Throughout life, all of us will have problems. It's inevitable. Job did: He lost his family, his riches, and his health. Joseph of Egypt did: His brothers sold him into slavery and was imprisoned on false charges. Jesus did: He suffered persecution and hatred, was abused, and was crucified. Joseph Smith did: He was driven from place to place simply because he believed differently than others; he was beaten and tarred and feathered; he spent a winter in Liberty Jail even though he had never been tried or convicted of anything.
Problems happen to the best of us.
Some of us will experience great prosperity. We will have beautiful homes, cars, and clothes. We will have food and to spare. We will have summer homes, winter homes, boats, etc. . . . Of course, prosperity doesn't always come to the best of us.
But problems and prosperity share something: They can become our excuse to turn away from God. Some who suffer problems, like Job's wife (remember, they were her children, too) curse God and long to die. Some of the prosperous will believe that by the strength of their own arm they became prosperous, that God had nothing to do with their prosperity. Thus, they can turn their back on the poor as they pursue greater wealth. And those suffering problems and prosperity may lose their faith in God and cease serving Him.
Yet problems and prosperity need not destroy our faith. God has tried to teach us how to prevent losing our faith for a long time. One of the most important things we can do is to remember.
Foreseeing forty years in the wilderness, wars, captivity in Babylon, and the other problems the children of Israel would have, God instituted the feast of unleavened bread and the feast of the passover so they would remember what God did for them in bringing them out of Egypt. (See Exodus chapters 12-13). Jesus, the night before His crucifixion, instituted the sacrament so that we would remember what He did for us as we partake of the emblems representing His flesh and blood. (See Luke 22:15-20).
Remembering will preserve our faith in God.
Now, none of us were in Egypt as the destroying angel passed over those who had marked their doors with the blood of the lamb or as Pharaoh thrust them out of Egypt. None of us were in the upper room when Jesus instituted the sacrament of communion, nor were we there to witness His sacrifice and resurrection.
But God has given us our own Passovers and upper rooms which we can remember when things get too hard, or too good, for that matter. With little thought, we can remember the times when we felt God reaching out to us. When we realize the destroying angel has just passed without harming us or when we realize we have just communed with Deity.
I remember on my mission when I had received a new assignment. Prior to the assignment, I had been working in two branches of the Church. All of our investigators and work were in one branch. The new assignment took the branch with all our work and gave it to another pair of missionaries. So my companion and I began knocking doors and speaking with people in the street. During the first week of our companionship, we spent hours in the streets with little success, but we did succeed in setting about seven appointments for Saturday. One of the appointments was with a young family. We had spoken to the mother of the family and shared with her a brief message that through the ordinances of the restored Gospel of Jesus Christ, she could be with her family forever. She was interested, and we were excited to teach her and her husband together. They were our last appointment for Saturday. That was the appointment that we were sure would make our long week of hard work worth it.
Saturday came, and more than half our appointments fell through. We were struggling to stay positive, but at least we would soon be teaching that young family. The time came for our appointment with them. We knocked on their door. The mother answered, but she wasn't excited to see us. "My husband doesn't want to listen to you. You need to go."
We were crushed. And we still had more than an hour before we could go home. My companion and I talked about what we should do. It was dark. We were tired of knocking doors. And there was no one on the street to talk to. But we decided to pray. So my companion and I found a secluded place, knelt in the dirt, and asked God to guide us. When we finished, we stood and brushed off our suits.
"Let's knock on one more door," my companion said.
"O.K." I replied.
We walked to the first door we saw, knocked, and no one answered.
"Alright, one more, and if no one answers, we're going to the apartment," my companion said.
"Sounds good to me," I said.
We walked to the next house down and knocked on the door. An older woman answered the door.
"We're messengers of Jesus Christ, and we have a message for you," I said.
"We're members of another Church," she said.
Just then, I saw a light across the path from her home. I felt impressed to point to that light and say, "Would you say that's a good light?"
She looked puzzled, but answered, "Yes."
"Could you read by it?"
"In fact, that light will keep us from tripping as we walk by it, right?"
"But the strength of that light is limited to just the area around it. Is there a greater light?" I asked.
"Yes, the sun," she said.
"We're not here to take away the light you already have. It's a good light. A light that has guided your life for years, that has kept you from stumbling in darkness. But we've brought you the light of the sun."
She paused for a moment. Opened the door, and asked us to come teach her, her husband, and her two sons. The meeting we had with them that night was one of the most powerful and spiritual discussions I had with anyone during my mission.
They were all later baptised, all because God heard the prayers of two young men trying to serve Him, inspired them to knock on one more door, and gave them the words to speak which would touch the heart of one of His daughters.
I remember that story any time I wonder if God actually hears and answers prayers.
I've had many other experiences which when problems or prosperity attack my faith in God that I can remember to turn my heart to God. And I'm sure you have, too.
So when we find ourselves in problems or in prosperous circumstances, we need to pause and remember the great things God has done for us. If we are in problems, we will know that we can move forward, relying on God to strengthen us and help us through them. And if we are in prosperous circumstances, remembering will inspire us to thank God for our blessings and to share our blessing with those who have found themselves in problems.
(Feel free to share in the comments the things that God has done for you that you remember to preserve your faith in Him).