Lessons & Purpose

In the past year I have grappled with several of the deepest questions of my life. In the process of grieving, healing, asking and searching some thoughts have come to mind that I want to write down for my own memory, and also to share with anyone who it could potentially help.

Issue 1. I can't remember if I've already mentioned this in my previous posts, but I really struggle with the idea that's been perpetuated by many that trials occur in order for you to learn something. I understand that when I write it this way out of context, you might cringe and say "Well, yes and no" but I've heard it so many times. To me, there are some serious problems with this idea, including countless examples in which it seems inappropriate to apply this theory: what is an abused child supposed to learn? What is a person supposed to learn if they die from said trial (violence, terrorism, abuse, accident, etc.) especially if they die quickly/unexpectedly? All manner of violence, abuse, disease, abandonment, natural disaster, injustice, and so on. How can you say these things happen because there's a lesson to learn? That seems spiteful, doesn't it?
In Cody's and my infertility journey (one that we feel is very much out of our control) any time I've heard that "certain trials are specifically given to you in order to learn things you couldn't otherwise learn," I've felt a bit of rage. Perhaps this shows the limited understanding I've had of the purpose of trials or even the purpose of life. But the more I experience (or see others experience) difficulties completely out of our control, the more friction I see with the idea. The sentiment that all suffering is meant to teach us something doesn't allow for a person to fully accept natural feelings, to experience pain and to separate their being from the things that happen to them. Insinuating that a person is due to be taught something and/or is experiencing some sort of personal punishment is far below what we're capable of concluding, and it shows potential for judgment where judgment is not required nor helpful.

Issue 2. I also feel concerned with the phrase "God won't give you more than you can handle." As someone who is familiar with the intricacies of language, I really take issue with this quote. What is the definition of "handle" in this phrase? God won't give you things you can't handle...Does it mean you won't die from it? No, people die from their trials every day. Does it mean you won't go mentally insane from/as a trial? No, that happens too. If He won't give you anything you can't handle, does that mean you won't ever feel like God ignores you or has forgotten you? Or does it mean that you won't ever have thoughts that you aren't worth anything to anyone because of the problems you have to deal with? No, those feelings occur to many people at some point. Many severe outcomes--death, insanity, loneliness to the point of taking one's own life--seem to surpass the threshold of what I would consider a manageable situation.

It's not that I think the opposite is true either. Even if we change the phrase to say the opposite I still have problems with it. "God will give you more than you can handle." Does this mean that God is responsible for everything bad that happens to me, because He will give me trials that can make mere existence seem unbearable? Is He the one doing all these terrible things to people? If so, that doesn't sound like a loving and perfect Father in Heaven. So I don't believe that this spin on the phrase is true either.

My journey. I have been in counseling for several months now, which has been an amazing experience. There have been a significant number of events, feelings, thoughts, and opinions to sort through, and I put every bit of available energy into making it a productive experience for myself. At this point it's visible, even to me, that I have gone through a huge transformation. I plan to write more about my experiences in the future, but for now I will start with this: I have learned lessons that are so valuable words don't entirely describe them. And I'm better because of it. But does this mean the purpose of my struggle with infertility has been for me to learn these things? I still can't say yes to that. I can't say yes because a) I don't know that my struggle is over now that I've learned some lessons. It certainly doesn't seem like anything tangible has changed, still not pregnant, still no children. b) To say 'yes, learning these specific lessons was the purpose' would contradict my first paragraph. I don't think the purpose of infertility is for me to learn x, y, and z. If so, that would imply that 1) fertility is something that people earn, 2) that God is punishing me, or putting me on "time out" for some unknown thing I haven't done right, 3) that fertile people are more deserving of children than I am, 4) that there even is a specific (yet unknown to me) "purpose" for our infertility. (Note: Replace any other trial you experience that's out of your control for the underlined words of this paragraph and tell me these aren't false assumptions we all drag ourselves through at times)

The lessons I've learned have been more like realizations, changes in my own perspective, ways to live productively with the things in my life that I can't control. It seems almost like a luxury that I've been able to draw these conclusions out of infertility. It's a luxury that many in other circumstances (see first paragraph) may not have. For that reason, I say that I have learned lessons during this struggle, but I will not assume that the lessons have been the purpose of my trial. In my recent personal study of life, I've come to a few realizations:
-God doesn't cause or control everything that happens to us
-Mortal existence comes with disease, dysfunction, chaos, mistakes...those are a result of human experience, not a personal insult to you from God. There could be no other way to get all humans through death, which is a necessary step for our souls to experience.
-Not all trials are meant to teach you a lesson. Not all suffering is for a specific purpose. Much of it is the result of randomness, chaos, choices of others, the fact that some 7 billion people live on this planet at once and we all have the ability to make choices. Lots of times things just happen.
-God (Heavenly Father) may not keep you from experiencing something that seems (or actually is) too hard

How do we justify this last point? How is that ok? How is it that life can be so unfair, so over-the-top evil at times? Why will Heavenly Father save some but not others? Some answers we may not ever know during this life experience. But I do know that the Atonement of Jesus Christ is how ALL things can be made right, not necessarily in this life (which is an extremely difficult caveat) but in our eternal existence. Jesus Christ is not just a "religious" answer for "religious" people, He is the answer for all people. He and his mission are the very things our faith must be based upon in order to endure the most unbearable suffering. Faith on anything else can fail. Faith that my body will change and be made whole can fail, faith that any one person will receive justice during this life can fail, faith that God will protect you from something unimaginable can fail. Faith that you and your loved ones will always be safe and healthy can fail. But faith in Jesus Christ as the Savior of the world, and faith in His Atonement as the saving grace that can eternally make us whole will not fail. All those other things that we often put our faith in can be hoped for, but when the unexpected sufferings of life sweep any of those things away--your spouse, your healthy body, your financial security, your child, your mental health, your marriage, your safety, etc.--then your faith in Jesus Christ and your faith in the reality of His suffering for your sins and your injustices are the only anchor that has the power to help you "handle" those storms. I obviously don't have all the answers, but I'm grateful to have realized what/who I can have faith in that won't lead to disappointment. Of course life can be more complicated and more painful than this makes it seem. But it's still true.

My brother and I had a discussion as I prepared this blog post, and I really loved how he put it. Life gives us all lemons, that's much of what life is about. God and Jesus Christ are there to help us make lemonade out of the lemons as best as we can. And if we are able to make some lemonade--learn things, grow, become better, stretch ourselves, draw good out of the bad--we will be better for it, but we don't have to feel like making lemonade is the sole purpose of the lemons.
I do believe that the most successful we will be at making lemonade will be with the Atonement and the Plan of Salvation in mind. It is perfectly summed up in this line from the hymn we sang today (from "How Great The Wisdom and the Love") "How great, how glorious, how complete Redemption's grand design, Where justice, love, and mercy meet In harmony divine!"


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