It happens like clockwork: Every January we reflect on the previous year, ponder how we could’ve improved, set goals, and look forward with anticipation and hope for what a new year will bring. In this spirit, I like to make goals to become my best self and, ultimately, to become more like my Savior. But while goals are motivation to improve, they’re also a reminder that I need to improve. In these moments of weakness, I feel like I’m not doing enough and, occasionally, that I’m not enough.
Last November, I was waiting for my husband in the front room of the temple and decided to open the Bible to the book of James. My mind has always associated the beginning of James 1 with Joseph Smith’s experience, learning that he could ask God for wisdom, but I was surprised when my study went in a different direction.
James starts by saying, “Count it all joy when ye fall into many afflictions.” Joy? Joy is hardly the first word that pops in my head when I think about my own afflictions or trials, but James taught that I should feel joy when I experience afflictions—many afflictions. I took this to mean that life’s challenges, including feelings of inadequacy and weakness, can bring me joy because they help me progress to become more like the Savior.
James continues by saying, “Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience.” If there’s anything that helps me strengthen my faith and learn patience, it’s trials. It’s been in the pit of my imperfection and affliction that I have discovered the depth of Christ’s love for me.
“But let patience have her perfect work,” James finishes, “that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.” I used to think this phrase meant that through affliction we learn patience until we are perfected. But President Russell M. Nelson, while studying the English and Greek editions of the New Testament, found that “the term perfect was translated from the Greek teleios, which means ‘complete.’”
Wouldn’t it be great to feel “entire” and “complete” enough that we want nothing? But this mortal probation is a time of wanting, of yearning to be whole and good enough to return to our Heavenly Parents someday.
The Savior is helping me every day to climb out of my personal pit of weakness.
I’ve never yearned for anything more deeply than while waiting to meet my husband. After several heart-aching years of wondering if I would ever find him (since few quality fish in the sea were taking the bait, if you know what I mean), I received my greatest blessing: my husband, Sai. With the hope and joy of a new relationship, engagement, and then marriage, I was practically strutting toward a distant neon sign that read “Happily Ever After.”
However, soon after getting married, I began to experience deep feelings of inadequacy, both as a wife and as a person. My mind filled with negative thoughts: I didn’t communicate well enough, I wasn’t talented enough, I didn’t minister enough. I just wasn’t good enough. Throughout my life, I had generally prided myself on being a happy-go-lucky, positive person, so the worst part about these feelings is that I didn’t feel like me.
As hard as it was, I confided these feelings to Sai, who helped remind me of who I am—lifting me, assuring me, loving me. And the Savior, much like a loving mother to a hurt child, succored me in the way only He can. He didn’t just call down into the muddy pit where I was lying, saying a few encouraging words for me to climb out; he climbed into the pit, lay in the mud with me, and said with perfect empathy, “This is really hard. It’s dark and cold down here. I’m sorry you’re going through this. I love you whether you’re in this pit or out of it, but let me help you out because I know you’ll be happier. I know the way, so let me help you.”
While I still struggle with feelings of inadequacy, since that day in the temple I’m learning to accept that this trial is one of many that will help shape me into the whole, complete daughter of God I’m capable of being. The Savior is helping me every day to climb out of my personal pit of weakness. His Atonement is meant for this very purpose: to redeem us from our weaknesses and to enable us to take the necessary steps toward our eternal completion.
I love this quote from Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, who said, “I testify that in this and every hour [Christ] is, with nail-scarred hands, extending to us that same grace, holding on to us and encouraging us, refusing to let us go until we are safely home in the embrace of Heavenly Parents. For such a perfect moment, I continue to strive, however clumsily. For such a perfect gift, I continue to give thanks, however inadequately. I do so in the very name of Perfection itself, of Him who has never been clumsy or inadequate but who loves all of us who are.”
I’m learning to know for myself that Jesus Christ loves me in my inadequacy and imperfection. I’m learning to have patience and to be happy with my steady—and often slow—progression. I’m learning that like Joseph Smith, I can ask God for wisdom and direction as I seek to improve. And I’m learning that wherever I feel I’m starting in 2020, my Savior will lift me where I’m at and reach out His loving hand to propel me forward to my eternal completion.