Do you ever feel like your life has become just one disastrous event after another? Or that you’re stuck in a place in life that you really don’t want to be in anymore?
I think we all have. It’s in those times that we wish we had spiritual binoculars to be able to see the promised light at the end of the tunnel. We want to be reassured that everything will turn out all right in the end and that the things we want in life will actually happen.
But why does God let bad things happen to us in the first place, even when we’re trying to do what He wants us to? It’s because He can see the bigger picture.
As mortal beings, we have an unfortunate tendency to have a short-sighted view of life. We can’t see beyond the present (and even then, sometimes our view of the present is limited), but God sees our current situation with the past, present, and future in mind. He can see our lives, our blessings, and our trials all with perfect clarity. In those moments when we feel momentarily stuck, we can trust that Heavenly Father can help us find purpose in everything that happens to us.
As young adults, we all face so many difficult decisions and uncertain futures. We wonder, Where should I go to school? What should I study? Should I serve a mission? What do I do when I come home from a mission? Whom should I marry? When should we have kids?
And not having the answers to all these questions may cause us to sometimes question God’s timing.
We can learn how to trust God by looking to the example of one group of pioneers.
One of the most incredible pioneer stories is the journey of the first wagon company from Nauvoo, Illinois, USA, to the Missouri River. They experienced their fair share of feeling “stuck.” How did the pioneers feel after being chased from their homes in Ohio, Missouri, and Illinois, only to find themselves stuck in the mud while trudging their way through Iowa Territory? Let’s take a look at their story.
The first wagons crossed the Mississippi River on a freezing morning in February of 1846. With their limited knowledge of the western United States, they estimated they could cross the plains and reach the Salt Lake Valley in a few months. The company optimistically started the 300-mile trek across Iowa—only to find themselves caught in endless spring rain.1
Traveling incredibly slowly, they took more than four months to cross just Iowa. They were over 1,000 miles away from the Salt Lake Valley and didn’t have enough resources to make it there before winter. So they were forced to settle along the Missouri River until they could continue their trek the following spring.2
I wouldn’t be surprised if there were days some pioneers felt frustrated with God’s timing, felt alone, or perhaps even wondered whether God was guiding them.
We learn from the scriptures that God “maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matthew 5:45). Good and bad things happen to both good and bad people. Sometimes God sends us rain—literally or figuratively—to help prepare us for something greater than ourselves. So if you’re feeling stuck in a difficult life-altering decision, a less-than-ideal situation, or a string of hardships, remember, God sees the bigger picture! And He guides us with perfect love and wisdom.
He knew that the pioneers wouldn’t make it to Utah in the summer of 1846. Just like He can guide you throughout your life, He had future blessings in store for them that involved present momentary disruptions. I sometimes wonder if at times this is part of why God allows bad things to happen to good people.
The rain slowed the pioneers down just enough so they could indirectly help thousands of pioneers after them. God knew the pioneers needed to create a settlement on the Missouri River, which would become an essential outfitting post for thousands of Saints who would follow.3 God saw the bigger picture—and was able to use the rain to fulfill His plan.
When I look back on the times I’ve experienced “rain,” I can see how these experiences have been for my good (see Doctrine and Covenants 122:7). In the moment, things felt so horrible, but now I can see how through those difficult times, I was able to trust God and strengthen my faith. I remember wanting to go on a mission so badly, but it felt like forever until I would be able to serve. Looking back, I can now see why I had to wait. I had some incredible experiences before my mission that I probably never would have experienced if I had gone on a mission earlier. I now have a powerful testimony of God’s perfect timing.
Elder Neal A. Maxwell (1926–2004) of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught: “When we are unduly impatient with an omniscient God’s timing, we really are suggesting that we know what is best. Strange, isn’t it—we who wear wristwatches seek to counsel Him who oversees cosmic clocks and calendars.”4
When we truly take the time to remember that God is at the helm of this great plan, we can trust that our patience will bring us peace, no matter what storms we are currently facing.
In those moments when it feels like the rain will never end, remember the pioneers who were stuck in Iowa. When you can’t decide where to go to school, what job to take, whether you should go on a mission, or whom to marry, you can trust that as we are righteously making decisions and trusting God, He will lead us to blessings when we are ready for them.
When I feel stuck, I try to remember this pioneer story. It reminds me to turn to the Savior and trust God’s timing. You can rely on the enabling and strengthening power of Jesus Christ’s Atonement to help you get through all your difficult decisions, circumstances, and hardships.