January: Matthew 1; Luke 1
Elizabeth and Zacharias prayed for most of their married lives for a child. A prayer that wasn’t answered for years. Their desire was good, and they lived the laws of God despite their personal sorrow. In Luke 1:5, it says, “And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless.”
Despite this faithfulness, when the Angel Gabriel appeared to him, Zacharias had a hard time believing that he would truly have a son, even knowing the story of Abraham and Sarah. He had lost hope and was struck dumb. Certainly, this sign must have reawakened Zacharias faith and perhaps not him alone, but for all the priests in the temple who were there. Still, Zacharias’s reaction is not unique.
Sometimes when we want something very badly, we will try to bargain with the Lord to draw “from the powers of heaven.” (D&C 121:56) When this is unsuccessful, we can lose hope. We get the feeling that even if the gospel is true, it doesn’t work for me. Going to church becomes a thorn in our side as we see all the happy couples who seem so blessed while our arms are still empty. It feels so unfair that it is easy to become bitter. It’s so important that we recognize this loss of hope for what it is, “the exceeding weight of glory” (2 Cor. 4:17; D&C 63:66) or the burden of bowing to the Lord’s will, and not a lack of love from our beloved Heavenly Father. We aren’t being picked on; he simply has a different plan for our lives.
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland put it this way. “While we work and wait together for the answers to some of our prayers, I offer you my apostolic promise that they are heard and they are answered, though perhaps not at the time or in the way we wanted. But they are always answered at the time and in the way an omniscient and eternally compassionate parent should answer them” (“Waiting on the Lord,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2020, 115–16).
In Elizabeth and Zacharias’s case, their prayer was miraculously answered in this lifetime, but for others they must wait until they reach the other side of the veil before their dreams are fulfilled. How do we wait faithfully for the things we want as much as life itself, things like a child, a faithful spouse or a loving family?
In Neil L. Anderson’s October 2022 talk entitled “Drawing Closer to the Savior,” he said, “as we know very well, having faith in Christ and being a true disciple is more than a one-time decision… It is a sacred, ongoing process that grows and expands through the seasons of our lives, continuing until we kneel at his feet.” Elder Anderson went on to give three suggestions to assist us as we wait on the Lord to keep our hope bright. First, that we immerse ourselves in the life of Christ. Since the “Come Follow Me” focus is the New Testament, that should be easier than at other times. Second, we must make covenants with the Lord. Not simply our major covenants like baptism and temple covenants but baby covenants, sacred promises made through prayer or inspired during the sacrament. Third, we must safeguard the Holy Ghost.
There are times when I lose my temper (road rage) or make light of sacred things, when I have felt the Holy Ghost leave, and I must repent to earn back that gift. Inappropriate media, wasting time when we’ve been inspired to use it elsewhere, forgetting to pray or not acting on what we know we should do all push the Spirit out of our lives. Pres. Nelson warned, “It will not be possible to survive spiritually without the guiding, directing, comforting and constant influence of the Holy Ghost.”
Using the gift of the Holy Ghost is our greatest gift, accesses the Savior’s atonement, and lets our hope shine bright even when things seem the darkest. It wakes me up to think that the prophet said ‘it would not be possible to survive…” Let’s do better and not just survive but thrive.