You can read 1 Nephi 16:20
Context and General Information
- Lehi and his family are enduring a physical trial – after days or weeks of journeying, they have no food.
- Nearly everyone, including Lehi, begins to murmur.
I know I talked about a lot of this yesterday, but I guess it is still on my mind today…oh well.
Earlier in 1 Nephi 16, we read how Nephi broke his bow. This was a huge challenge to his entire family. Of course the usual people (Laman and Lemuel) murmured. Their murmuring extended to the sons of Ishmael. And, unlike other times, this murmuring even spread to Lehi. We read:
“And it came to pass that Laman and Lemuel and the sons of Ishmael did begin to murmur exceedingly, because of their sufferings and afflictions in the wilderness; and also my father began to murmur against the Lord his God; yea, and they were all exceedingly sorrowful, even that they did murmur against the Lord.” – 1 Nephi 16:20
We are so lucky these days. I can’t say that I’ve ever really been that hungry. I typically eat every single day. And I have almost always had plenty of food in my house. I don’t need a bow and arrow to get food. I just go to the store.
This physical trial was difficult.
Though I haven’t been that hungry before, I’ve experienced other difficult physical trials. I’ve had kidney stones. PAINFUL!!!! I mean, excruciatingly painful. Thankfully, I passed the stones and was able to feel good again after that. But in the moment of my kidney stones, it was hard to really think about anything other than the immediate pain in my back. When my husband drove me to the hospital, I was somewhat irritated by his desire to obey traffic laws like stop signs and red lights. I was in pain.
I’ve also had shingles. This was another physical ordeal. It started as a twinge in my back – that lasted about a week. It would keep me awake at night, but kind of felt like I had just tweaked my back during a workout. I couldn’t put my finger on it. Every day, though, it got a little worse.
The pain started on a Sunday night. It continued through to Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, etc. On that Saturday night I got very little sleep. Sunday morning I told my husband that my back hurt too much. I wasn’t going to go to church. I couldn’t imagine sitting in chairs for three hours. It would kill my back. (I still had no idea that I had Shingles at that point.) So I stayed home. I read my scriptures. Then I put on my headphones and went out for a short walk – hoping that walking would loosen up my back.
Instead, I was focusing too much on the pain still. I tripped over nothing, and then I sprained my ankle. It was a pretty good sprain, about a half a mile from my house. Someone happened to be driving by as I fell. She offered to take me home, but I had a bit too much pride to accept. She went on her way.
It took a moment for me to gather my courage. I was feeling so defeated. I stood up, putting all of my weight on my good, right foot. And I dreaded the walk home – slightly up hill – about half a mile. I hobbled for a few minutes, and then noticed a car pulling up. It was the same woman. She told me that she couldn’t get me out of her mind, and turned around. This time I accepted her ride very graciously – knowing that it was a tender mercy from my Heavenly Father.
I thanked her profusely and then went back into the empty house. I should mention right now that we were living at my dad’s house. Yes – with my entire family (four kids and husband) – in my late thirties…living with my dad.
I should also mention that I have this problem with dishydrotic eczema from time to time. It’s caused by stress and then certain food sensitivities. The food sensitivities are also brought on by stress. It’s confusing because there are times when I can eat whatever I want with no real problem. Then there are other times when I eat the same foods, and my hands are covered in itchy blisters. This was one of the times when my hands were covered with itchy blisters.
So – I had blistering hands and a fat, throbbing, newly-sprained ankle. I laughed when I got home, thinking – well – maybe now that my ankle hurts so much, my back will stop hurting.
I sat down on the couch putting up my foot, and was dismayed to noticed that not only did my foot hurt, but my back was still hurting, too…a lot. So, I decided to carefully get up and go to take a bath. Maybe that would make me feel better.
I got to the bathroom, and started to disrobe, and then I noticed a huge rash – spanning the upper part of the left side of my chest. This rash was all over my breast, extending out – to underneath my armpit, and even to my back. It didn’t itch at that point (not compared to my hands anyway), but where did it come from!?!?!?! This rash didn’t look like hives, but when I saw it, I’d had it.
I put my shirt back on and went down to the couch and cried. I felt like I was at a breaking point. Now, it wasn’t life-or-death, so I know that it is no comparison to what Lehi and his family were feeling. But I absolutely felt the temptation to complain to God. In my mind, I wanted to complain – I wanted to think I’m doing everything that I’ve been commanded. It’s humiliating, but I’m okay with it. I’ve given up so many of my material goods, but I’m okay with it. I’m living at my dad’s house, and that’s okay. My hands are cracking, bleeding, and rashy, but I can live with it. My back hurts, and I can deal with it. My sprained ankle – I hate getting sprained ankles, but I can rest. … But isn’t that enough. Now I have a giant rash on my body, too? I don’t know if I can take much more.
I prayed that somehow the rash would magically disappear. I wrote a text to my husband – who was at church with the kids. I told him I was okay – he didn’t need to rush home or anything. And I sat on the couch, crying, reading my scriptures, and praying. I tried as hard as I could not to murmur against God.
I don’t think that I’m any better than Lehi or anyone else. I have an advantage – I have the examples of those who went before me.
Like Lehi, I’m on a “journey” of my own, and I’m doing everything that I can to follow the Spirit so I can arrive to my own “promised land.” This journey has been emotionally demanding. And that’s the way it goes. We don’t grow without being pushed out of our comfort zones. We don’t make it to the tops of the mountains without climbing a mountain.
