"We are not measured by the trials we meet -- only by those we overcome."
- - Spencer W. Kimball
November 14, 2012
The Test before the Lesson?
by Kathryn Grant

The other day, a colleague at work shared a quote that’s been around in various forms, but the gist of it is this: “Life is a hard teacher: it gives the test before the lesson.”

Ordinarily, I might have responded with a wry smile, “Isn’t that the truth!” But I had just had an experience that made me question that adage.

A week or two previously, I’d felt repeated impressions to study a certain chapter in The Book of Mormon. I had followed the promptings, even though I hadn’t felt any further enlightenment as to the reason for the prompting. The insights I gained as I studied were interesting and useful in a general sort of way, but they didn’t seem particularly relevant to anything I was experiencing at the time.

Then one day, I got an email with news that was disappointing and frustrating. My emotions immediately went into high gear. I began mentally composing emails to the people involved, and I pictured myself talking to them energetically about what was wrong and how things needed to change. Fortunately, I knew I would likely regret any action I took in that state of mind, so I decided to give myself some breathing room and deal with it later.

The next morning as I began my scripture study, another impression came to me to read the same chapter in The Book of Mormon. So I started reading it again, when suddenly it hit me: this chapter contained exactly the advice I needed in the situation I was facing. I had not in fact been given the test before the lesson, but the Lord had graciously helped me prepare for this particular test. I’d just needed to obey the prompting and then make the connection.

As I thought back, I recalled similar instances where I had been given promptings ahead of time that enabled me to respond to situations I couldn’t have foreseen — but which, of course, the Lord knew about. The Lord’s words to the brother of Jared came to mind: “And behold, I prepare you against these things.” (Ether 2:25.) I could remember both times when I had followed the promptings and had been blessed, and times I had dismissed them as irrelevant, only to regret it later on.

It seems there are two keys to taking advantage of lessons that prepare us for tests: 1) Being willing to follow promptings even if we don’t understand why, and even if they don’t seem particularly relevant; 2) Being quick to observe (as Elder Bednar taught — see “Quick to Observe,” BYU Devotional given on 10 May 2005).

Do some life events still come as a surprise or even a shock? Of course. But I suspect that if we look closely, we’ll discover that the Lord still helped us prepare in advance in meaningful ways — ways we might not notice until we take the time to reflect on them (see “O Remember, Remember” by Elder Henry B. Eyring, October 2007 General Conference).

So here’s this week’s challenge: Just for a day, notice the promptings you receive. Perhaps even record them in your journal. And then see if you discover, over time, that the Lord has truly prepared you beforehand for some of life’s tests.

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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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