Here is Hope!

by, Sarah Norton // Apr 25, 2024

 

For Lo I am with Thee: This is a talk I gave in church on May 29, 2022 and I hope it will touch your heart and give you hope!! 

I AM SO GLAD I get to talk to you lovely people today! I love helping people get through their trials. I had the best upbringing with the sweetest, mostesest faithful parents and I loved the Lord and understood the gospel of Jesus Christ at a young age. In some ways I was perfectly prepared for the rest of my life, and in other ways, I HAD NO IDEA WHAT WAS COMING… and it has been HARD. It has been incredibly painful and scary while at the same time, I have felt the same intensity of happiness, pure joy and awe, on the other end of the spectrum. Even though there were many times I didn’t think I could survive the pain, I have, and It has all been worth it! God did not let me suffer one minute longer than I had to in order to become the woman I am today. I really like her and I love my life- and I know there will still be struggles to come, but that the Lord will be there for me again. I am not letting go of Him!

I feel like me and my crazy life are a walking billboard. This is what it would say...

- Jesus is Real. Really really real!

- Christ can heal anything and anyone! Even 30 years later! or more!

- Don’t give up! Just reach out!

- Hold onto hope! Miracles are coming!!

- God sees you and answers prayers!

- If God can save this very messed up woman, he can save you! He is still in the process of saving her and he is saving you already!

- Your worst days are going to be followed by your best days…. and then sometimes your best days will be followed by your worst days… BUT YOUR BEST DAYS ARE COMING AGAIN!!!

- You are so very loved! I love you! God loves you!

- YOU HAVE A BEAUTIFUL SOUL! …. It is worth saving!

I’d like to get started by clearing up some confusion. Yes, I have braces, NO, Bishop Judd is not my orthodontist. Yes, he still let me keep my temple recommend.

No, actually, The phrase “Endure to the end” seems a little daunting and depressing and has been stressing me out lately, but I finally get it. Getting through life’s trials is different than “enduring to the end.” Enduring to the end is another way of saying “Stay on the covenant path for the rest of your life.” That’s it! It’s not really talking about enduring trials at all. Staying on the covenant path is a good way to help you through your trials, but it’s not the same thing. Whether you are enduring your trials gracefully or whether it is a big mess, it has nothing to do with whether you are “enduring to the end” or not.

Don’t let the idea of enduring to the end, stress you out. As long as you are doing the best you can to keep the promises you’re doing great! And since part of being on the covenant path is daily repentance, then falling off the path and getting back on, was also part of your path! So just keep going and stay as close to the Lord as you possibly can.

"That’s my philosophy!" (mom, that was for you!)

SO, HOW DO WE SURVIVE LIFE’S TRIALS?!?!?!

Let’s start first with Preparing for them….

What? You haven’t been preparing?!! Oh shoot. Well, I guess there is no hope for you then… Hmm.. What can I say now..? JK!!

I have a feeling that you are more prepared and stronger than you think you are.

You are HERE TODAY! Every time you come to church, you are given tools to help you survive life’s trials. Your toolbox is probably getting pretty full! Just be sure you use those tools- like prayer, scripture study, temple attendance, serving others etc. ALL THE TIME!! Don’t let them get rusty. We talk about them over and over again because they are the secret weapon against suffering!!

Every single struggle or trial you have been through has strengthened you for the next one, and the next one. You have probably had a lot more struggles than other people are aware of. You are ready. You can do this. That is a scientifically provable fact. You have a 100% success rate for getting through trials! Congratulations! I am so proud of you! TRULY!

GROWTH WITH JESUS:

I love balancing seemingly contradicting ideas. So I am going too contradict myself!

Holding a concept in one hand, and what seems like the opposite in the other, but when you balance both of them, you find truth. This is a concept that Joseph Smith spoke of.

So, while you ARE prepared, and you CAN do this… you’re NOT PREPARED enough and YOU CAN’T do this!!

