“With God Nothing Shall Be Impossible” – Russell M. Nelson

Today, I’m studying the talk, With God Nothing Shall Be Impossible,” by Russell M. Nelson. He gave this talk in the April 1988 session of General Conference.

For with God Nothing Shall Be Impossible

This talk was the perfect thing for me to study today.

I think that I’ll start with this quote, even though this came at the end of the talk:

You who may be momentarily disheartened, remember, life is not meant to be easy. Trials must be borne and grief endured along the way. As you remember that “with God nothing shall be impossible,” know that He is your Father. You are a son or daughter created in His image, entitled through your worthiness to receive revelation to help with your righteous endeavors. You may take upon you the holy name of the Lord. You can qualify to speak in the sacred name of God. It matters not that giants of tribulation torment you. Your prayerful access to help is just as real as when David battled his Goliath. – Russell M. Nelson

I have an admission, I get disheartened easier than I would like. Overall, I feel like I’m a very optimistic person. This is all centered on the fact that I know that the Lord is good, I know that He Loves us, and I know that there is no limit to His love, power, knowledge or blessings. In other words, He is a god of abundance, and He wants – no he delights – in blessing us with His abundance.

I’m an optimist, but I am also striving. I’m also trying to be a better person. I don’t believe in the concept of “perfection,” but I do want to do what I can to increase my talents, to “10x” my life. Much has been given to me in my life; much is required. I have a hunger that seems to be impossible to satiate. I have this one life to live – I love it, and I want to “get after it.”

Of course, Heavenly Father wants us to dream big and to work for those dreams. It doesn’t have to be done in some “type-A” kind of way. Look at the life of the Savior. He didn’t have meetings or “SMART” goals. He didn’t come to the earth when he impact more people globally by sending out a tweet or writing a blog. He didn’t walk into Jerusalem and force everyone to be healed. He simply served one at a time. His mode of transportation was his two feet. His mode of communication was his audible voice. Despite the fact that he wasn’t a type-A kind of a dude, he “10xed” his life. He did exactly the needful thing at each moment. He made an impact on our world that is unforgettable. He fulfilled His mission.

This is how I strive to be – I’m really happy with my life, but I’m also still hungry. There is so much that is so great about this world. There is so much to see, to experience. There is so much room for my own growth. There is so much I want to learn. I also want to do everything I can to improve my relationships. I am very serious about my role as a nurturer, and I want to be the kind of woman who is able to nurture others – both my children, spouse, and anyone else I come in contact with.

So – with this insight on my desires, there are specific goals I have. Those specific goals aren’t necessary to mention in this blog, but I guess it is important that I let you know I have them. I have specific goals – some that are easier to achieve than others. A few of them have required greater faith than I’m always able to muster. Thankfully the Lord is patient with me, and He helps me.

***

In the Book of Mormon, there is a story about a group of people: The Jaredites. Their story begins with a journey to the promised land. They originated in the city of Babel, and traveled for about four years before they were commanded to build barges and cross the sea. Finally, the barges were prepared, the food was prepared, God – through the faith of the brother of Jared – blessed them with a way to have light and comfort in these barges. And they began their journey to the promised land.

We learn how the barges moved forward toward the promised land:

“And it came to pass that the Lord God caused that there should be a furious wind blow upon the face of the waters, towards the promised land; and thus they were tossed upon the waves of the sea before the wind.” – Ether 6:6

So – in order to get to the promised land, a furious wind blew. They didn’t drift leisurely toward their destination. This was no pleasure cruise. We learn:

“And it came to pass that they were many times buried in the depths of the sea, because of the mountain waves which broke upon them, and also the great and terrible tempests which were caused by the fierceness of the wind.” – Ether 6:7

Notice the description of the sea: mountain waves, terrible tempests, fierce winds. All of this was done so that the Jaredites could make it to their destination.

