When Life Gives You Lemons

I've been ruminating on this post for some time now. I want to give it the time and attention it deserves. I also don't want people to get bored reading it, or feel lectured.

I'll do my best to not fail at those things. Forgive me if I fail. Please read the whole thing!

In this social network age we live in, it is easier to stay in touch with people, and also hear about their really hard trials. We all get hard trials in life, sometimes people feel like sharing parts or all of those trials on social network. A recurring theme I see from people reaching out to the one in the midst of the storm is to say, "God gave you this trial because He knows you can handle it."

We really need to stop imagining God as someone who sits around all day imagining up horrible thing for us to endure. That is untrue and unfair, and diminishes who God is, and what He wants for us.

To understand the way life really works you need to ask yourself three questions:

1. Where did I come from?
2. Why am I here?
3. Where am I going?

Question 1: Where did I come from? We came from God's presence. We lived with our Heavenly Parents as spiritual beings. Our Parents are perfect, they have bodies of flesh and bone. They are glorious, and they love us more than you can imagine loving anyone. We saw our Parents with their awesomeness and Their loving perfectness, and we want to be like Them, because They are ridiculously happy. They want us to be like Them too. So, before we even came to Earth, before this planet we're rolling around on existed, They presented to us a plan. A plan where we would leave Their presence and forget about where we came from for awhile. We'd get bodies, hey, They have bodies! We need bodies! And we'd be tested and tried. They were not going to leave us wandering around in the dark. They would send us messengers, prophets, disciples, leaders that would have the truth of where we came from revealed to them, and they'd be commanded to share that truth with us.

Also, They would send our Oldest Brother, our Perfect Brother, Jesus to live on this Earth and Atone for us. Why would that be necessary? Well because in order to become like our Heavenly Parents we need to be perfect, but part of the purpose of this life is that we need to learn to overcome our imperfections. We can try really hard to be good, but we are going to mess up sometimes. God, our Heavenly Parents were going to let us mess up, because in order to become perfect, we need to choose it for ourselves. As you can see this creates a dichotomy where we have to be perfect but we can't be perfect. Jesus Christ solves this problem because He willingly agreed to fill the role of our Savior. He would come and live a perfect life, teaching us exactly what we needed to do to become like our Heavenly Parents. He would be exactly obedient and teach us everything we need to know to succeed at this stage in our progression. Then, he would offer Himself up as the ultimate sacrifice. Perfect and sinless, he would pay the price for the sins of all the rest of us. That way, all we would need to do every time we mess up is turn to our Savior, our Older Brother Jesus and use that Atonement, and all would be forgiven and made right. Everything unfair would be made fair.

We heard this plan and we were totally down with it. You are here on this earth because you accepted that plan and accepted Jesus Christ as your Savior. So, our Heavenly Father and our Older Brother Jesus got to work and made us this planet and put Adam and Eve on it to get the ball rolling, and ever since they ate the fruit and were cast out of the garden to start their probationary state we've been coming here to Earth.

Jesus came and He held up His end of the bargain. Every wrong thing you have done and will ever do has already been paid for through Him. You know what else the Atonement covers? Your suffering at the hands of other people. Your sickness that came out of nowhere. The sadness you felt when your dog died, when your sister was mean to you, when you found out you had cancer, when your best friend, spouse, parent, grandparent, anyone you know, died, from old age, from sickness from anything. That time you were lost in a town you didn't know and were low on gas and it was late and you were scared, it covers that too. Every bad thing you can imagine happening to you has been taken care of.

So, now, lets get to that second question:

2. Why am I here? Well, like I said, you chose it. You heard this plan and you were like, "word! I want that! I am in!" (I imagine that is how I said it. You may have said it differently, but either way you agreed.) So we all came here and we were all born into different families and we forgot where we came from. BUT! We all have that divine spark within us. That Light of Christ that will whisper to you and tell you that what I am saying right now is true. God didn't send us here to forget about Him, He sent us to REMEMBER Him! He is watching out over everything and He wants us to succeed. Our Heavenly Parents love us so much that they willingly sacrificed their Oldest Son. He didn't even ever do anything wrong. He was always helpful, always kind, and always good. They asked Him to do a really hard thing and He did it. They asked Him to do it because they love ALL of us as much as they love Him.

So you are here to learn, to grow, to gain a physical body and learn how to be good to it. Take care of yourself physically, emotionally, and spiritually. God sent prophets to give us commandments. If we follow those commandments we'll be good. We'll get blessings and we be using the Atonement (because the Atonement covers everything and is in everything.) If we do everything God has asked us to do. If we keep His commandments and make and keep sacred covenants with him (covenants like baptism, that's the first one we make) then not only does He bless us in this life, but in the life to come! Because, this is not the end, it's just the next step, which brings us to the third question.

