Many of us raised in the church may feel that a particular pathway is paved for us. We expect it, our parents expect it, and we believe the Lord expects it. It’s the idea that we’ll all earn our young women’s medallion or eagle, for young men that they will go on a mission and serve for two years and if a young woman serves it’ll be for eighteen months, that after we will attend college when we return, get married, have children, and while there’ll be bumps along the way, nothing too extreme will occur, and we will live happily ever after.
Of course, life never goes that way, and we know that, but when life falls short of this “pathway to perfection,” it is easy to feel that we are the ones falling short. In our tears, we may cry out to the Lord, “What lack I yet?” We may wonder if our past actions or decisions are to blame–maybe if we had gone to a different college or moved into a different apartment, we would have the blessings we desperately crave.
About a month ago, I was reading in 2 Nephi 3, where Lehi is giving counsel to his youngest son, Joseph. In the first verse, Lehi says, “Thou wast born in the wilderness of mine afflictions; yea, in the days of my greatest sorrow did thy mother bear thee.” This stuck out to me because Lehi had made the right choice in leaving Jerusalem, it is the reason we have the Book of Mormon today, but the days after he chose the right and continued to, were still his most sorrowful.
I think that sometimes we may all feel that way. We may go to college and wonder if it was the right choice because the stress and costs are taking their toll. Perhaps we wonder if our commitment to marry in the temple is worth it because it seems that no recommend holding individual is interested. We could doubt if we really received revelation on our decision to marry when we find ourselves fighting with our spouse rather than being a team. After all, if we follow Him, aren’t we supposed to have joy and peace?
Other times, doubts can shift from our choice to our character. We may wonder what we’re doing or have done wrong to have the blessings we desire to be withheld. We may search for what contingency is the blessing predicated upon, and while asking “what lack I yet?” should be a common practice, we should also keep in mind the rest of Lehi’s discourse to Joseph.
He talks about Joseph of Egypt, whose father had the highest of expectations for him. I picture Joseph, years after hearing those expectations, in that dark and lonely prison, perhaps imagining the life he expected. He might shake his head and say, “If only I had been a better brother,” but little does he know that he was fulfilling what his father saw for him.
Joseph of Egypt also prophesied of another Joseph, one who would restore the gospel of Jesus Christ. This Joseph, Joseph Smith, would endure heartaches that I cannot begin to comprehend. I’ve often wondered, if, one day knee-deep in the dirt of an infant’s grave if Joseph ever asked if he was the cause for his family’s sorrow.
Like them, you can be striving to meet the expectations and righteous desires of your heart and feel that the heavens have closed. You may think that your prayers only go as far up as the ceiling. But know that this is undoubtedly not the case. In the chapter previous to Lehi’s counsel to Joseph, Lehi told his other son, “thou knowest the greatness of God; and he shall consecrate thine afflictions for thy gain.”
I certainly do not always love to hear that counsel because sometimes it means that I need to, in the words of Elder Holland, “be strong and drink.” Drinking our bitter cups is not always easy, but its bitterness is not a sign of our unrighteousness or that we are on the wrong path in life. We need to remember that when Adam and Eve made the choice to leave the garden so that the plan of salvation could progress, things only got harder. And surely, for our Savior, things only got more difficult for Him as He suffered for our salvation.
So, if you feel like the heavens have closed, remember that sometimes the blessing of obedience is change. There is no other reason why we are on this earth, so if you don’t check every checkbox in this life or meet every expectation, know that you are not failing, and as long as you are striving to be more like Jesus Christ, you are succeeding gloriously. The wait may be tremendously hard to endure, but through Him you can endure the burdens placed on you, and the day will come where every right will be made wrong, every injustice made just, and you will recieve those blessings which your soul is aching for.