I have embarked on my own goals and journeys that have required a lot of faith for me. And the Lord has used metaphorical mountain waves to push me along my path. Sometimes it’s scary. And sometimes, I see the mountain wave, am surrounded by the terrible tempest, and hear the fierceness of the wind. And I am tempted to become disheartened. Which is why I love that quote and this entire talk by President Nelson!!!

President Nelson states:

“And I admire those who strive to be more worthy by overcoming a personal fault or who work to achieve a difficult goal.” – Russell M. Nelson

Though the Lord may use “mountain waves” to push us toward overcoming personal faults or achieving a difficult goal, we shouldn’t be afraid. We should remember that “With God nothing shall be impossible.”

We have evidence of this! Heavenly Father blessed Gideon and his troops against the Midianites. The Lord decreased his troops from twenty-two thousand to ten thousand. Still, that was too many. Gideon, following the instruction from the Lord, whittled his troops down to only 300. And only then did the Lord deliver them, impossible though it seemed.

The Lord enabled Sarah to have a baby in her old age and Mary to bear a child though she was a virgin.

The Lord directed the children of Israel to the Red Sea, where they miraculously crossed it on dry ground.

The Lord brought Nephi and the Jaredites to the promised land.

The Lord brought forth His gospel – in its fullness – in the latter days starting with only a few uneducated farmers and people from rural New York. And now, it has grown and continues to grow and do good throughout the world.

Really, when think about it, nothing is impossible. This is true. It’s not just some statement meant to make you feel better as you keep trudging along in life. It is true. It is meant to be a beacon of hope and the knowledge that we need in order to embark on our own life’s missions – though they may require a ton of faith and strength that we feel we don’t have.

We can learn to achieve the impossible as we come to the Lord. President Nelson teaches how to achieve by highlighting three spiritual themes.

Faith

If we don’t have faith, if we don’t have vision, then we are doomed before we even begin. I feel like I could write an entire book about faith and why it is absolutely critical if we want to “10x” our lives, if we want to make any progress, if we want to feel any joy. It all hinges on faith.

And faith is more than just trusting in God. It’s more than believing that He can do something. Faith also means that we trust that He can empower us to do what we must. I have trouble with this, but the Lord is gently teaching me.

So we need faith. President Nelson teaches:

“Faith is nurtured through knowledge of God. It comes from prayer and feasting upon the words of Christ through diligent study of the scriptures.” – Russell M. Nelson

Yes! I love this! Nephi teaches us that His brothers murmured (which came as a result of a lack of faith) because they “knew not the dealings of that God who had created them.” (See 1 Nephi 2:12)

When we come to know the Lord through prayer and scripture study, then increased faith comes as a result. We learn that He is trustworthy, and that we can rely on Him. We learn that with Him nothing is impossible because He will empower us. Often, the way I think about it is: Well, if God thinks that I can do this, then I guess I can do it. I shouldn’t second-guess the Lord. Even though it seems like second guessing ourselves is a sign of humility, it isn’t. Second guessing our capability to do what the Lord thinks we can do is not only a lack of faith, it is pride, and a lack of understanding that God is omniscient and omnipotent. We should believe Him when He believes in us.

Focus

Oh! I love this point, too. As I’ve been climbing the path of my own goals, I have been reminded time and time again about my focus, about my vision, and how that would be a huge determining factor on my success.

I think about Peter, who walked on the water. When he began to focus on the stormy water, he lost focus on His Savior. He faltered in his faith – that the Savior would empower Him to walk on the water. Peter focused on failure, and failure followed.

This is a long quote, but I really love how President Nelson teaches us about focus:

“Imagine, if you will, a pair of powerful binoculars. Two separate optical systems are joined together with a gear to focus two independent images into one three-dimensional view. To apply this analogy, let the scene on the left side of your binoculars represent your perception of your task. Let the picture on the right side represent the Lord’s perspective of your task—the portion of His plan He has entrusted to you. Now, connect your system to His. By mental adjustment, fuse your focus. Something wonderful happens. Your vision and His are now the same. You have developed an “eye single to the glory of God.” With that perspective, look upward—above and beyond mundane things about you. The Lord said, “Look unto me in every thought.” That special vision will also help clarify your wishes when they may be a bit fuzzy and out of focus with God’s hopes for your divine destiny. Indeed, the precise challenge you regard now as “impossible” may be the very refinement you need, in His eye.