IF you were totally prepared then it would just be a little bump in the road and not really a trial at all. By definition, the fact that you don’t feel prepared enough, or strong enough, is what makes it a real challenge. So, you are prepared enough to get to where you need to go, but you are not there yet. And that’s ok. Getting there is where the GROWTH comes in and that is WHY the Lord allows painful things to happen to us- He softens it as much as he can, without hindering our opportunity to become who we need to, AND WANT TO BE (This is why we came to this planet- to experience times like these and see how we handle it!) That is where the MIRACLES HAPPEN

You get to become another person, the kind of person that CAN handle this! And without this trial, there is NO WAY you could have become him or her. But after the trial is over, you literally ARE the kind of person that can survive it!! This is also how we become “fit for heaven.” And this is how a happy life here on earth is even possible! We become the kind of person who can survive and thrive in difficult situations! 

What is the source of this growth? How do we become this new person?

In the Doctrine and Covenants, Section 24 v. 8 the Lord says to Joseph Smith, “Be patient in afflictions, for thou shalt have many; but endure them, for, lo, I am with thee, even unto the end of thy days”

For Lo, I am with thee. Could there be anything better we could want or need? A God. Our Savior. THE perfect healer, right here with us, wherever our affliction is… in our closet, our car, our home, on the side of a mountain, a classroom, a police station… or just in our mind or heart… wherever you need him, He is there, with you.

We GROW because of this close bond with Jesus Christ. By clinging to him, we let his perfectness become our “good enough-ness” and his Godly strength become our “strong enough-ness”.

His power comes from his godliness, and willingness to descend below all things. He atoned for each one of our sins and sufferings. HE KNOWS exactly what we need and he has the love, the desire and the ability to give it to us. That atoning power, that grace, becomes a part of us to when we become one with him. It has no choice but to blend with our souls when we are that close!

JESUS SAYS:

Matthew 11:28–30.

“Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

“Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.

“For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

We "take his yoke upon us" which, actually just distributes the weight of all our burdens between both of us, and allow him to carry most of it- even all of it when needed and that’s ok! HE asked us to! He is a God and he can take it. 

This allows us to survive the crushing weight of our struggle, while we develop the muscles we need to do MORE THAN than just survive, but to move forward and FIND JOY again. This is such an incredibly comforting feeling and is so empowering,

It works! It not only grows our survival muscles, but our TESTIMONY and OUR FAITH multiplies exceedingly! We KNOW it works! HE is there! JESUS IS REAL! JESUS KNOWS ME! JESUS CARES ABOUT ME! Without his help, I would have been “done in”!

Jesus is my own personal savior. He is not just a character I read about, HE is MY FRIEND!! And he does not just save me from my sins, (although I am incredibly grateful he does) but he also saves us from the pain and agony of this brutal trial. With his godly friendship, we feel lighter, stronger, safer, happier, more at peace and more joy, even while the trial persists. Ah. Can you see now why people make such a big deal about Jesus?!

When the next trial comes, we know exactly what to do and we have faith that he will be there for us. WE ALREADY KNOW HIM! And if we don't... we will learn it again and again...

When I lost my little sister, Liza, to suicide when she was only 21, I didn’t think I could survive the loss and the pain of grief. I did survive and it was only because of Jesus Christ and angels and miracles! In an incredibly awful twist- I lost my little brother 10 years later, when he was only 33. But this time I KNEW I COULD SURVIVE. The pain was instense, shocking and terrible but there was an inner knowing that I was going to make it and that the Lord would help me again. And he did.

And where the magic and growth really  happens is when refuse to let go of him when life is going smoothly again. This is what finally breaks the "Pride Cycle" in the Book of Mormon. That’s where we get to the real THRIVING part... hold onto Jesus Christ just as tightly as we did when we were in survival mode.

But this time, we rejoice with him in total awe and gratitude that we made it (I am still doing this today!!) and we ask him, who else can we bless? Who needs us? Who is being crushed by a trial we can help lift together? Who needs a miracle? Who needs an angel? How can I be a part of it? There is no better feeling. It sanctifies our pain and makes it worth it. It doesn’t just purify us, but it blesses others. Talk about miracles!

OH! Talk about miracles… (Drop page)… Haha!

