Context and General Information
- To help his people better understand and have a testimony of Christ, Nephi is quoting Isaiah. (See Isaiah 49.)
- The Lord is speaking through Isaiah. He comforts Israel – though Israel will be scattered, He will gather Israel at a later time.
- The Lord will lift up His hand to the Gentiles, and they will gather Israel.
- The Lord will save the children of Israel, will fight her fights, and will destroy those that oppress Her.
- All flesh will know that the Lord, the Mighty One of Jacob, is our Savior and Redeemer.
Waiting for God
As usual, there is a lot that could be studied in this block of scriptures. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m not a scripture scholar. I have no real academic background when it comes to the scriptures. The only real scholarly skill I have is being able to use Google.
So – instead of trying to figure out exactly what everything in today’s scripture selection means, I am going to focus on something that keeps standing out to me instead.
Quick note: there is nothing wrong with finding out the more historical or “scholarly” aspects of the scriptures. There are times when the Spirit is kind of prompting me to learn more about the history or geography of Israel to help me better understand something that I need to know. Today isn’t one of those days for me. Today, I keep thinking about this phrase:
…and thou shalt know that I am the Lord; for they shall not be ashamed that wait for me.” – 1 Nephi 21:23
First things first, I want to see what the dictionary definition for ashamed is.
“1a : feeling shame, guilt, or disgrace
// She felt ashamed for hitting her brother.
// You should be ashamed of yourself.
// Losing is nothing to be ashamed of.
// He was deeply ashamed of his behavior.
b : feeling inferior or unworthy
2 : reluctant or unwilling to do something because of shame or embarrassment
// I was ashamed to be seen with him.
// I’m not ashamed to admit that I don’t know the answer.” – Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary: Ashamed
Notice – shame, guilt, disgrace. This definition includes “guilt,” but when it comes to the scriptures and a religious understanding of shame and guilt, I think that they are two vastly different things.
Guilt – is the feeling we have as a consequence of sin. It is actually a gift. It is a signal from the spirit that something is not right. Guilt that comes from God will be accompanied with love and hope – because we will know that despite our tendency to stray, we have a path back to righteousness through the Savior.
Shame – on the other hand is a feeling we have about ourselves, and I believe that it is from Satan. For example, when in the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve partook of the fruit of the tree of knowledge. They felt guilt when they spoke to God and admitted that they had transgressed and had partaken of the fruit of the tree of knowledge. They felt shame when Satan pointed out their nakedness, then made them feel stupid about it.
Okay…keep following my train of thought for a moment. I’m sorry that this isn’t more polished. Thanks for studying with me.
I think that shame has more to do with pride than anything else. Think of those who partook of the fruit of the tree of life in Lehi’s dream. After partaking, they looked around and saw that the people in the great and spacious building were laughing them to scorn. This group then, felt shame. They didn’t do anything wrong, yet they felt shame! Their shame was so profound, they left the tree of life – whose fruit was the most desirable above all things and the most joyful to the soul! Now, that’s pretty intense shame.
What was the driver of this shame—their pride. They cared about the opinions of those people in the great and spacious building more than they cared about their own joy! In fact, this pride was enough to keep them from feeling the joy of the fruit.
Shame plays a similar role in our lives. If we are feeling bad about something, it might be helpful to really contemplate – am I feeling guilt, shame, or maybe a little bit of both? Guilt will also come with hope and lead us to repentance and positive changes. Shame on the other hand leaves us feeling despondent and hopeless – that even Christ’s eternal and infinite sacrifice isn’t eternal and infinite enough for us.
So – back to the scripture in 1 Nephi 21. The Lord says that we will not be ashamed that wait for Him. Remember, the context of this scripture is that Israel has suffered and has been scattered. They feel forgotten and forsaken. They might even feel ashamed for “waiting” for Him because He hasn’t answered their prayers yet.
We will get more to the concept of waiting in a moment, but maybe not being ashamed is a choice that we sometimes need to make during our trial, while we are waiting for the Lord. We need to be confident as we follow the whisperings of the Spirit, even when we might look stupid to everyone else. We can take courage: we won’t always look this way. The Lord will come through.
