Monday, March 24, 2014

Grateful for the Struggle

Hello friends and family!!

Do y'all know what's incredibly interesting? The lessons that I learn every week are usually reflected in the majority of the emails I read Monday morning. When I have a good week, everyone else seems to. When I have a tough week, everyone else seems to. And when I have a very bi-polar week like this one . . . you guessed it! Everyone else seems to. But I feel blessed for the opportunity to write a general email in response to all of yours, filled with lessons that I learned this week that hopefully will ease the minds of those who have also seen some struggles. So! Here it goes.

This may not seem very cheery to begin with the hard things that happened this week, but I would like to end this on a positive note and I'm very picky about the structure of my emails.

We faced a lot of slow days this week. We made dozens of phonecalls and were told by a ton of people--mainly less actives and investigators--that they either wanted us to give them space for a month or stop coming by to see them entirely. I'm grateful for the ones who were open and honest about it though, because there is a particular less-active that I have grown really close to who has decided to stop meeting with us, but she refuses to talk to us to tell us why. We'll set up an appointment and the neighbors tell us she leaves 20 minutes before we show up. I've spent months in her home helping her feel the spirit again, and just when I thought she was ready to come back to church and support her family in the gospel, I watched the work I had done for months fall apart before my eyes. With no explanation as to why, how, or what happened. We had a lot of appointments drop this week and spent a ton of time in the car deliberating, or knocking on doors of people who were uninterested or simply annoyed. And to top it off, another cold front came in this week and left the sky a murky gray, which left me feeling discouraged and broken.

And then there was Saturday.

Missionary work never ceases to surprise me. Saturday we met with a very sweet, loving investigator who told us of a very disturbing and vivid experience she had in her past that has haunted her for 30 years. The Spirit fled the environment as she revealed a spiritual wound that I have never encountered before. Seeing her torment was almost too much to bear. To invite the Spirit back into the room, I boldly testified of the healing power of Christ's atonement with as much power and conviction as I could, and all three of us were in tears. It was the hardest appointment I have ever had, and one that will always stick with me.
The images of her story would not leave my mind. For the rest of the day, Sister Day and I both felt nervous, slightly ill, and uneasy. At the end of the day we were driving back to the apartment when I kept receiving the prompting to go to the Ward Mission Leader's house. I tried to shake it at first; it was getting close to curfew and I resolved to just turn on some church music in the apartment. The spirit spoke louder and louder until we decided together that we needed extra help. We told him what we had encountered that day and asked him for a priesthood blessing. It was one of the most powerful priesthood blessings that I have ever received, and feelings of peace, warmth, and light flooded directly into my soul as an immediate result.

1 Peter 1:7-9 - "That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ: Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory: receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls."

I learned so much from this experience. The adversary is real. He has real power. And no one is strong enough to toy with sin. But God is also real. Jesus Christ lives. And He has all power over the adversary. My testimony of the power of the priesthood has grown so much stronger just in the last few days. We are so blessed to have worthy men among us who can exercise the power of God to heal wounded and distressed souls. All darkness, despair, hurt, sorrow, and pain can be swallowed up in Jesus Christ if we just turn to Him. He wants us to ask Him for help. He wants us to follow Him. His yoke is easy; His burden light. My appreciation for the atonement has grown so much in the past few days. Jesus Christ experienced all the powers and torment of Hell completely alone so that we would never have to. There are so many occasions in our lives when we want to ask why. Why is this so hard? Why is God letting this happen? Why do I have to suffer? Why do my loved ones have to suffer? Where is God?

I promise God is always there. Sometimes we do not have all the answers as to why hard things happen. But I do know that the worst will never happen, and that is because of Jesus Christ. He knows exactly how to succor us. He did for me this week. He healed my wounded spirit and left me with feelings of the most profound peace and incomprehensible joy, even when surrounded by suffering as a result of the power of the adversary. And He healed our investigator as we sought the help of our ward mission leader to give her a priesthood blessing. All these things will give us experience, and will ultimately come out to our good, whether or not we can see it. I don't know why hard things happen sometimes. But I do know that Jesus Christ loves us and can always help us grow from these experiences if we let Him. I know that as a result of this experience, my love for my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ has increased that much more. I stand more in awe of His atoning sacrifice and the darkness and despair from which He has rescued me. Rescued me, and all of my loved ones. I stand all amazed at the love Jesus offers me. Oh it is wonderful to me.

In district meeting this week, we all came together and talked about the power of testimony. We ended with a testimony meeting, and one of my fellow missionaries stood up and said, "I'm grateful for the struggle."

I have been pondering that line ever since. Am I grateful for the struggle? I realized that in a way, I am. I truly am. If my mission had been a walk in the park up to this point, would I have the relationship with Jesus Christ that I have now? Would my strength of character be the same? My conviction? My testimony? My sense of identity and purpose? No. He let my heart break again and again so that He could create a stronger whole through the healing and cleansing powers of His atoning sacrifice. I am profoundly grateful for every experience; easy or hard.

Alma 7:11-13 - And he shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people.
And he will take upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people; and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities.

Now the Spirit knoweth all things; nevertheless the Son of God suffereth according to the flesh that he might take upon him the sins of his people, that he might blot out their transgressions according to the power of his deliverance; and now behold, this is the testimony which is in me.

We did see a lot of miracles this week. We found a golden family of four who are excited to hear the message of the restored Gospel. Barbara finally came to church. We found a new investigator, Ronnie, who wants to be baptized. Tim prayed out loud for the first time in desperate search for God. Greg's daughter agreed to the discussions and took a Book of Mormon. And Sister Day and I will remain companions for another six weeks.

The transfer of miracles is over. We have seen so many miracles, from subtle tender mercies to life-altering experiences. Amidst the suffering and hardship, we have found success, we have grown closer together as a companionship, and our testimonies have grown so much. But the greatest miracle of all is this: I have experienced the power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ.

I know God lives and loves us. I know that Jesus Christ is the son of God, the Savior and Redeemer of mankind. No principalities or powers can separate us from His love. It is never too late to take His hand and walk alongside Him. He will never leave us alone and will always lend us His divine strength as we turn to Him. And I close this email in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

The sun is out. :)

God bless you all! Until next week,

-Sister Brianna Fox

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