Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Alma 37:6-7 -- On Small and Simple Effort

"Now ye may suppose that this is foolishness in me; but behold I say unto you, that by small and simple things are great things brought to pass; and small means in many instances doth confound the wise.
And the Lord God doth work by means to bring about his great and eternal purposes; and by very small means the Lord doth confound the wise and bringeth about the salvation of many souls."
Alma 37:6-7

We get overwhelmed with life sometimes because we think that we have to be superhuman.  God's expectations, and our expectations of ourselves, are huge, and we think... wow, I can't do it.  I can't be perfect.  I can't be 100% honest and good and dismiss every stray bad thought from my mind, and love the people that hate me, and feed all the hungry people and visit the sick and comfort the lonely... *and* work and fulfill my calling and and and and and.  It's a tough thing to face sometimes, and life seems impossible and overwhelming when we are in that mindset.  We want to give up because it is too hard.  But before we do, let's stop for just a moment and think about these verses, and what God really expects from us.
God knows our limitations really well.  He knows us, and he knows we can't remember who we were before this life.  He knows our circumstances.  Yes, he wants us to be perfect... but he knows that we aren't going to get there today.  He knows it is a process.  He only expects what we can honestly and sincerely do.  ... That, of course, doesn't mean that we can just stay in bed all year and eat bonbons and still gain the Celestial Kingdom.  We and God both know that we can do better than that.  But it does mean that the "small and simple things" that we *can* do are enough.  And as we grow and learn and increase our capacity for good, then more good will be expected... but again, only as our true capacity grows.
This might seem simplistic or overly permissive, but I really am not condoning laziness in obedience, either physically or mentally.  Only the destructive stress, guilt, and unrealistic expectations that we place on ourselves, and *believe* that God has placed on us.  Those things can make us feel horrible, paralyze us, and cause us to give up... and it isn't God that wants that.  It's Satan.  He is the one that wants us to think that we aren't good enough, and that since we can't do it all, we might as well not try.  He is the one that told Christ to turn rocks to bread or to throw himself off of a building because God would save him... he wants us all to embrace his drama and believe that only histrionic offerings are acceptable.  But Christ tells us go, and sin no more.  He tells us to take up our bed and walk.  He heals us and asks us to try again... and keep trying until we get it right.
Today, let's do the small things that we can do.  Let's read our scriptures... for as long as we can.  Let's pray, whenever we remember.  Let's treat the people around us with kindness and love, to the limits of our capacity.  And then let's step back, review the day, and do even better tomorrow.  Those small, incremental increases in the good that we do and the internal good that we are becoming are what God is asking of us.  He wants us to do everything we honestly can, and let go of the things that we can't.  He handles that part.  Enduring to the end isn't carrying the world on our shoulders until it crushes us... it is continuing to get up, every time we fail.  It is trying again, and getting better and better and stronger and stronger, and closer and closer to God.

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