"We are not measured by the trials we meet -- only by those we overcome."
- - Spencer W. Kimball
April 16, 2014
When "Interruptions" Are Answers
by Kathryn Grant

“Have you seen my purse?” my coworker Shauna asked. We started looking around our shared office, checking in drawers and under desks. Nothing. No doubt imagining stolen credit cards and expensive key replacements, Shauna left the office to continue searching. Meanwhile, there at my desk I began praying for help.

I’d hardly started when the prompting came to close the office door. No, I don’t really need to do that, I thought. I can pray fine here at my desk. No need for that much privacy. So I resumed my prayer, and the prompting came again.

Not understanding why, but choosing to be obedient, I got up and closed the door — and there was Shauna’s purse, hanging on the hook on the back of the door.

What a rich, intriguing learning experience! In hindsight it was obvious that the Lord had answered my prayer immediately, even before I’d fully offered it. Here was clear evidence of His love and willingness to help.

Yet I hadn’t recognized the answer. In fact, I misinterpreted it as an interruption, something that would actually delay getting the help I sought.

Not only that, no explanation was given as to why I should follow the prompting. It was left to me to decide whether or not to obey.

Experiences like these may be more common than we realize. One evening my sister sent me an urgent instant message asking for prayer: she had lost her wedding ring. The next morning, I smiled in recognition and empathy when she told me the rest of the story.

She and her family had been tearing the house apart, looking under couch cushions and even in the garbage. In the middle of all this, she got a call from Mom, who insisted that my sister come over right then and get some dough she’d made.

Annoyed at the interruption, my sister drove over to get the dough, then returned home to continue the search. But she started to feel bad for being annoyed. As she continued to pray for help finding the ring, she got the clear prompting, “You need to call your mom.” So she did, apologizing and asking for our parents’ prayers.

Shortly afterward, the memory came back to her that she’d taken off her ring at our parents’ place while doing some cooking. She returned to our parents’ place — where she’d just been — and retrieved her ring.

Here was a similar pattern: a crisis, a prayer for help, and an apparent interruption that turned out to be the answer. Reflecting on these experiences made me wonder how many times I’ve missed an answer to prayer because I didn’t recognize it, and even rationalized not following a prompting I’d received.

When we make the covenant of baptism and receive the Holy Ghost, we are promised His constant companionship — but we aren’t promised that we’ll immediately understand every prompting we receive. It takes time, effort, and especially humility to learn the language of the Spirit.

We’re also not promised a full explanation for every prompting we receive. Like Nephi or Abraham, we may be asked to move ahead in faith without knowing what will happen if we obey, or if we do not (1 Nephi 4:6, Hebrew 11:8). As Catherine Marshall points out in her book Something More, obedience precedes understanding, not the other way around. (See the chapter entitled “The Joy of Obedience.”)

Without full explanations, we may also need to curb our tendency to jump to conclusions about reasons for promptings we receive — especially if our conclusions lead us to miss out on answers to prayers. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” the Lord reminds us in Isaiah 55:8.

One thing we can be sure of: following the spiritual impressions we receive is always a good idea, even if we don’t see why, and even if they appear to be interruptions. Doing so may just lead us to the very answers we’re seeking.


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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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