I have looked up the definition for wait in the dictionary, but I don’t want to include it all here because it is long. So, here’s a basic idea:
- to stay in place in expectation of
- to delay
- to remain stationary in readiness or expectation
- to pause for another
- to look forward expectantly
- to hold back expectantly
- to be ready and available
- to remain temporarily neglected or unrealized
Have you ever felt this way? I can say that I have. And you know what I’m realizing? I’m realizing that it’s okay. Notice that last point: to remain temporarily neglected or unrealized. This is waiting. While we are in the throes of waiting, it is hard to remember that waiting is only a temporary condition.
Not only that, but sometimes I think that I misunderstand what it is to faithfully endure a trial. Sometimes I think that I am supposed to have a plastic smile painted on my face at all times. That’s the face of faith, right?
Sometimes I’m tempted to think that if I haven’t yet received an answer to my prayers, it is because there is something I’ve done wrong. Now, don’t misunderstand. I know that we have to wait and work after we pray. But I just forget how long the path can be. I forget that sometimes we have to wait a very long time. I don’t think that I’m the only one who forgets this!
When we talk about Nephi and his journey to the promised land, do we really recognize the waiting that he had to do? Do we really stop to think of what eight years feels like? The account Nephi gives of his family’s journey to the promised land takes 18 chapters. You can read that in a few weeks. We aren’t reading the day-in-day-out record of Nephi’s experience. We don’t read about the boredom, the monotony of the desert, the walking, the waiting. We don’t see how Nephi’s knowledge came to him by degrees. We are getting the highlight reel.
Watching all nine innings of a baseball game is a lot different than the 3 minutes of highlights they show on the news later. There’s a lot more waiting at that game!
It’s a temptation for me to forget that real life isn’t a highlight reel; That waiting takes time; That the Lord lets us wait—and that in the meantime we feel temporarily neglected as our prayers are temporarily unrealized.
But the Lord has said:
“Verily I say unto you my friends, fear not, let your hearts be comforted; yea, rejoice evermore, and in everything give thanks;
2 Waiting patiently on the Lord, for your prayers have entered into the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth, and are recorded with this seal and testament—the Lord hath sworn and decreed that they shall be granted.” –Doctrine and Covenants 98:1-2
The Lord has heard our prayers. He bids us to wait. And if we do, we will find that eventually our prayers our answered. Though we may look foolish for a time, we will not ultimately be ashamed when we wait on the Lord. This is because He will come through. And our prayers will be answered.
What to Do While We Wait
Waiting is hard. It really is! It is for me, anyway. What do I do when I wait? What should I do when I wait? Well, the answer is in the scripture above:
- Be Comforted – Being comforted is more than the Lord comforting us. We also have the choice to accept that comfort in our trials or to ignore it. So, don’t wallow in fear or sadness. We need to remember the peace and joy we have felt when the Lord has comforted us. A good way to do this is to write a journal – observing times we have felt comforted, and then referring back to this often.
- Rejoice Evermore – Rejoice! We can rejoice knowing that we believe in an omnipotent, eternal God. We can rejoice knowing that His promises are sure. If He has promised us something, we can rejoice in it just as Lehi rejoiced in obtaining a promised land years before arriving.
Oh and one more thing. How can we rejoice more? Smile! Take a moment right now to think of a happy moment. Now, as you’re thinking, make a slight smile. Keep smiling for a few seconds or so. How do you feel??? Smiling really helps us to feel better.And if you really want to feel great and rejoice, then sing!
- In Everything Give Thanks – Finally, we can better wait for the Lord if we are grateful. We can take a moment to notice the tender mercies of God. Now, it is important to realize that gratitude and desiring God’s deliverance aren’t binary expressions. You can want both at the same time. You can want to make it to the top of the mountain while being grateful for the difficult walk up it.
So – be grateful. This doesn’t mean fake happiness and pretending that we are absolutely thrilled about some difficult trial. But there is always something to be grateful for.
I’m so thankful for the scriptures. I’m in my own “waiting period” right now. I feel like I’m a plane circling an airport to land. I feel like I’ve been in this holding pattern for at least 2 years now. It is exhausting. There are times when I wonder, am I an idiot? I am tempted to be ashamed. I’m tempted to stop waiting for God.
But the scriptures are a beautiful reminder to me that there are times when it take years for God’s work to unfold. I can remain faithful, knowing that at a future point, I won’t be ashamed! He hears my prayers and He will grant His blessings in His own due time. Thanks to the scriptures, I’m reminded that I can keep waiting.