What kind of places are created when God or Jesus have performed miracles and are there for us? Our trials can become HOLY PLACES, in space and in time, and in our lives. Just like Joshua and the Children of Israel, who built a monument to remind generations after them for generations, that God performed a miracle in their time of need and parted the River Jordan... our trials can become holy. They are monuments for the FACT that we are loved and we are important to God. Recently a place that I was always afraid of, has become a holy place.

30 years ago, I developed pretty serious PTSD when someone thought it would be funny to set up a fake car-jacking scene in Provo canyon, and I was the victim. I believed the gunman who stopped us on the deserted road, stole our car, and then came back hunting for us, gun in hand, was real, and that I was about to die.

For almost 30 minutes I ran and hid, and ran and hid, on the side of the mountain, fearing for my life... and it has affected me ever since. Because it turned out to be a joke, no one ever encouraged me to get healing and I suffered with flashbacks, hypervigilance and anxiety for years. All sypmtoms of PTSD. Recently, and miraculously, I FINALLY got some healing from this traumatic incident. In a session with my healing coach, God was able to show me that on that mountain 30 years ago, when I was in shock and terror, that I was not alone! Angels surrounded me. I felt their individual hands on my shoulders and hips and stomach, gently pressing me to the ground to comfort me and keep me from panicking. One held my hand. It felt amazing. I heard them calmly whispering to me how to stay safe. I was in awe that in those long minutes of fear and terror, that I was NOT alone. That terrifying incident and that scarring mountainside, has now become a holy place to me. A place of miracles, testimony and love.

I believe that God and the Savior surround us with angels much more often than we realize. For 30 years I never knew! But they were there. I felt them then, I just didn’t remember. I have felt them other times and I will feel them again, when needed. That brings me so much joy and comfort!

Think of some other terrible trials that became miracles and holy places. Joseph Smith was struggling mightily with what to do about his very soul..

Joseph Smith History 1:8 During this time of great excitement my mind was called up to serious reflection and great uneasiness; …

His troubled mind yearned to know which church to join and what to do, how to save his soul? This mattered to him. He finally took his question to the woods and to God in his first uttered prayer, but before he could utter a word, a dark force overtook him and he felt that he was going to perish. In his own words he said,

15. I had scarcely done so, when immediately I was aseized upon by some power which entirely overcame me, and had such an astonishing influence over me as to bind my tongue so that I could not speak. Thick bdarkness gathered around me, and it seemed to me for a time as if I were doomed to sudden destruction.

16 But, exerting all my powers to acall upon God to deliver me out of the power of this enemy which had seized upon me, and at the very moment when I was ready to sink into bdespair and abandon myself to destruction—not to an imaginary ruin, but to the power of some actual being from the unseen world, who had such marvelous power as I had never before felt in any being—just at this moment of great alarm, I saw a pillar of clight exactly over my head, above the brightness of the sun, which descended gradually until it fell upon me.

17 It no sooner appeared than I found myself adelivered from the enemy which held me bound. When the light rested upon me I bsaw two cPersonages, whose brightness and dglory defy all description, estanding above me in the air. One of them spake unto me, calling me by name and said, pointing to the other—This is My fBeloved gSon. Hear Him!

His struggles about which church to join, led him to an even darker moment, where the adversary tried to thwart his miracle, his healing, his guidance (and it was our miracle too!) His most terrifying moment, transformed into his greatest miracle. God and Jesus Christ came to him personally and called him by name, saved him from Satan’s attempt at destruction and answered his heartfelt question. Now, we literally call the place that this miracle happened, the Sacred Grove.

The very garden in Gethsemane and the hill of Golgotha, where our Savior suffered and bled and died for each one of us were the places of the greatest suffering, the greatest miracle and the most holy place of all. The song “Here is Hope” by Rob Gardner says it so well. Go listen to it today!  

He who healed our sorrows
Here was bruised and broken
He whose love no end knows
Here was forsaken, Left all alone.
Here despair cries boldly,
Claiming this it's vict'ry.
Sweeter peace enfolds me:
Hope did not die here,
But here was given.
Here is Hope.