As we develop an “eye of faith,” we will be able to focus. I know that this doesn’t just happen. We have to choose to align our focus with God’s. And when you do develop focus, don’t take it for granted. Little things can blur your focus. There is an active adversarial force working against us (hint: SATAN!). Not only do we need to align our vision with God’s to give us focus, we need to keep calibrating our vision – so that it remains united with His.

Strength and Courage

I think that strength and courage come as we cultivate faith and focus. It comes when we keep our covenants – especially the covenant to always remember Him.

In and of myself, I’m not strong. I’m not courageous.

Here’s another example. In and of himself, Nephi wasn’t strong. He wasn’t courageous. He didn’t rely on his own wits. Instead, he knew the way to find strength and courage:

“And it came to pass that I, Nephi, said unto my father: I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them.” – 1 Nephi 3:7

Nephi knew that he didn’t need to be strong and courageous. He needed to be open and meek. He needed to be close to the Spirit. That this meekness and openness would help him to see the opportunities that the Lord would put in his place in order for Nephi to do as the Lord commanded.

So Nephi did that. Nephi’s trust in the Lord WAS his strength and courage. That is when the Lord makes even more out of Nephi, so much so, that I feel like I’m speaking the truth when I say that “Nephi was courageous.”

I love the hymn quoted by President Nelson –

Why should we mourn or think our lot is hard?
‘Tis not so; all is right.
Why should we think to earn a great reward
If we now shun the fight?
Gird up your loins; fresh courage take.
Our God will never us forsake;
And soon we’ll have this tale to tell—
All is well! All is well!
Come, Come Ye Saints

And another hymn:

When dark clouds of trouble hang o’er us
And threaten our peace to destroy,
There is hope smiling brightly before us,
And we know that deliv’rance is nigh.
We doubt not the Lord nor his goodness.
We’ve proved him in days that are past.
We Thank Thee, O God, for a Prophet

And another hymn:

In ev’ry condition—in sickness, in health,
In poverty’s vale or abounding in wealth,
At home or abroad, on the land or the sea—
As thy days may demand, as thy days may demand,
As thy days may demand, so thy succor shall be.

Fear not, I am with thee; oh, be not dismayed,
For I am thy God and will still give thee aid.
I’ll strengthen thee, help thee, and cause thee to stand,
Upheld by my righteous, upheld by my righteous,
Upheld by my righteous, omnipotent hand.

When through the deep waters I call thee to go,
The rivers of sorrow shall not thee o’erflow,
For I will be with thee, thy troubles to bless,
And sanctify to thee, and sanctify to thee,
And sanctify to thee thy deepest distress.

When through fiery trials thy pathway shall lie,
My grace, all sufficient, shall be thy supply.
The flame shall not hurt thee; I only design
Thy dross to consume, thy dross to consume,
Thy dross to consume and thy gold to refine.
How Firm a Foundation

I know that I’m not special. I know that if you are reading this, you have gone through your own trials of faith. You have had times when you wondered how to endure the impossible. I know that I’m not the only one on this earth who has had goals, ambitions, trials, and more.

Though I’m not the only one, the only testimony I can give is my own. I know that God loves us. I know that His work and His GLORY is us! It is our eternal success. I know that He delights in blessing us with his best blessings. I know that He wants us to dream big, and that really – we can’t even dream as big as He does. I know that our Heavenly Father wants us to experience joy, and that joy is related to us fulfilling the measures of our creation.

I know that if we choose to embark on the path that will bring us joy – if we will embark on the path that will help us to do what we were sent here to do, then we are not on an easy path. I know that refinement and improvement is sometimes tiring and painful. You can’t get to the top of the mountain without climbing a mountain.

