Know He is There
I have always been impressed with an experience President Hugh B. Brown, former member of the First Presidency, shared with me when I was serving a mission under his direction in the British Isles. He told about his mother's encouraging words as he left on his mission when he was about twenty years of age. This, essentially, was her message, as I recall.
Hugh, you remember when you were a little boy and you would have a bad dream or wake up in the night frightened, you would call from your room: "Mother, are you there?" and I would answer and try to comfort you and remove your fears. Now as you go on a mission and out into the world there will be times when you will be frightened, when you feel weak, inadequate, alone, and have problems. I want you to know that you can call to your Heavenly Father as you used to call to me and say: "Father, are you there? I need your help." Do this with the knowledge that he is there and that he will be ready to help you if you will do your part and live worthy of your blessings and needs. I want to reassure you that he is there and will answer your prayers and needs for your best good.
What a blessing it is and can be in the future--when we have special challenges, heartbreaks, unusual experiences, or disappointments--to know that he is there and we can cry unto him in faith and complete trust.
Very often over the years I have had peace and patience knowing that he was there and would not forsake me even though some prayers were going unanswered. What a joy and strength it would be in all of our lives to have the childlike faith and complete trust to know that he is there and that we can cry out unto him under all circumstances. Thank God for a wise mission president who taught me to know he was there, even though immediate replies and responses were not always positive.
Perhaps it would be good for our souls to build the relationship and understanding that he is there, even our loving and eternal Father, and that ofttimes delays to our urgent pleas can be best for us. Who is to say it isn't more important to know that he is there than to receive immediate answers? Oftentimes I think of the conditions under which Joseph Smith pled within the confines of horrible prison conditions. It appeared that his needs and pleas were justified as he was confined from his family, his Church, and his friends. He undoubtedly suffered intense mental as well as physical anguish. Answers appeared not to be the Lord's way at that time. Nevertheless, Joseph seemed to be sustained by the overruling knowledge that God was there, knew him, and loved him. While answers to his pleadings and prayers were delayed, God was building a stronger prophet.
Recall with me his words:
O God, where art thou? And where is the pavilion that covereth thy hiding place?
How long shall thy hand be stayed, and thine eye, yea thy pure eye, behold from the eternal heavens the wrongs of thy people and of thy servants, and thine ear be penetrated with their cries?
Yea, O Lord, how long shall they suffer these wrongs and unlawful oppressions, before thine heart shall be softened toward them, and thy bowels be moved with compassion toward them? [D&C 121:13]
Relief and release were not imminent, but an eternal principle was being stressed.
My son, peace be unto thy soul; thine adversity and thine afflictions shall be but a small moment;
And then, if thou endure it well, God shall exalt thee on high; thou shalt triumph over all thy foes. [D&C 121:78]
God was there, and he heard. But his purposes and timetables were and are eternal. Often we mortals misunderstand, and instead of answers there are sometimes delays, tests, and trying by fire.
What a great strength it would be to all of us in times of desperation and wonderment to humbly approach his throne with "Please hear my prayers. Answer them in thy great wisdom for my best good. But please give me the constant reassurance that thou art there and that peace, contentment, and the courage to continue are mine because I have faith and can come to thee who has promised not to forsake us."
Incidentally, one of my favorite "cry-out-during-the-night" children's stories is that of a four-year-old boy who came during the middle of the night to his father and mother's bedroom, sobbing and crying with great enthusiasm. When his mother drew him near and put her arms around him to give comfort, saying, "What happened?" he said, "I fell out of bed." She asked, "How did you fall out of bed?" And he cried, "Because I wasn't in far enough." This could be used to put over an extensive message as shared by a child, but let me just say in passing it has been my experience that most people who fall out of the Church do so because they were not in far enough.
Marvin J. Ashton, BYU Devotional, November 10, 1992