"No obstacles are insurmountable when God commands and we obey"
- - Heber J. Grant
February 04, 2015
Seeing Circumstances Truly
by Kathryn Grant

In the last two Light for My Path columns, I wrote about how — as imperfect mortals — we often have difficulty seeing ourselves as we really are, not to mention seeing others as they really are.

There’s another area where our limited mortal vision often misleads us, and that is in the way we see the circumstances of life — ours and others’.

A common misconception is that we’re responsible for the good things we experience, and someone else is to blame for the bad things. In this view, trials seem unfair: we deserved better and would have it, if it weren’t for someone or something else.

And we’re often equally blind to the reasons for others’ trials, even though we might be quick to jump to conclusions (see Mosiah 4:16 – 18).

The truth is, we often don’t fully know why we or others face the circumstances we do. I was intrigued when I read an experience related by Agnes Caldwell, who traveled as a child with the Willie handcart company.

Beset by early winter storms, the company was near death from cold and starvation when rescuers arrived. As they made their way to the valley, one of the rescue wagon drivers noticed Agnes walking and offered her a ride. Then he did something unexpected: he reached down and took her hand, but instead of lifting her into the wagon he urged his horses onward, forcing her to run.

Telling the story afterward, she said:

On we went, to what to me seemed miles. What went through my head at that time was that he was the meanest man that ever lived or that I had ever heard of.... Just at what seemed the breaking point, he stopped.

Taking a blanket, he wrapped me up and lay me in the bottom of the wagon, warm and comfortable. Here I had time to change my mind, as I surely did, knowing full well by doing this he saved me from freezing when taken into the wagon. (Susan Arrington Madsen, “Handcart Pioneer,” Liahona, June 2000.)

Some time ago, I was feeling overwhelmed by and somewhat resentful of a seeming mountain of challenges in my life. Then one morning, just before awakening, I dreamed that I was back in college again.

It was about six weeks into the semester, but in my dream I realized I had stopped going to class — in fact, I’d gone just a few times when the semester started and hadn’t been back since. It hit me that I was unwisely wasting tremendous opportunities for learning, not to mention the tuition I’d paid, by skipping class.

After I awoke and pondered the dream, the meaning slowly distilled in my mind. Life is essentially a school. When we resent or try to avoid our trials, we’re not getting the full benefit of our life’s experiences, which seems a shame because one of the main reasons we’ve come to earth is to learn to become more like the Savior! (Matthew 5:48, 3 Ne 12:48.)

Elder David A. Bednar spoke of the “spiritual traction” that difficult life circumstances can provide, enabling us to make progress and enjoy blessings we would otherwise miss. (“Bear Up Their Burdens with Ease” April 2014 General Conference.)

No wonder Elder Paul V. Johnson counseled, “We must be careful that we don't resent the very things that help us put on the divine nature.” (“More Than Conquerors through Him That Loved Us,” April 2011 General Conference.)

Although we may not know the exact reasons for some of the challenges we and others face in life, with the Lord’s help we can still see them truly — see them as opportunities to help us become the people He knows we can be. We can appreciate even difficult life circumstances for the blessings that they are.

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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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