbled upon your blog in June and I read it often. I am constantly uplifted spiritually from your strength. I love the part about serving others and just doing it. I am one who needs to be a better example by just doing it. Thank you for exposing yourself to us all, and uplifting so many by your strength. You are loved by many whom don't even know you. Thank you. Audrey

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  28. Thank you for sharing such deep insight. I loved it! I love that you allow us to share this journey with you. I love that you are honest and frank about how hard it is, but also offer hope and enlightenment. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

    Love you!

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  29. Molly-
    Your post really helped me! I am going through a really hard time as well, as you know ha. But I loved what you said here and it really allowed me to have peace of mind for today. I love you and think about you often. Yes I have a blog, but it is still in the works ha. Ali

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  30. Hello Molly,

    I left a message on your blog a few weeks ago thanking you for sharing your life. It has made me a better father. Last Sunday i gave a talk in church on a last minutes notice. So i was able to choose what to talk about. I chose the talk given by President Monson, "Finding Joy in the Journey". To me what i learn is that the destination will be way more with it if we enjoy and expierence the journey. In my talk i shared your story, sorry i didnt ask first, the story of lovely lucy who through her tragedy has changed and touched so many. I appreciate you sharing your journey with others. i think of your family very often and my wife and i often pray for you and your family. With the sharing of your journey, you have helped me enjoy mine more. Thanks

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  31. molly, I don't know you, but appreciate your post. We also heard Dr. Smith speak to us in an adult session of Stake Conference. He gave this same message and I had forgotten some of the profound things he mentioned. Thanks for documenting this and the reminder of his inspiring words

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  32. WOW! That was incredible. I was just sitting here in my living room thinking about a sister I visit teach who is going through a divorce and what more I could help her with and give her. I am now realizing an empathetic heart and a listening ear is probably the best gift right now. Thank you Molly four touching my heart. Your blog is touching many many lives. I appreciate you so much. I especially loved the part about feeling Christ's wounds. I had never thought about it like that and it makes perfect sense. Those people that I call my true friends are the ones that aren't afraid to open up and show their weaknesses. Loved it!-Adriane

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  33. Thank you for sharing this! I pondered things I have never thought of before! You are an amazing person! Thank you for being so open and honest! I am so so sorry for your loss of your beautiful Lucy! I pray for all parents who have ever endured the loss of a child! I know you don't know me but I had to say thanks for sharing! Lots of love from my heart to yours! Love, Kelsi

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  34. Thanks Molly for this wonderful and insightful post. I really needed it today. I constantly try to show my best self and often feel untrue in the end. Lately I have realized that true connection and intimacy does come from honestly sharing our life--the good and the bad. Two years out from losing my son and just now am I feeling able to open up to people and accept their reactions. Yet somehow when I do I am finding very sweet moments and connections. Thanks again! Love,Cassi

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  35. Hey Molly-
    Remember me? I heard about your little girl and I am so sorry. Losing someone close to you is almost more than you can bear. I hope you feel some measure of peace. We lost my little sister last year. It is really hard. Anyway, I'd love to keep in touch adamandtaneilserr@blogspot.com.
    See you
    Taneil (Brown)

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  36. Molly, this is something that I've actually been thinking about a lot lately. I've been working hard to break down my exterior of strength and be vulnerable with other people, to show my weaknesses, which has always been hard for me.

    I totally agree with what you've laid out here, though, and I experience it daily as a therapist. When I'm able to connect with someone (patient, friend, family) on a real, open, genuine, emotional level, the emotional intimacy grows exponentially and I am invigorated by the connection that is formed. Thanks for sharing!

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  37. I was blog hopping today and came across your story. I now know it wasn't by accident. My heart is full, my eyes are overflowing with tears. There is something that ties us all together, and that is a common thread... the Gospel.. the FACT that Families ARE Forever. I don't know who you are, but you've changed me today. Jewel in Canada

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  38. My friend Dorothea had a link to your blog. I just wanted to thank you for this post. I appreciate you being open with your trials and adversities. I agree with you- that when we aren't afraid to show others our weaknesses we feel much closer and help each other more. -Karen in Oregon

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