My 7 and 8 year old boys ask me to play Settlers of Catan with them all the time. Thanks to my brother’s new wife, who taught them how to play, they understand the rules and the strategy. So it’s fun to play with them because they get really into the game.
Truth: I’m still way better than them.
(unrelated truth: my husband and brothers are still way better than me.)
One particular game comes to mind. About halfway through the game, I saw my clear path to victory. I also saw one of my boys a bit discouraged that he only had settlements when the rest of us had cities. So, I decided to..you know…’up’ his chances for success.
Let me be clear, I didn’t cheat at all to help! (Believe me, I come from a group of siblings whose competitive natures made learning how to cheat–undetected–essential.) But I did engage in trading cards with him that benefited him more than me. I placed my roads out of his way and I encouraged my other son to make moves that would also help him.
I was pretty good at massaging the game to his benefit… so much so that he started to boast in his own greatness. My other son was falling behind now! So I switched my focus to him. It worked beautifully. Soon he was caught up and we were all doing well. I was amazed at my own power!
Playing ‘god’ in our little game of Settlers of Catan gave me an appreciation for how our lives must seem to heaven at times. As the mother, when I see one child becoming so upset because the number rolled on the dice wasn’t the one he hoped for, I think, “Don’t worry too much, little one. You’ll roll the number you want soon. And remember, it’s just a game.”
When our Father in Heaven sees us becoming so upset about the way our turn in life is panning out, I think He tries to remind us, “My child, don’t worry too much. Life on Earth is an experience that is just one part of the eternal plan.”
Of course, during the intense moment of the game, I can see the stress of waiting for your turn (Will my card get stolen before my turn?!), the real disappointment (I really needed a SIX to be rolled, not a three!!), the excitement (I just built a city! That was a great turn!), the hope (Things are going my way! I might even win!), the compassion (Oh, that is so sad he is so far behind), and the competition (she already has more points than me, I’m going to block her road!)! See how playing a game can be a microcosm for life?
I have learned that we can’t trivialize the emotions we feel in life. We truly can feel deep, deep sadness and pain when things don’t go according to our expectations. However, I do have faith that if we could see through heaven’s eyes, it would be much easier to let the heavy emotions roll off our hearts and minds. I have faith the veil purposely clouds what has come before our time on Earth and what comes after. That is the test. Can we keep calm, moving forward, doing our best, trusting that things will all work out in the end?
I’ve been trying to finish writing this post for longer than I care to say 😉 and during this time, we have played countless games. At the beginning, I noticed that one of my children cried every time he lost. Even though my natural mother side felt his sadness and wanted to fix it for him, my overarching goal of teaching him a life lesson pushed me to beat him over and over again. Isn’t that mean? But now he cries a whole lot less. And he is a whole lot better at the game. (I felt sooo happy when he finally beat me a few days ago!)
Watching your child be sad is a hard feeling. But with the perspective that this is just a game and that learning real life lessons is more important than the brief happiness of winning a little game, I am empowered to teach rather than fix what I know is a temporary problem.
Although this is a parenting principle, it is really an eternal principle. (Funny how the two of those overlap so much.)
Just as Jesus wept with Mary and Martha when their brother died, He feels compassion for our life’s sadness. He knew He would raise Lazareth from the dead but rather than stopping the situation from even occurring, he walked the path with His dear friends so they could learn. And then when the time was right, He brought Lazareth back to life.
Last night while we read scriptures before bed, Isaac asked me, “Does God want to make life hard for us?”
What do you think? How would you answer this 6 year old’s question?
The scriptures and words of prophets below helped me to answer his question. Thanks for reading with me today!
S: (Prayer/Ask) Does God want to make life hard for us?
- In October General Conference, Sister Neill F. Marriott shared about when her 19 year old daughter died. This is my favorite talk right now. I think Sister Marriott teaches so personally and so clearly.
Our family motto doesn’t say, “It will all work out now.” It speaks of our hope in the eternal outcome—not necessarily of present results. Scripture says, “Search diligently, pray always, and be believing, and all things shall work together for your good.”5 This doesn’t mean all things are good, but for the meek and faithful, things—both positive and negative—work together for good, and the timing is the Lord’s. We wait on Him, sometimes like Job in his suffering, knowing that God “maketh sore, and bindeth up: he woundeth, and his hands make whole.”6 A meek heart accepts the trial and the waiting for that time of healing and wholeness to come.
- Here is the well known story from Hugh B. Brown that Elder Christofferson used recently to teach this principle:
God uses another form of chastening or correction to guide us to a future we do not or cannot now envision but which He knows is the better way for us. President Hugh B. Brown, formerly a member of the Twelve and a counselor in the First Presidency, provided a personal experience. He told of purchasing a rundown farm in Canada many years ago. As he went about cleaning up and repairing his property, he came across a currant bush that had grown over six feet (1.8 m) high and was yielding no berries, so he pruned it back drastically, leaving only small stumps. Then he saw a drop like a tear on the top of each of these little stumps, as if the currant bush were crying, and thought he heard it say:
“How could you do this to me? I was making such wonderful growth. … And now you have cut me down. Every plant in the garden will look down on me. … How could you do this to me? I thought you were the gardener here.”