But, we can do it. God thinks we can! So we can!

I love the final verse of How Firm a Foundation. It is how I feel with my whole entire heart:

The soul that on Jesus hath leaned for repose
I will not, I cannot, desert to his foes;
That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake,
I’ll never, no never, I’ll never, no never,
I’ll never, no never, no never forsake!
How Firm a Foundation

I will remain with Jesus. He is the source of any power and light in my life. He is the reason I’ve been able to do anything good in my life. He is my Savior and Redeemer. His Atonement has blessed me – It has healed me from heartache and pain. It has forgiven me of my sins. It has brought me comfort in times of physical illness and distress. And it has empowered me as I have sought the abundant life He offers. The Savior has enabled me to do things that I never could have imagined doing. Through Him, I have received personal commandments, and though they seem impossible, I can echo what Nephi said. I KNOW that the Lord will not give us a commandment without a way for us to keep it.

Our Heavenly Father is not Lucy. He doesn’t set up the football with the intention of taking it away as we fall flat on our backs. He doesn’t set us up for failure. Though we don’t always see solutions to our problems, though there are times when we keep falling and failing, if we trust in God, He will guide us to the solution. We will make it to the top of the mountain.

empire pass

Long Post. (I feel like I say this every time)

***

I’m so grateful to know that we are guided by a prophet today who is confident in the Lord. I’m grateful to know that Russell M. Nelson is so confident in the Lord’s power, that he believes the Lord can make us powerful! I am grateful to know that President Nelson believes that nothing is impossible for the Lord – and that this statement is not just to puff up and flatter some jealous god, but that this statement is made for us to realize that the Lord is powerful enough to work miracles in us and through us! That His power is powerful enough to give us power!

I’m grateful that President Nelson knows this and has taught us this. I respect him, and I’m so grateful to be guided by a living prophet who has trusted God enough to truly know that with God nothing shall be impossible.

 

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Hope for the Best and Expect the Worst…

I’ve heard it said over and over again, “Hope for the best and expect the worst.” I understand the concept behind the adage. But I think that I’m less and less of a believer of it.

Today, in sacrament meeting, we sang the following:

“When dark clouds of trouble hang o’er us
And threaten our peace to destroy,
There is hope smiling brightly before us,
And we know that deliverance is nigh.
We doubt not the Lord nor his goodness,
We’ve proved Him in days that are past.” – We Thank Thee, O God, for a Prophet

DSC_0535
There is hope smiling brightly before us.

***

About four years ago, Homey and I started our own business. Starting your own business is not for the faint of heart. Both Homey and I, when we started it, knew that it would push us right to the very edge – past anything we have ever experienced. Simultaneously, we knew that we could trust God, and that we would be fine. There would definitely be times when things didn’t feel fine, but we could trust that we were okay.

This thought came the exact instant I told Homey, “it’s time to quit your job and be serious about the business.” Both my own spirit and the Comforter were aligned on this – I knew this instinctually, in my gut, in my Spirit and because of the Spirit – we needed to devote more time to the business. I knew that we needed to take the risk, have Homey quit his job, and focus our efforts 100% on the business. I knew, the Spirit gave me a deep impression that now was our chance – and that if we didn’t take it, there might not be another “right time for it.”

We went to the temple, we referred to our patriarchal blessings. And we knew that this was not only something we wanted to do, but perhaps a part of the work we should perform in this life. It would enable us to be the kind of people God sees in us, and it would enable us to do the work that He would expect of us.

And, thank goodness for the Comforter – even while Homey was still employed with a very secure job that gave us a very secure lifestyle – I knew that we would be pushed right to our limit. And I also felt overwhelming comfort, “You’ll be pushed to your limit, but you will be delivered. You know the pattern – the Lord delivers when your back is at the wall.”

(But He doesn’t deliver us before our backs are to the wall).