When we first embark on a journey (of any kind – physical, spiritual, emotional), it is hard, but also kind of easy. There is this initial excitement and rush we feel. We are stoked. But then, time passes – and we are still on the journey. It isn’t as exciting as at first. The reality of the difficulty of the journey sets in.
With a really big journey – like Lehi’s – we may get through the doldrums. But there’s more to it than that. A big reward (the promised land) requires a big sacrifice (8 years in the wilderness). It’s just the way it works. You can’t plant a green bean and then expect apples. No, if you want an apple tree, you plant an apple seed and then tend to it for years before it gives you a single piece of fruit.
So – Lehi got through the doldrums. He had kept the commandments. Yet he was still tested. Right to the brink of what he could handle.
And we have these examples. We don’t have to repeat the mistakes (understandable ones!) that Lehi and others made – because we know better. We have Lehi and Nephi as examples. We know the ending of their story – they would make it. They would eat. It wasn’t worth the murmuring because they would be okay.
As I sat on the couch in my dad’s house that Sunday morning – ankle throbbing, hand itching, back aching, and my mind racing with worry about this new rash that had popped up – I wasn’t particularly happy. But I knew that I shouldn’t murmur against God. I needed His blessings. I needed to do what I could to get into a state of mind that would bring about a solution to these physical problems that I was having. So – after I read my scriptures, I just started reading a book. It wasn’t anything spiritual or special. It would just get me into a better mood.
This is longer than I anticipated. That’s how it goes. It is helpful for me, and I hope it will be helpful for you.
My family got home from church, we hung out, it was a nice day. Then, later on the kids went to bed. I was spending time with my husband, and letting him know that I was feeling quite defeated. I wasn’t murmuring against God, but I did admit I don’t know how much I can take. But I also knew that if God thinks I can do it, then I can do it. There are so many people who are suffering so much more than I am.
So – in this situation, I was talking with him about my problems, but I want to emphasize I wasn’t murmuring. There is a difference. And there have been times that I have confused identifying a problem in our lives and murmuring. It is good to identify problems. Pretending problems don’t exist is not an exercise of faith. Instead, we have faith when we accept our problems, identify them, and then either endure them or – if it is appropriate – work to find a solution (usually it’s a bit of both).
So – I was telling my husband about the day, and I told him about my rash on my chest. As I was talking to him about it, I admitted that it seemed different than my usual hives. He patiently listened. When I started describing my rash, I had a thought come to my mind Shingles.
I didn’t know anything about Shingles really – other than they were painful and that they were from the Chicken Pox Virus. But the thought Shingles was a prompting from the Spirit. I had my phone next to me, so I picked it up and googled “Shingles.” I read the symptoms, and knew – I have Shingles.
At first, I wasn’t particularly comforted, even though the prompting was a blessing and a comfort. I still wanted everything to magically disappear. (I hope that I’m not the only person on earth who wants things to magically disappear. But I’m childish sometimes). I didn’t want shingles because that meant that all of this – the pain, the rash, etc. was a real issue and wouldn’t just go away with a good night’s sleep.
I told my husband that I thought I had Shingles, and I started to cry. I didn’t want Shingles. (Funny…I already had it. It’s not something I could choose at this point!) We talked for a little while longer, and I’m so grateful that I’m married to a faithful man. His words comforted me, and then before going to bed, I asked for a blessing.
I went to the doctor, and they gave me anti-viral medication. They told me that I should take the medication, and that I would also still be in pain. (They weren’t lying). The pain got exponentially worse before it got better. I took the medication for a week, and it cleared up the rash – which meant the virus was no longer active. But, Shingles often causes a bit of nerve damage, and I had pain in my back and side for about 4 more months.
That little vindictive virus. It sits – dormant -on a nerve for decades before attacking. Oh – and typically you’re immune system has to be compromised for it to proliferate. Meaning, you have to be either elderly or really stressed out. So – this feels like you’re being kicked when you are down!
I was already stressed out. The last thing I needed was some idiotic virus attacking my nerves! But that’s the best opportunity for this virus. It attacks when you are at your edge.
I didn’t plan on writing about this, and I’m not really sure why I did. Other than I know that even while we are faithful, we will experience trial. Sometimes those trials are mental. Other times, our trials are physical. Physical trials can also become mental trials – as they are very taxing.
These trials aren’t a statement from God that we lack faith. They aren’t a statement from God that he doesn’t like us. Trials don’t come to us because Heavenly Father is ignoring us. Trial come to us because that’s life. I saw a quote recently:
Heavenly Father doesn’t promise us that He will clear our lives – free from trials and difficulties. Instead, He lets us know that He will allow us to experience trial, but we don’t need to fear. He can consecrate those afflictions for our gain.
So – when we find ourselves experiencing hardship, even when we are faithful, even when we are keeping the commandments, we can still put our trust in Him. It’s okay to identify the problem. It’s okay to accept it. It’s okay for it to be hard. It’s okay for us to plead – just as the Savior did – that our trials are lifted from us. And, like the Savior, we need to be willing to accept Heavenly Father’s will. As we do, we may not have the trial lifted, but we will be strengthened. We will weather the storm, and we may just find that the storm cleared the path for us.