Today while visiting my home ward, someone bore their testimony about how life isn’t easy, nor is it about to get any easier. They compared it to playing a video game – when you “level up” it generally means that there are a lot more obstacles and trials you have to get through in order to pass the next level. But the nice thing about leveling up means that you are also given more strength and additional abilities to accomplish whatever tasks stand in your way.
Now, I normally am not a fan of video games. I find them to usually end up being a waste of time and generally only fun if you’re playing with someone else, but today I was struck by just how genius of a comparison that really is. Life starts out alright, with simple trials here and there. As you get older though, and gain more knowledge and experience, the trials seem to come with ever-increasing force. Life is HARD, and it’s not getting any easier the older we get. It usually just gets harder.
Something I’ve learned in my own life, though, is that the harder it gets, the more I really enjoy it. I don’t mean to say that I love having trials and hardships and feeling pain and all that. I mean that the harder things get in life, the easier it becomes for me to see my progress and to see how much the difficult parts are changing me and helping to shape me into the kind of person I’ve always wanted to be.
In Matthew 5, Jesus Christ teaches his disciples that the Law of Moses should no longer be followed because Christ’s law is the higher law. He teaches “Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment: But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment…” (Matt. 5:21-22) “Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery: But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart” (Matt. 5:27-28).
In these verses (and throughout the chapter) you can see how the higher law is more difficult that the Law of Moses. However, in the last verse, Christ says “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” I love how that comes at the end of this instructional chapter. One lesson that I take from this is that the Lord gives us laws he wants us to keep and then provides a way for us to really internalize them and become perfect at keeping them. The best part, though, is that He doesn’t expect us to do it perfectly right away. He knows that it takes time for us to learn these things and why they’re so important for us to do (or not do). He knows we will be imperfect at keeping His commandments, but that’s why most of us have 80-100 years of life on Earth to learn to keep them! And through learning to keep His commandments, we become more like Him. That’s the whole reason we have commandments – to fulfill that last verse and “be ye therefore perfect…”
Thinking back on the trials and things that I’ve gone through in my life, I can clearly see that my life is not easy. Maybe it’s easier than some people’s lives. But I know it isn’t easy to keep going every day and be full of joy and filled with the Spirit every minute of every day. Thankfully, though my life isn’t all rainbows and lollipops, I love it all. I love the joy I find in nature. I love the family and friends I have who love me, too. I love the vacations and trips I’ve taken. I love what I’m studying in school. I love my callings in church. And I love my trials. Why? Because I can see how much closer I am to being more like my Savior. Without each of the difficult times I’ve had in life, I wouldn’t be even remotely close to who I am today. For that, I will be forever grateful for whatever storms come my way.
So my challenge for you is this: Level up. Use the experiences, the tools, the abilities and everything else life thus far has given you. Use them and level up. Just as leveling up in a video game is an accomplishment and something to be celebrated, so too is leveling up in life. Look forward to the next challenges, embrace them and take them as they come. Because they’ll only make it possible for you to keep going when something harder comes along.
Trials are not something we need to dread or resent. They are things we should embrace and appreciate. Because they teach us to become as the Savior is.