When we suffer, the question we often ask is why. Why did event X happen? However, in the equation of our own suffering, why is not the variable we are trying to solve. The scriptures teach us why things happen. Nephi taught “[God] doeth not anything save it be for the benefit of the world; for he loveth the world” (2 Nephi 26:24). And the Lord himself revealed that “[His] work and [His] glory” was “to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man” (Moses 1:39). Thus the variable, for which we must solve, is how event X manifests God’s love to us or brings about His work and His glory through our experiences.
Instructively, the idea for the creation of algebra was not to dishearten future students, but to simplify problems so that we could solve them. The Lord does not give us problems we cannot solve either. Paul taught the Corinthians that “God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it” (1 Corinthians 10:13).
Nephi was okay with “not know[ing] the meaning of all things” because “[he knew] that [God] loveth his children” (1 Nephi 11:17). Our faith in God can give us hope even amidst trials. This is likely why Nephi could be bound unjustly with cords helplessly watching the ship he built be thrashed around in a storm, and yet surprisingly comment, “I did look unto my God, and I did praise him all the day long; and I did not murmur against the Lord because of mine afflictions” (1 Nephi 18:16). Focusing disproportionately on comprehending what only the Lord can comprehend could be paralyzing instead of catalyzing our faith to action.
Although the word faith is more commonly used as a noun, in the grammar of the gospel, it is a verb whose object is God. Our faith in God inspires us to not only “hope for a better world” (Ether 12:4), but propels us to make this world better-one faithful act at a time. Sadly, sometimes our understanding of gospel grammar might allow a trust in faith’s object if only the subject were different. We may think, “sure ‘all things are possible to him that believeth’ (Mark 9:23), because the “him” in this scriptural sentence surely means someone else. Mathematically speaking; however, the scriptures can say all things are possible to you and I, because no matter how small we think our all is, anything multiplied by an “infinite atonement” would equal infinity (see Alma 34:8-12). Through the enabling atonement of Christ we can all “come off conqueror[s]” (D&C 10:5) against our trials, if we believe.
Photo provided by my friend Brandon. This article was under consideration by the Ensign for future publication, but is now being reviewed by the Liahona. As of October 2020, it is unclear if it will be published or not.
4 thoughts on “Solving the Equation of Our Own Suffering”
I love the application of mathematics and grammar to enlighten our understanding of faith. I found it new and refreshing insight into a frequently discussed subject matter. Well done!
I’ve always struggled with 1st Corinthian 10:13. I’d like to see a shift in mormon culture to emphasize what do we do after we succumb to temptation because that is really what the gospel is. No one is perfect or whole on their own merits. No one has successfully traversed life without falling victim to temptation (sans Jesus of course, who wasn’t even fully mortal). The way I have chosen to interpret that verse so that it fits within my understanding is that there is nothing we can do that would permanently separate us from Christ’s atonement. The way that we escape, that we are able to bear it, is not in never sinning, rather it’s in always having the anti-dote. Sin – Christ can make you whole. Sin – Christ can make you whole. Sin – Christ can make you whole. Over and over and over again. There is no boundaries on His sacrifice for you. The depth, breadth, scope of the atonement covers all. You can never be whole in this life without Christ filling in the cracks and it is pointless to approach it that way. Come on Paul! lol.
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Thank you for your comment Joseph and your personal understanding of the atonement! This aspect of the atonement that you mentioned will definitely be featured in future posts. For example, keep an eye out for “The Power to Get Back Up Again”, which should get published in a few weeks. God bless!
Thanks for the encouraging words!