3. Where am I going? Well, really, that's completely up to you. Now, to be perfectly frank I know that as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (you may know us as Mormons, but that's the real name of my church) my idea of "heaven" is vastly different from the majority of Christian religions, or really any monotheistic religion. That could be an entire post for another day, but the long and short of it is, if you think heaven is a place where you will be happy for forever, congratulations, you are going to heaven.

Our Heavenly Parents want us to be happy and they have designed our lives to lead us to the place where we will be happiest. Like I said, God gave us commandments to follow, and covenants to make. If you follow all of those things and make and keep all of those covenants then you will be what I call, the most happiest, because you'll get to live in God's presence again. Our bodies will become perfect like His, and we will become like Him.

 If you're a good person, you tried to do what is right, you were nice to people, you helped old ladies across the street and you rescued stray dogs and never committed any crimes, but you didn't make all those necessary covenants, well it isn't really fair that you have to go to "hell" now is it? No, it's not. And you know what? God is fair! So, you get to go be in a place where you don't get to become like God is, but you're going to have a lot of happiness and you'll get to go around doing good things still.

If you were kind of a jerk that didn't care about other people, you kicked dogs, you were mean to your mom, and maybe you committed some crimes.  Well, that's not nice. However, you never murdered anyone, never ordered mass genocide. Never had an actual heavenly experience where a Divine Being appeared to you and invited you to change and you were like, "HA! No. I'm spending the rest of my life fighting against YOU!" Well ,guess what, God has a place for you too where you get to be happy. You don't get to be in His presence, you probably wouldn't feel comfortable there anyway right? You don't get to be with those people who tried to do good, but just didn't do ALL of the necessary things, but you still get to be somewhere where you are going to be happy.

So, now that we've looked at those three questions I ask you, is God really sitting there going, "how can I make _______'s life kind of terrible today?" No! He isn't. I mean really, I just don't think God talks like that at all.

Lets talk about one of the most important things we have in this life. It's called agency. It is our freedom to choose how we will live our lives. It is our freedom to decide where we want to end up once our time on this earth is done. God will not infringe on our agency, He wants us to be free to choose for ourselves what kind of person we want to be.What does this mean? It means that sometimes, (oftentimes) our agency affects other people and what happens to them.

If you find yourself in a horribly abusive relationship, God did not GIVE you that relationship just so you can be miserable. He loves you! He doesn't want you to be miserable! He wants you to be happy. However, He also does not infringe on the other person's choice to be awful to you. I know, it doesn't seem fair sometimes. But God is exactly fair. We are ALL given agency, and He doesn't take it away from anyway. Don't fret though, ALL of our choices have consequences, be they good or bad. So, when you find yourself in a bad situation, of any kind, whether it be the example I just gave or something else, don't think for a second that God gave you this hard thing as though He is a cat and you are a toy He is playing with. Ask yourself a few questions, what is causing this situation? What can I control about it and change? What can't I control? Where can I get help for the things within my control? Who can take care of the things not in my control?

When the answer to the first question is "me" (because yes, we sometimes cause our own problems) the next step is to change my behavior because, ding ding ding! That is the answer to the second question. I can control ME and MY actions! Sometimes though, our situation is caused by another person's bad behavior, or it is caused because our bodies are imperfect and sometimes we can try to be the healthiest person ever but our imperfect body develops cancer cells, or we contract some other type of sickness. Whatever the case may be, there will be things within your control and other things that are out of your control.

The goal of our Heavenly Parents is for us to turn to THEM! That is where we can get help for the things within our control. THEY are the ones who can take care of the things outside our control. That's why they sent Jesus Christ! Remember, He took care of all that stuff already! They want you to use your agency to turn to Them! Turn to the Atonement! All that is unfair in life will be made fair through the Atonement of Jesus Christ!

That can manifest itself in different ways, and I am sure by now in life  you have enough of your own unique examples of how it works. Feel free to share them here if you feel comfortable.

You all know the cliche phrase, "When life gives you lemons, make lemonade." Lemons are sour. They are not a thing I usually want to eat on their own. But put them in a drink, or a lemon bar, or lemon meringue pie, or some other dish, and lemons become wonderful and refreshing. They can rejuvenate us.

So the next time you or someone you know is going through a trial, instead of thinking, "God gave me this because of (insert whatever reason here)" tell yourself instead. "I have a lemon, it's time to use the Atonement." I promise that your relationship with your Savior and your Heavenly Parents will become exponentially better.

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