Do you have a sacred grove or a holy mountainside? Maybe a sacred closet or a holy backyard that showed you HOPE!?

If you are in your darkest place, and you don’t think there is any way out of your predicament, your miracle is coming. It could be big or small, but it will be exactly what you need and when you need it. Our God is a God of miracles. It’s ok to ask for one! I’ve done that. And when it comes, It will be because of your faith and it will build your faith. It will be because God loves you and he wants you to know Him and His son.

Example of “Small Miracle…” that meant a lot!

On Thursday of the same week of my big mountainside miracle, I started getting unsettled and as the day went on I felt some darkness encroaching. By the time 8:00 pm came around I was feeling awful and anxious. I still had a lot of healing to do. 

Earlier that day I decided to wear a cute red T-shirt that said “Be Fearless” on it to give me a little extra energy and empowerment. It was something my niece Lucy, (who has since passed away) bought at Goodwill, and my sister asked me if I wanted it because Lucy had too many things from Goodwill and she was taking some back. I grabbed it and love wearing it!

That night, I had a Zoom meeting with my new healing coach, Michelle, and a few other ladies. The moment she saw me on screen she said, “Where did you get that shirt?” I had to think about it for a second and remembered that it was a hand-me-down from Lucy, and then shockingly, Michelle said, “Well, I made that shirt!” What?! SHE MADE MY “BE FEARLESS” SHIRT? The one I was wearing RIGHT NOW!? She doesn't even know Lucy and I had only known her for a few weeks, yet at this moment I was wearing a shirt she had made! Haha! God is soooo good and so creative and I felt instant comfort! I felt the Lord telling me that I was in good hands with Michelle. I was in the right place. Right time. Right person. To keep doing my trauma healing with her and that I will be ok. Michelle helped me understand, during that zoom call where my unsettled-ness and anxiety was coming from and that we would address it as we worked on my healing. She was right and it has been so much better. I will never forget that moment and the tears I shed knowing that the Lord assured me I was EXACTLY where I should be!

Be on the lookout for miracles you didn’t ask for! Tender mercies. God winks! Beautiful, clever and unique ways that God shows his love for you! Reminds you that he sees you and is with you! Here are some fun ones you might have already experienced!

- Finding a penny. A whole sand dollar on the beach.

- Sunsets, sunrises.

- Oceans, nature,

- the perfect song at the perfect time,

- a friend who says just the right thing or shows up just when you need a hug. A stranger who lights you up with a smile.

- An awesome interaction with an animal, maybe even it will be the goldfish in my swimming pool! 

- Anytime we feel God is sending us his love, is a miracle. He sees you, he knows you are hurting and he comforts you in ways that will speak directly to your heart!

I just want to leave you with God’s own words about being brave, and getting through hard trials.

“Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest.” Joshua 1:9

"What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?"  Romans 8:31

“For the mountains shall depart and the hills be removed, but my kindness shall not depart from thee.” 3 Nephi 22:10

“Behold, we count them happy which endure." James 5:11

The Savior loves us so much and God’s miracles are real!

HIS GLORIOUS PLAN INVOLVES PAIN but the hope and the miracles will outweigh it. The opportunity to live with Him again is worth it!

I used to be in so much emotional pain that I didn’t think I had the strength, courage or ability to endure the anguish of my painful first marriage, the loss of my two youngest siblings to suicide and the symptoms of PTSD, but I am so grateful he taught me ways to endure, to find JOY in the middle of my suffering, and made me into a new creature that WAS strong enough to get free.

God spoiled me with miracles/angels and healing, and led me to my person, my sweet new husband, Bill Norton. Now the Lord allows me to assist him in rescuing and healing others all along the way. If he can do this for me, he can do whatever needs to be done for you. Step by step, it will happen.

You can endure and even thrive! Keep holding on until you find the stregnth you need inside yourself and from Jesus Christ, and then share it with others. Share the Savior with them and it will feel so amazingly good. It will be worth it. You are worth it. You are so very loved!  

I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

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