The author lives in Utah, USA.
Going on a mission is hard. However, coming home from a mission is just as hard, especially when you come home earlier than planned. You worry about what others will say or how they will act around you. Will they be judgmental? Disappointed? Awkward? You worry that you’ll feel like you weren’t good enough or strong enough. You wonder if something is wrong with you or if you made the wrong decision in even going. I worried about all of these things.
When I decided to serve a mission, I was thrilled. I knew it was what the Lord wanted me to do. The next few months were some of the happiest of my life, and after having a great experience at the missionary training center, I thought the rest of my mission in Argentina would follow suit. It didn’t.
I struggled with anxiety, fear, and hopelessness on my mission—things I had never experienced before, at least to the degree I was experiencing then. My mission president tried everything to help me. Eventually, I decided to go home. That decision was easy to make in the moment, but back at home, all those questions above started looming over me.
I learned that over time, though, the Savior brings both healing and perspective if you sincerely seek both. I firmly believe that there is a lesson to be learned in all of life’s experiences, whether they are good or bad. And in the Lord’s time, He taught me some valuable lessons that I now treasure.
Going on a mission was the right thing for me. But for whatever reason, I wasn’t meant to stay for 18 months. God has another plan for me. I still don’t fully know where my life is heading, but I’m OK with that. What I do know is that I’m doing what He wants me to be doing now. During my four months in Argentina, my testimony and conversion deepened. I met incredible people, and I must have touched the lives He wanted me to touch. I no longer regret my experience or wish it had been different. It was exactly what I needed and has become sacred to me.
I recently read a talk by Elder Neal A. Maxwell (1926–2004) of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles that put my experience into perspective. He said:
“One’s life ... cannot be both faith-filled and stress-free. ...
“Therefore, how can you and I really expect to glide naively through life, as if to say, ‘Lord, give me experience, but not grief, not sorrow, not pain, not opposition, not betrayal, and certainly not to be forsaken. Keep from me, Lord, all those experiences which made Thee what Thou art! Then let me come and dwell with Thee and fully share Thy joy!’” (“Lest Ye Be Wearied and Faint in Your Minds,” Ensign, May 1991, 88).
The Savior didn’t become who He is in spite of the trials He faced. He became who He is because of those trials. They helped shape His perfect character, and they gave Him the ability to feel the joy He feels now. I feel privileged to have had a character-shaping experience. It wasn’t what I asked for; it certainly wasn’t what I wanted; but God knows my potential, and He wants me to share His joy. That joy is something I cannot comprehend without also knowing grief, sorrow, pain, and opposition. Coming home early was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever gone through, but with perspective and the Savior’s help, it now seems like a small price to pay for what I gained in return.
So have faith. Trust in your Savior. And be hopeful! Life will never go exactly how you plan. It won’t be pain-free or stress-free. But joy awaits you after every valley of shadow. Joy is what He intends for you all along.