***

That was four years ago. Since then, Homey and I have been working, working, working. We have lived off of savings. We have sold our house. We have moved to Hawai’i, to the mainland – the intermountain west, and then to the East Coast. We have sold nearly all of our belongings (everything we own fits in a small portion of my in-law’s basement – for a family of six!). We own no couches, bookshelves, or dishes. We have had an amazing ride. We have been blessed by the Lord.

And we have been stretched.

At one point along the ride, a well-meaning individual said, “Well, you know – you have to hope for the best, but expect the worst.”

I smiled, and was grateful for the concern. I nodded my head, but I didn’t agree. And the idea has been ruminating in the back of my head for months.

***

In First Nephi, within the first chapters of the Book of Mormon, we read Nephi’s courageous declaration:

“And it came to pass that I, Nephi, said unto my father: I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them.” – 1 Nephi 3:7

Hope for the best, and expect the worst? Not really. Nephi didn’t “hope” that he would obtain the plates. No, he was committed to obtaining the plates. He tried once and twice – lost his entire family’s inheritance, and nearly lost his life. Then he finally entered into the gates of Jerusalem – armed only with the Spirit and with no plan at all. Perhaps the chain of events didn’t happen as he had expected, but his primary expectation and his hope were aligned – He would obtain the plates. No plan B. No other option. That was that. He would obtain the plates or die trying.

Now, maybe you’re wondering, “Well, Nephi was commanded.” Let’s look at another example.

***

We have a record – in the Book of Ether – of a group of people that originated from Babel, during the time that the Lord confused their languages. One family – Jared’s family and his brothers – prayed to the Lord that they would be able to communicate with each other. So, Jared had his brother – who was highly favored of the Lord – pray to spare their family.

And the Lord did.

Then, Jared asked his brother the following:

“And it came to pass that Jared spake again unto his brother, saying: Go and inquire of the Lord whether he will drive us out of the land, and if he will drive us out of the land, cry unto him whither we shall go. And who knoweth but the Lord will carry us forth into a land which is choice above all the earth? And if it so be, let us be faithful unto the Lord, that we may receive it for our inheritance.”  – Ether 1:38.

So – Jared’s brother decides to ask God to drive them out of the land – and perhaps to a promised land. The Lord has compassion. He gives Jared’s brother some instructions, then makes the following promise:

“…And there will I meet thee, and I will go before thee into a land which is choice above all the lands of the earth.

And there will I bless thee and thy seed, and raise up unto me of thy seed, and of the seed of thy brother, and they who shall go with thee, a great nation. And thereshall be none greater than the nation which I will raise up unto me of thy seed, upon all the face of the earth. And thus I will do unto thee because this long time ye have cried unto me.” – Ether 1:42-43

Unlike Nephi and his family, Jared and his brethren were not commanded to flee Babel. They had a righteous desire, they asked the Lord, and the Lord granted accordingly (Ask and ye shall receive…). They would have to do a lot of work, they would travel across the entire world – from Babel to the Americas. But the Lord would grant them according to their prayers.

It would push them right to their limits, but they didn’t have to worry because it would work.

Hope for the best and expect the worst??? NO! Plan B? Plan C? NOOOO! There is one plan! It is to do what God will have us do! There is one expectation – that the Lord’s will will come to pass, and that his promises are sure, that hope isn’t some silly thing that kids do, but that it will anchor our faith by giving us vision.

***

Imagine that you are walking along the iron rod, toward the tree of life. Do you say, “Well, I’m hoping that I will make it to the tree of life, but I don’t expect it. In fact, I expect that I will wander off on a strange road and get lost – the worst possible outcome.” Do you say, “I’ll hope for the best, but expect the worst,” as if you are an agent to be acted upon, rather than an agent to act – empowered by the infinite grace of God???

***

I will admit that many, many times in my life I have said, “I won’t get my hopes up.” There is a glimmer of an opportunity, but I don’t want to get my hopes up. I don’t want to be disappointed, so I kind of ignore them. Of course, I’m sure you can guess because I expected the worst, I received the worst.

