Lift Up the Hands the Hang Down
D&C 77:2 - D&C 82:15
Last month I had the opportunity to visit the home where Sophia and Nathanial Hawthorne lived for a time.
I love to tour old homes, but there was something particular I really wanted to see in this home.
In an upstairs window Sophia had carved one sentence into a window pane with her diamond ring.
It was just after a miscarriage.
"Man's accidents are God's purposes."
I stood at that window and looked out at the view. It wasn't hard for me to understand the thoughts that must have filled Sophia's heart as she stood at that window and carved those words into that small pane.
Four days before we were married a doctor found a tumor on Greg’s thyroid. Worried that it might be cancer he told us to see a specialist immediately after returning from our honeymoon.
The first four months of our marriage were filled with surgeries, doctors appointments, and long nights in the hospital. What wasn’t cancer turned into a staff infection, which led to months and months of recovery and unemployment.
The years that followed those first four months were much the same. In between several miscarriages we had four children. I was down in bed for each of the pregnancies. On the last pregnancy I went into labor at 17 weeks and spent the next five months on bed rest.
Our second son spent the first six years of his life in and out of the Emergency Room. Between sleep apnea, tubes, stitches, broken bones, and finally a diagnosis of Juvenile Diabetes, it seemed that perhaps the hospital should just give us a permanent room there, including a plaque by the door with our name on it.
On our tenth anniversary I can remember saying to Greg, “My life was perfect until I met you, then everything went downhill.” We laughed and laughed.
Such was the state of our life.
Many people were led to us during those experiences. They were people who knew what it meant to “Succor the weak, lift up the hands which hung down, and strengthen the feeble knees.” (D&C 81:5)
In the midst of every trauma, every hospital visit, each time someone was an answer to our prayers I received a prompting, remember this.
So I did.
I committed to memory what it felt like to be discouraged, lonely, exhausted, frightened, heartbroken, and then I remembered how it felt to be succored, lifted, comforted, and strengthened.
...if men's accidents are God's purposes, then what was the purpose?
I have drawn on the lessons I learned from those moments many times since then.
Some years ago I was called to serve as the Relief Society President in my ward. When I received the calling I wondered what I had to offer the families. One unforgettable week the Bishop and I visited seven different members of our ward in four different hospitals.
One was in the newborn intensive care unit. There were several in the pediatric intensive care unit, one in the emergency room, another in the detox wing, and one more in a specialized unit I never even knew existed. Some stayed in the hospital for months. Others left those hospitals, but came home with health challenges they struggled with for the rest of their lives.
Now, I had not been through the exact experiences of each of these families, but I knew what it was like to live in a hospital for lengths at a time. I could remember sacrificing everything for the health of a child. I knew the devastation of leaving the hospital and not feeling better, knowing you would struggle with that illness for the rest of your life. I knew what it was like to realize there were dreams I had but would never know, and what it felt like when you have to get used to letting go of things you had always hoped for.
Maybe I hadn’t gone through the exact trials these families were facing, but because I had experienced moments that left me discouraged, lonely, and exhausted emotionally, I knew what it meant to succor, lift, and strengthen.
I realized the Lord had placed me in that calling at that time for a reason.
Because of my own trials and tribulations I knew what it meant to succor the weak, lift up the hands which hung down, and strengthen the feeble knees.
One of the blessings that comes after much tribulation is the ability we are given to act as an instrument for the Lord. These sacred opportunities would not be ours if we had not experienced the adversity first hand that would allow our heart to truly be in tune.
Perhaps the greatest blessing that comes from adversity is the enlarging of our heart.
The capacity we are given to feel for another.
Those often painful learning experiences allow us to serve in a way we might not have known how to before.
In those moments we are taught what it means to be succored, to be lifted, to be strengthened.
It is then that we realize that our accidents, or trials, really are God's purposes.
It is what teaches us to love like He does.