Dealing with Insecurity on the Path of Discipleship
Before I begin, I’d like you to visualize something for me, a scene from your prayers as though it were a dream.
You are no longer on your knees, but are walking into a great hall, pillars of stone and glass and gold shooting up into the skies above you. A concourse of angelic white beings line the path before you, which is covered intermittently by steps that lift you closer to a throne. On that throne sits God the Father in all his radiant warmth. His eyes are on you, just as all the host, as he awaits your petition, the reason you have come seeking his help, comfort, or guidance.
Once you are close enough, you kneel, speechless, out of breath, unsure of how to speak in a manner befitting such a company.
This thought has somewhat troubled me the last few days, that when I pray I am talking to the king of kings, the creator of all that we know. Yet he, being personally accessible, has asked me to communicate with him through prayer. Still, it’s not the fact alone that he lets me talk to him that makes prayer such a daunting idea. It’s also what else he expects of me.
“be ye therefore perfect, even as your father which is in heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:48).
The Savior of course didn’t anticipate any of his disciples to instantly live all of his teachings with exactness. Still, when I’m making that metaphorical ascent of prayer to converse with my Father in heaven, I’m often reminded of all the ways I have fallen short, continue to fall short, of what he has asked of me, and that makes me feel pretty crummy sometimes, especially when I’m going to him for help.
Twice this week I’ve spoken with others struggling to believe they deserve the desires of their hearts if they aren’t living their lives almost perfectly in line with what they feel God expects of them. That’s because we as humans are programmed to believe in cause and effect. Do good, and good will be your reward. Do evil, and you get the idea. We want good to happen in our lives, but when we are feeling low, discouraged, or overwhelmed by our inadequacies, it can be hard to believe that we deserve anything, especially when comparing ourselves to a perfect being like the Savior.
The scriptures speak a lot about hope, the hope that the gospel of Christ can instill in us. They also sometimes speak of hope in worldly concerns. The Lord promises the disciples that they will be fed and granted shelter, saying, “seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all things shall be added unto you” (Matthew 6:33). The prophet Malachi similarly promised those who paid their tithing that “the devourer . . . shall not destroy the fruits of your ground; neither shall your vine cast her fruit before the time in the field” (Malachi 3:11).
Yet good farmers sometimes don’t get the rain they need. Faithful people often want for things despite reasonable efforts to live prosperous lives. There are of course those who speak of how the Lord blessed them with worldly success; I don’t mean to take away from their testimonials, but the fact is that the Lord doesn’t grant everyone the same blessings. That is not a bad thing, because we all have different journeys we are meant to take on earth. What is important is that we remember the one thing we all share a hope in, the atonement of Christ.
“I would speak unto you concerning hope. How is it that ye can attain unto faith, save ye shall have hope? And what is it that ye shall hope for? Behold I say unto you that ye shall have hope through the atonement of Christ and the power of his resurrection, to be raised unto life eternal, and this because of your faith in him according to the promise.” (Moroni 7:40-1)
I heard an old expression recently: “A flower does not think of competing with the flower next to it. It just blooms.” Inequality is almost an inevitability in today’s competitive world, yet there is one thing in which we are all equal: we can all partake of Christ’s salvation as he invites, “every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters; and he that hath no money, come buy and eat; yea, come buy wine and milk without money and without price” (2 Nephi 9:50).
As you walk down the path of discipleship, the good you do will not always be rewarded with good, at least in the short run. Sometimes the discouragement that follows will cause you to slip, relapse, fall into old habits, and just have a good ol’ fashion pity party. God is infinitely understanding and willing to forgive your stumbling when things fall apart, though he wants you to get back up on the horse and keep going. He wants you to press forward and lay hold of his word, which is Christ and the hope of eternal life. Have hope in Christ.
We are as disciples encouraged to have charity, the pure love of Christ, and Paul teaches that charity “beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things” (1 Corinthians 13:7). It is not bad to hope for good to happen in life, whether it’s success in school, work, family, or most anything else, neither is it bad to have faith and strive to make those good things happen through diligence and living righteously. But the prosperity you dream of doesn’t always follow, and that is okay.
I am reminded of a story told by James E. Faust, a modern apostle, concerning a woman in Ireland who hoped against hope that her unborn child would live. As he describes,
“A few years ago, Sister Joyce Audrey Evans, a young mother in Belfast, Northern Ireland, was having trouble with a pregnancy. She went to the hospital, where one of the nurses told her she would probably lose the baby. Sister Evans replied: ‘But I can’t give up. … You have to give me hope.’ Sister Evans later recalled: ‘I couldn’t give up hope until all reason for hope was gone. It was something I owed to my unborn child.’
“Three days later she had a miscarriage. She wrote: ‘For one long moment, I felt nothing. Then a profound feeling of peace flowed through me. With the peace came understanding. I knew now why I couldn’t give up hope in spite of all the circumstances: you either live in hope or you live in despair. Without hope, you cannot endure to the end. I had looked for an answer to prayers and was not disappointed; I was healed in body and rewarded with a spirit of peace. Never before had I felt so close to my Heavenly Father; never before had I felt such peace.” (Hope, an Anchor of the Soul).
No matter what difficulties and discouragments come in life, faith and hope in Christ provide their own rewards. Therefore, as it is encouraged in Proverbs 4:26-7, “Ponder the path of thy feet, and let all thy ways be established. Turn not to the right hand nor to the left: remove thy foot from evil.” If you do good for the sake of Christ, then he will comfort you as you let him take your yoke upon him. If you hope and dream for good things to happen in your life with Christ in mind and heart, then he will be there to help you up should your plans fall apart. He is your companion as you walk down the path of discipleship, immediately accessible every step of the way. Let him be there for you, and he will not disappoint.