The Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Romans was written near the end of Paul’s missionary journeys. In these writings he foreshadows that the Saints in Rome will suffer severe persecutions. The Come, Follow Me lesson for August 12-18, 2019 asks us to ponder the following questions: “What do you find in Romans 8:17-39 that might have helped these Saints when persecution came? How might these words apply to you and the trials you currently face?”
Patiently Looking Forward to Christ
Initially, Paul counsels Saints of Christ, whenever they have lived or will live, to look forward to eternal life and exaltation: “For I reckon that the sufferings of this present are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us” (Romans 8:18). We need to remind ourselves of what awaits the sons and daughters of God in the life to come.
The challenge is that no matter what happens to us in mortality, we need to hope and “with patience wait” (Romans 8:25). Maintaining patience in spite of immediate “tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword” (Romans 8:35) is never easy. As Elder Jeffrey R. Holland has admonished: “Hope on. Journey on. Honestly acknowledge your questions and your concerns, but first and forever fan the flame of your faith, because all things are possible to them that believe” (“Lord, I Believe,” Ensign, May 2013, 93).
In order to endure tests of our faith, we need two things. The first is the sustaining comfort and guidance of the Holy Ghost: “the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings that cannot be uttered” (Romans 8:26). The Holy Spirit can help us “know that all things work together for good to them that love God” (Romans 8:28). The Holy Ghost can correct our mortal myopia with the sustaining power to visualize our sufferings with an eternal perspective.
The second sustaining force comes “from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:39). As we suffer and endure, we come to better understand the great atoning sacrifice of our Savior: “Which suffering caused myself, even God, the greatest of all, to tremble because of pain, and to bleed at every pore, and to suffer both body and spirit—and would that I might not drink the bitter cup and shrink” (Doctrine and Covenants 19:18). Christ is the ultimate comforter, “who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us” (Romans 8:34). As President Henry B. Eyring has taught, “Those who never give up will find that God never gave up and that He will help them” (“The True and Living Church,” Ensign, May 2008, 20).
Rocky Ridge Crossings
In August 1998, our family traversed the Rocky Ridge near Martin’s Cove in Wyoming. At 2225 meters, this transcontinental summit is the highest spot on the Mormon Trail. Even in a four-wheel drive vehicle in good weather, it was an arduous journey with many hazards. On our office desk, we keep a red-coloured stone from Rocky Ridge as a reminder of the hope, courage, and patience of the Willie and Martin Handcart companies during their winter crossings over Rocky Ridge in 1856. For us, this stone symbolizes that we also want to be willing pay the price to know God.
President James E. Faust describes such faith in the following story: “Let me tell you of James Kirkwood. James [age 11] was from Glasgow, Scotland. On the trip west, James was accompanied by his widowed mother and three brothers, one of whom, Thomas, was 19 and crippled and had to ride in the handcart. James’s primary responsibility on the trek was to care for his little four-year-old brother, Joseph, while his mother and oldest brother, Robert, pulled the cart. As they climbed Rocky Ridge [an ascent of 213 meters in 3.22 kilometers], it was snowing and there was a bitter cold wind blowing. It took the whole company 27 hours to travel 15 miles. When little Joseph became too weary to walk, James, the older brother, had no choice but to carry him. Left behind the main group, James and Joseph made their way slowly to camp. When the two finally arrived at the fireside, James, having so faithfully carried out his task, collapsed and died from exposure and over-exertion” (“A Priceless Heritage,” Ensign, July 2002).
James Kirkwood did not think his brother was too heavy to carry. He willingly sacrificed his life. As Jesus told His disciples, “Whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel’s, the same shall save it” (Mark 8:35).
Welcoming the Price to Be Christ-like
Often, though, we are not asked to die for Jesus but to live for Him. Such living involves facing trials and learning from them. As the Lord revealed to Joseph Smith: “And my people must needs be chastened until they learn obedience” (Doctrine and Covenants 105:6). When we have faced or are facing difficult trials, we often ask ourselves, “What does God want us to learn from this experience?”
Not quite a year after we picked up the stone from Rocky Ridge, we became victims of a shooting that resulted in one serious injury and one death. This violent crime forever changed our lives. A year later, a professional counsellor began her meeting with a community group by stating, “Welcome to a new club—victims of traumatic stress violence.” She went on to explain that we would never think or be the way we were before the trauma. Our challenge was to find ways of becoming stronger survivors.
Gradually, we have learned to find hope again. We take care of our physical and emotional wellbeing. We pray daily for guidance from the Spirit and receive promptings. We look forward to the Resurrection and the atoning opportunity to be with Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ again. Ultimately, we have faith and patience in Christ’s reassuring counsel: “Therefore, let your hearts be comforted concerning Zion; for all flesh is in my hands; be still and know that I am God” (Doctrine and Covenants 101:16).