And I’m learning that hope – it isn’t some kind of silly thing. True hope is a facet of faith. It will make an anchor for us so that we succeed. Hope will help us put one foot in front of the other. Hope will give us the vision to find opportunities when our backs are against the wall and every resource appears to be exhausted. Hope gives us the courage to walk into a dark city at night, on an errand from the Lord, with nothing but the Spirit to guide and protect us. Hope gives us the audacity to go to the Lord and ask him for the blessings that He is willing to grant us but can’t until we ask for them.

Hope is how we cheerfully submit to all of the will of God – enduring anything that is thrown before us, knowing that our expectations – deliverance and success – are sure because He Is Sure.

 

Changing Habits – Weakness into Strength

So, this year, I’ve been trying to focus on discipline. There are goals that I have for the year. I’d like to lose weight. I’d like to begin learning Italian. I’d like to create some artwork and write. I’d like to be a better mother, wife, daughter, and friend. You know…I want to be a better human, in general.

As I’ve pondered my goals, I’ve come to the realization that I don’t want to merely do a bunch of stuff, but I want to become a better person. So, I’ve been addressing habits. Since the beginning of the year, I’ve been making new, good habits (21 days at a time). It has been going really well.

Recently, I picked up a book: The Power of Habit, by Charles Duhrigg. It has been a fascinating read.

There is one concept I found especially interesting:

“…You can never truly extinguish bad habits.

Rather, to change a habit you must keep the old cue, and deliver the old reward, but insert a new routine.

That’s the rule: If you use the same cue, and provide the same reward, you can shift the routine and change the habit. Almost any behavior can be transformed if the cue and reward stay the same.” – Charles Duhigg, The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business.

So…here’s the thing, we all have habits. And unfortunately, some of our habits are bad. We crack our knuckles, or bite our nails. Or maybe stop at McDonald’s on the way home from the supermarket. Habits that have been deeply engrained are difficult to stop because our brains are used to seeing the cue (the golden arches), performing a routine (stopping at the drive-thru), and then receiving a reward (a nice snack). We may make the choice to pass McDonald’s, despite the craving. And it is kind of hard – harder than it should be, right? We pass it, and think of the golden fries. The greasy burger-ish thing. Even though we know that the food is less than desireable, our mouths water, and we try to congratulate ourselves for not giving in.

Perhaps there is a better way.

Perhaps, instead of using will power to give up (usually temporarily) a habit, we use our will power to change it.

For example, we go to the supermarket, purchase a fruit that can be eaten in the car, and when we pass the golden arches, we get that cue, our mouths water, and we unpeel a banana. It may not be quite what our mouths expect, but it will still deliver the reward: a tasty snack. Plus, we will feel the added reward of making a good choice and eating a healthy food. Soon, the habit will be Golden Arches → Bananas!

As I have contemplated this idea, the thought came to me I recognize this concept…

“And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.” – Ether 12:27

The Lord teaches us here that we don’t have to give up our weak things on our own. He doesn’t expect us to abandon our bad habits – leaving the void of cravings or possibly addiction and the probability of relapse. He understands how our brains work.

He will show us our weak things, and through His grace, He will make our weak things strong. The habits that we make can be shifted. Instead of “rewiring” our brains, we just learn how to change the routine. We learn how to make the habit: the cue, routine, and reward something that enriches our lives rather than depletes it.

Shifting our habits – making our weak things strong – is difficult work, but we can accomplish this if we humbly remember the Lord. Through his grace and strength, he will help us.

I’m so grateful for the gospel. It gives me hope. There are times I have felt a little discouraged – it seems like making changes is impossible, but I know that I can learn how to do it. I know that the Lord has blessed me with the tools to overcome. I know that He will help me to create good habits out of pre-existing bad ones.

With the help of the Lord, have you ever made a “weak thing” strong? How did you make the change?