Sustaining faith in the face of trials

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Lexie Flickinger
Jeff McClellan addresses a devotional audience on July 12 in the de Jong concert hall. (Lexie Flickinger)

Jeff McClellan, the director of Publications and Graphics at BYU, addressed BYU students, staff and guests in a July 12 devotional about the importance of looking to the Savior in faith when trials enter people’s lives.

“Thank you for being here. I love you. And more importantly, God loves you,” McClellan said as he welcomed those in attendance.

McClellan began the devotional by relating the story of the traumatic birth of his second child, Caroline. Caroline lived but suffered severe damage to her brain due to loss of blood — to which the cause is still unknown.

According to McClellan, Caroline, now 15-years-old, remains at about a three-month-old development level. She cannot walk, crawl or roll over. She cannot talk, and it is unclear how much she understands what is said. While her eyes and ears function, the amount she can process of what she sees or hears in unknown.

McClellan said that while Caroline has severe physical limitations, Caroline is adorable with the biggest smile and the greatest laugh.

“But I wish things were different. I wish she could run and sing and argue with her sister. I am often sad for her because her life is hard,” McClellan said.

McClellan admitted their family still has hard days and there are questions that still go unanswered, but they never lose love, joy and hope.

Every person has trials in life that will cause them to question their faith, according to McClellan.

“We all have circumstances that try our faith – times when, despite faithful living and earnest pleading, things don’t go according to the plan of happiness we envision or the divine promises we expect,” McClellan said.

McClellan had given Caroline a blessing of complete recovery while she was in the hospital, but the blessing seemed to go unfulfilled.

“We are not commanded to have faith in blessings but in the Giver of blessings… God takes the long view, and our ultimate good may mean short-term pain or confusion or heartache,” McClellan said.

McClellan relates to the story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego and their trust in God, which ultimately saved them. However, their trust did not depend on deliverance from their fiery fate, but on the Almighty God who had the power to do anything in His will.

“In the midst of their fiery trial, these three men – who leaned for repose on Jesus, not on outcomes – communed with the Son of God. Such a sacred companionship in times of trouble can be our blessing as well,” McClellan said.

He said anyone can lean on the Savior of the world for comfort, hope, peace and faith when questions go unanswered and faith is shaken.

“Perhaps we need to be patient and wait for the resolution to come. Like a tree growing from a seed, the best answers take time to grow,” McClellan said.

McClellan noted for Abraham and Sarah in the Old Testament, the promised blessing of a large posterity took several thousand years to be richly fulfilled. This promise must have seemed impossible to a 100 and 90-year-old expecting their first child.

“When you feel alone, when you think the promises of God may never be fulfilled, when you question what you believe – remember Abraham and Sarah. Remember that like them, you have been blessed and you will be increased, in time,” McClellan said.

McClellan continued on to quote Ether 12:6, where Moroni says, “Ye receive no witness until after the trial of your faith.” Promised blessings may not be fulfilled soon or how we think, but with trust in the Giver of blessings, they will be fulfilled.

Remembering an especially difficult Sunday spent in the foyer of the church building, McClellan recalled that he began to sing to Caroline the Sacrament hymn, “Reverently and Meekly Now,” which is written in first-person. He said that the words he sang touched him deeply that day:

“I have loved thee as thy friend, with a love that cannot end.”

McClellan said, “Jesus is my friend, and He is yours. He knows my frailties – including my frailties of faith – and He knows yours, and He loves us not in spite of those frailties but with a full, compassionate understanding of them. He loves us in our crucible of spirit because He has felt what we feel – our doubt and discouragement as well as our sin and our sorrow.”

No matter how sad or hurt some may feel, Jesus Christ knows what they are feeling and how to succor us, according to McClellan.

“Because of Him, we all have hope for everlasting redemption, and because of Him, we all have help in earthly anguish. So hold on. Trust on. Hope on. God loves you,” McClellan said.