"We seldom get into trouble when we speak softly. It is only when we raise our voices that the sparks fly and tiny molehills become great mountains of contention."
- - Gordon B. Hinckley
September 5, 2012
A Different Kind of Stewardship
by Kathryn Grant

What do you think of when you hear the word “stewardship”? Most likely you think of a responsibility, perhaps even a sacred trust. The word may call to mind wise use of talents, time, or resources. But have you ever thought about having stewardship over the trials in your life? I hadn’t, until I read the Chapmans’ story.1

On May 21, 2008, the Chapmans’ five-year-old daughter Maria Sue was playing outside the family home with her sisters. Her older brother, Will Franklin, was coming into the driveway in his SUV when Maria, without warning, ran toward the vehicle. Will didn’t see her, and Maria was struck and killed.

In a split second, the whole family plunged into heartbreak they never could have envisioned. Their grief over Maria’s death was compounded by the way in which it happened. They were not only mourning the sudden departure of this irrepressible little girl, but the changed life-journey of Will Franklin, who was experiencing devastating guilt in addition to the sorrow of losing his beloved little sister.

How does a family deal with this kind of overwhelming pain? For this family, there was no other choice but to turn to the Lord. The danger in making that statement, of course, is that it might make the experience sound much simpler than it was. There was faith and trust, but there were also soul-searing grief, confusion, unanswered questions, and desperate longing.

Yet there were also miraculous tender mercies from the Lord as the family made this journey into territory that was new and uncharted for them, holding tight to their trust that it wasn’t uncharted for the Lord.

I learned many things from this family’s deeply-grounded faith, but one of the most profound was a truth that Mary Beth Chapman taught her son on the day of Maria’s funeral. Sitting together at her graveside after the others had left, Mary Beth held Will Franklin as he sobbed. She reassured him that she loved him and didn’t blame him. She also told him that not only were they going to get through the experience, but that God was going to give each of them a “different kind of story to steward well.”2 This unexpected story was a trust from God to them.

I thought about Mary Beth’s words. A steward over the hard experiences of my life? That was a new idea to me. Of course I’d been taught about the importance of patience, trust, and enduring to the end. But this idea seemed to have a different, more specific focus. How would my life be different if I saw my trials, from smaller challenges to devastating losses, as a stewardship given to me by a loving Heavenly Father?

As I explored this new way of seeing the challenges in my own life, fresh insights came. First, I found that it’s difficult to feel hopeless or even victimized when I see myself as a steward over even extremely difficult challenges. Hopelessness is rooted in a feeling or belief that one has no control — that one is powerless to stop or reverse some kind of damage. But if my trials are assignments from Heavenly Father that I’m responsible to handle well, hopelessness can be replaced by faithful thought and action.

Heavenly Father has a plan. I trust that “all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28.)

This way of looking at trials also reinforces the truth that God is in control, that He has not allowed anything to happen that the atonement cannot make right. As Mary Beth told her family, God doesn’t make mistakes. In this fallen world, bad things happen but God means them for good (Genesis 50:20).

An added benefit, then, is humility — not resignation, but a willing submission to the Lord’s will based on faith that it is for the best and that He keeps his promises. And humility is accompanied by gratitude — gratitude for the Lord’s trust, for the experience and resulting growth, and most of all for the atonement of Jesus Christ that will ultimately allow all our tears to be wiped away (Revelation 7:17).

Whether you’re facing a trial that’s somewhat challenging or one that’s overwhelming — or anything in between — just for a day, try looking at that trial as a stewardship from the Lord. How does it change things for you?

1 Choosing to See: A Journey of Struggle and Hope by Mary Beth Chapman with Ellen Vaughn.

2 Choosing to See, p. 183.


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About Kathryn Grant

Kathryn Grant is a user assistance professional with a passion for usability and process improvement. She also loves family history and enjoys the challenge and reward of building her family tree.

As a child, she lived outside the United States for four years because of her father's job. This experience fueled her natural love of words and language, and also taught her to appreciate other cultures.

Kathryn values gratitude, teaching, learning, differences, and unity. She loves looking at star-filled skies, reading mind-stretching books, listening to contemporary Christian music, attending the temple, and eating fresh raspberries.

Kathryn teaches Sunday family history classes at the BYU Family History Library, and presents frequently at family history events. For more information, visit her Family History Learning Resources page

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