President Brown replied, “Look, little currant bush, I am the gardener here, and I know what I want you to be. I didn’t intend you to be a fruit tree or a shade tree. I want you to be a currant bush, and someday, little currant bush, when you are laden with fruit, you are going to say, ‘Thank you, Mr. Gardener, for loving me enough to cut me down.’”
Years later, President Brown was a field officer in the Canadian Army serving in England. When a superior officer became a battle casualty, President Brown was in line to be promoted to general, and he was summoned to London. But even though he was fully qualified for the promotion, it was denied him because he was a Mormon. The commanding general said in essence, “You deserve the appointment, but I cannot give it to you.” What President Brown had spent 10 years hoping, praying, and preparing for slipped through his fingers in that moment because of blatant discrimination. Continuing his story, President Brown remembered:
“I got on the train and started back … with a broken heart, with bitterness in my soul. … When I got to my tent, … I threw my cap on the cot. I clenched my fists, and I shook them at heaven. I said, ‘How could you do this to me, God? I have done everything I could do to measure up. There is nothing that I could have done—that I should have done—that I haven’t done. How could you do this to me?’ I was as bitter as gall.
“And then I heard a voice, and I recognized the tone of this voice. It was my own voice, and the voice said, ‘I am the gardener here. I know what I want you to do.’ The bitterness went out of my soul, and I fell on my knees by the cot to ask forgiveness for my ungratefulness. …
“… And now, almost 50 years later, I look up to [God] and say, ‘Thank you, Mr. Gardener, for cutting me down, for loving me enough to hurt me.’”5
God knew what Hugh B. Brown was to become and what was needed for that to happen, and He redirected his course to prepare him for the holy apostleship.
- Elder Hugo Montoyo shared this quote in October Conference: (I’d like to ask him if he has any relatives named Inigo, hehe) anyway,
President John Taylor taught: “I heard the Prophet Joseph say, in speaking to the Twelve on one occasion: ‘You will have all kinds of trials to pass through. And it is quite as necessary for you to be tried as it was for Abraham and other men of God, and (said he) God will feel after you, and He will take hold of you and wrench your very heart strings.’”
And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him:
6 For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.
but he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness.
Many have wondered why we must face difficult challenges. We know that one reason is to provide a trial of our faith to see if we will do all the Lord has commanded.1Fortunately this earth life is the perfect setting to face—and pass—these tests.2
But these trials are not just to test us. They are vitally important to the process of putting on the divine nature.3 If we handle these afflictions properly, they will be consecrated for our gain.4……
At times it may seem that our trials are focused on areas of our lives and parts of our souls with which we seem least able to cope. Since personal growth is an intended outcome of these challenges, it should come as no surprise that the trials can be very personal—almost laser guided to our particular needs or weaknesses….
Sometimes we want to have growth without challenges and to develop strength without any struggle. But growth cannot come by taking the easy way. We clearly understand that an athlete who resists rigorous training will never become a world-class athlete. We must be careful that we don’t resent the very things that help us put on the divine nature.
Not one of the trials and tribulations we face is beyond our limits, because we have access to help from the Lord. We can do all things through Christ, who strengthens us.16……
Someday when we get to the other side of the veil, we want more than for someone just to tell us, “Well, you’re done.” Instead, we want the Lord to say, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.”19
- Has there ever been a time in your life during a difficult moment when someone tried to remind you it isn’t too big of a deal? How did it make you feel at the time? Often we might respond defensively, wanting to justify our anger emotions. How can asking God for perspective help us keep our emotions in check?
- Does a parent want to make a toddler’s life difficult by potty training him? (I hope you are scoffing at this with me because we all know it makes the mother’s life difficult first!!)
- When can ‘hard’ feel good?
R: (Write) your thoughts, what you learned, impressions you received, and anything else in your scripture journal (include your thoughts on the study session question: Does God want to make life hard for us?)
- Make a list of the five hardest things you’ve had to face in life. Next to each one, write what the hard thing has taught you. Then, if you are not crying too much to continue, write why or why not you feel like you’ve learned the lesson well.
- Write out the answer you would give a 6 year old who asks you, Does God want to make life hard for us?
- Copy down your favorite quote or scripture from the ponder section above.
E: (Prayer/Thank)- thank God for what you’ve learned and ask if there is anymore.
The Challenge: When things seem hard, rather than letting the frustration derail you, say a prayer and ask for a glimpse of heaven’s perspective.
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