With canning season in full swing I am reminded of the end of canning season last fall. Everything had been put away with feelings of a fruitful season completed. I felt really good about the work that I had done to prepare my food storage for the coming winter months. I had the kitchen cleaned and the food neatly stacked on shelves where they looked tempting to the hungry belly. However, as with most projects, not everything made it to the storage areas. There were a couple of empty jars that had remained on the counter and hadn't quite made to the shelves in preparation for the next year. Noticing this, my young children latched onto the example that was given them by me. They proceeded to "can" what was important to them. The result was "canned" hot wheels.
This really got me pondering about what I consider important. Amongst all the hundred bottles of fruit and jam that were sitting prettily on my shelves at the end of the season, did I "can" the things that were truly important to me? This started to make me ponder what is important in my life. My family, friends, the gospel, the scriptures, but most important, my faith that all things are done in the Lord's time and that things have a way of working out for my benefit as long as I put my faith in Him. So, this leads me to ask, what is important to add to our Spiritual "food storage"?
One very important item we must all focus on is storing up our Faith. Even if we don't feel we have a strong faith now, we can be at peace knowing that we don't need to know all the answers now to have faith. Even the great humanitarian Mother Teresa expressed her concerns about the strength of her faith in a letter written to her superior:
“Please pray specially for me that I may not spoil His work and that Our Lord may show Himself—for there is such terrible darkness within me, as if everything was dead. It has been like this more or less from the time I started ‘the work.’ Ask Our Lord to give me courage.”
Archbishop Périer responded: “God guides you, dear Mother; you are not so much in the dark as you think. The path to be followed may not always be clear at once. Pray for light; do not decide too quickly, listen to what others have to say, consider their reasons. You will always find something to help you. … Guided by faith, by prayer, and by reason with a right intention, you have enough.”
In Mosiah we are instructed to "Believe in God; believe that he is, and that he created all things … ; believe that he has all wisdom, and all power, both in heaven and in earth; believe that man doth not comprehend all the things which the Lord can comprehend."
So, what is faith? This is an age old question that has a beautiful answer. Elder Neil L. Andersen tells us that "faith in Jesus Christ is a gift from heaven that comes as we choose to believe and as we seek it and hold on to it." In Alma 32 we learn that faith is compared to a small seed. Faith usually begins as a small thing. Sometimes it begins with only the desire to believe. Like the seed, it has within it the ability to grow in strength and power. To grow, it needs to be planted and taken care of.The seed of faith is planted in our hearts. As we take care of it and it begins to grow, our faith fills our lives with blessings, and we find miracles happening in our lives. These may not be miracles like the moving of a mountain, but we will notice changes taking place in ourselves and those around us that we thought would never happen. We will feel the blessings of Heavenly Father in our lives and have reason to rejoice. We will have the confidence and strength to hold on to the iron rod until we reach eternal life.
I have witnessed miracles in my own personal family when I have had faith. As many of you know, we have three beautiful children. These children are 18, 6 & 4. We did not plan for the large spacing between our 1st and 2nd children. We often joke about how we really wanted to ensure that we had a babysitter before we had more children. We even went so far as to say we were "saving up" so we could afford to have more children. These excuses were of course false.
We tried desperately for years to have more children when our oldest was younger. I had several sessions on my knees in earnest prayer in which I plead with Heavenly Father to bless our family to grow. After several years of pleading, I was given the sweet answer to my prayer. It was not in the form of another child, but in the sweet peace that Heavenly Father had already given me one beautiful child and that I needed to be thankful for the blessing that He had already given me.
It was from that point on that I was determined to enjoy every minute I could with my daughter. I rejoiced in the blessing that I had been given and I had faith that Heavenly Father would see fit to complete our family in His time.
My mother-in-law had other concerns about our lack of children and said that we needed to do more medically to improve our chances of having more children. I remember clearly the day that I had the faith enough to tell her that if the Lord saw fit to give us more children, medicine would not be involved. It wasn't too long after the conviction of my faith that I found I was indeed expecting our son.
This leads us to ponder, how can we help our faith in Christ grow? One way is to pray to Heavenly Father and ask him to help our faith to grow.
Elder Anderson explains that "faith in the Lord Jesus Christ is not something ethereal, floating loosely in the air. Faith does not fall upon us by chance or stay with us by birthright. It is, as the scriptures say, “substance …, the evidence of things not seen.” Faith emits a spiritual light, and that light is discernible. Faith in Jesus Christ is a gift from heaven that comes as we choose to believe and as we seek it and hold on to it. Your faith is either growing stronger or becoming weaker. Faith is a principle of power, important not only in this life but also in our progression beyond the veil. By the grace of Christ, we will one day be saved through faith on His name. The future of your faith is not by chance, but by choice."
There may be a time when you have drifted so far off the correct path that you may not feel worthy of the Savior's love or guidance. You may feel that you don't deserve the grace that he so desperately wants to give you. You may feel that no matter how hard you try, you will never gain the love of our Heavenly Father again. I'm here to add my testimony to that of President J. Reuben Clark when he stated in 1939:
“It is my hope and my belief that the Lord never permits the light of faith wholly to be extinguished in any human heart, however faint the light may glow. The Lord has provided that there shall still be there a spark which, with teaching, with the spirit of righteousness, with love, with tenderness, with example, with living the Gospel, shall brighten and glow again, however darkened the mind may have been."
President Clark pictured the spark nearly hidden, almost smothered by the ashes of transgression. It may be so small that the person can’t feel its warmth. The heart may be hardened. Even the Holy Spirit may have been forced to withdraw. But the spark still lives, and glows, and may be fanned to flame. What a great promise! We only need to have a hope and desire that things will work out.
Growing our faith isn't a simple task, we do have to put effort into it. In my earlier example of canning fruit and jam, they didn’t put themselves into the jars. I had to put in several woman-hours in by picking the fruit, sometimes in cold and rainy weather, then spend many more hours in a hot kitchen with tired sore feet and back to accomplish my goal of food in the winter for my family. In turn, how we live our lives increases or diminishes our faith. Prayer, obedience, honesty, purity of thought and deed, and unselfishness increase faith. Without these, faith diminishes. Why did the Savior say to Peter, “I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not”? Because there is an adversary who delights in destroying our faith! Be relentless in protecting your faith.
"Faith never demands an answer to every question but seeks the assurance and courage to move forward, sometimes acknowledging, “I don’t know everything, but I do know enough to continue on the path of discipleship.”
" your faith did not begin at birth, and it will not end at death. Faith is a choice. Strengthen your faith."
I pray that we can follow the council given by Elder Russell M. Nelson who encourages us to "Day after day, on your path toward your eternal destiny, increase your faith. Proclaim your faith! Let your faith show!"