So as many of you know I have decided it is finally time to get a college degree. I mean I can't live with my parents forever....can I? I need you all to indulge me and print out my first essay and put it on your fridge...maybe add a sticker to it :) I am a little bit proud of this essay. I got 100% and my teacher made a one word comment on it..."impressive". I think he is being generous. I was most likely the last paper he graded. His kids had probably all been up all night sick. His wife was sad because he missed their anniversary, and it's possible he was mad at the college since they asked him to do an online class....not a real class....but nevertheless I am taking the 100% and the comment to boost me up :)
So here is my essay for you to enjoy. Feel free to rip it apart :) It was for my religion class so be warned...it is religious and probably why it was graded so much easier than a English class essay :) It is important for you to note that their are no smiley faces and no ellipses in this essay...a herculean feat for me.
What is an affliction? The dictionary tells us that affliction means “a state of pain, distress, or grief; misery.” Some of the words that are synonymous with the word affliction are, mishap, trouble, tribulation, calamity, catastrophe and disaster. In the very first chapter and first verse of The Book of Mormon Nephi says that he has, “seen many afflictions in the course of his days”. I have read that sentence countless times but today the footnote next to the word affliction caught my attention and I looked down and noticed that it said, “ TG Affliction: Blessing; God, gifts of.” It caused me to stop and wonder. Is an affliction a blessing and a gift of God?
I started my search by looking up all the scriptures in the topical guide about affliction. I discovered that from the first scripture listed, which was Exodus 3:7 where the Lord tells Moses that he has, “surely seen the affliction of his people which are in Egypt”, all the way to the last scripture listed, which was Doctrine and Covenants 121:7 where the Lord assures Joseph Smith that if he should be “cast into the pit, or into the hands of murderers, and the sentence of death passed upon thee, if thou be cast in the deep; if the billowing surge conspire against thee; if fierce winds become thine enemy, if the heavens gather blackness, and all the elements combine to hedge up the way; and above all if the very jaws of hell shall gape open the mouth wide after thee, know thou, my son that all these things shall give thee experience and shall be for thy good,” the pattern is clear, affliction refines us, and causes us to turn to God. Anything that turns us to God is surely a blessing.
Jonah had an affliction. He was in the, “fishes belly” for three days and three nights until in Jonah chapter 2 verse 2 when he, “cries by reason of his affliction” to Heavenly Father. He tells the Lord that he has remembered him and all that he has done for him. Jonah’s affliction helped him to get some perspective on the choices he had made and after he recognizes it and prays the “Lord spoke to the fish and it vomited Jonah out on dry land”.
Joseph of Egypt had afflictions. He had brothers that sold him into Egypt. He had a master’s wife that got him wrongfully imprisoned for his refusal to lie with her. Joseph did not choose his afflictions like Jonah did but he still had them. In Acts 7:10 when Stephen is recounting the history of Israel he mentions Joseph and he talks about how God was with him and “delivered him out of all his afflictions.”
And last but not least there is Lehi’s son Jacob. In 2nd Nephi chapter 2 verses 1-2 Lehi is talking to his son Jacob and he acknowledges that Jacob “hast suffered afflictions and much sorrow” throughout his childhood. But then he reminds Jacob that he knows the “greatness of God” and that because he knows this God will “consecrate thine afflictions for thy gain.”
As I read scripture after scripture about affliction I could not ignore the realization that if you consider becoming better a blessing then afflictions are blessings. They refine us. Because we are the natural man it appears we will not naturally turn to God, we need experiences to encourage us to make that choice. In my reading I found a quote in the, Instructors Guide for the Life and Teachings of Jesus and His Apostles, that says, “Those times of spiritual dryness, when man is left alone to choose if he really will follow Him, are important to God, for then man shows on his own that he is determined to do as God asks. The Lord wants man to walk in His paths and so shows the way, but He must take away His hand so that man can learn to walk, if he will.”
So the definition of a blessing is a, “special favor, a mercy, or a benefit.” Think of it, that is what we get from God when we face our afflictions. We are here on earth to prove ourselves and the way we prove ourselves is by how we choose to see our afflictions. In Helaman 12:3 it says that “the Lord doth chasten his people with many afflictions” and sadly if he doesn’t do this we “will not remember him.”