There's nothing like finding a use for adversity, to give it some meaning. Just like the oyster, who endures irritating sand and uses it to make something valuable (a pearl), I have found myself with a couple of pearls of wisdom, thanks to the experiences that I have been blessed to be able to endure so far.
I was asked to speak at a recent stake women's conference at my church last weekend, on the topic of "These Things Shall Give Thee Experience". Naturally, I jumped at the opportunity to fill that assignment, mostly because I'm so glad that I still CAN do it, but also because it is a chance to use my "experience" to hopefully share something of value. Afterward I got a phone call from someone who has asked me to speak at a young women camp on the topic of finding joy in any of life's circumstances. I think it's a great idea, because sometimes when we're young we think life is supposed to unfold like a perfect fairytale, and so it may be useful to let them know that sometimes things don't work out the way we plan--but we can still be optomistic and make great things happen in our lives.
My "experience" talk is based on LDS scripture found in Doctrine & Covenants 122:7-9, which is the Lord's reply to Joseph Smith, who was suffering extreme persecution:
"And if thou shouldst be cast into the pit, or into the hands of murderers, and the sentence of death passed upon thee; if thou be cast into 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 Son of Man hath descended below them all. Art thou greater than he? Therefore, hold on thy way, and the priesthood shall remain with thee; for their bounds are set, they cannot pass. Thy days are known, and thy years shall not be numbered less; therefore, fear not what man can do, for God shall be with you forever and ever."
When I was young and inexperienced I did not understand how horrible tragedies could give experience and be for our good. But now I realize that the Lord is so good, he can make good things out of anything that happens in our lives, if we let him. He did personally descend below all that we would ever have to face, and so he knows exactly how to help us and save us. And it's good to realize that our days are known and won't be numbered any less, and that no matter what happens in this world, God will always be with us.
I'll leave a couple of favorite thoughts for the day -- some of my favorite quotes about this subject of life's experiences:
“No pain that we suffer, no trial that we experience is wasted. It ministers to our education, to the development of such qualities as patience, faith, fortitude, and humility. All that we suffer and all that we endure builds up our characters, purifies our hearts, expands our souls, and makes us more tender and charitable, more worthy to be called the children of God…and it is through sorrow and suffering, toil and tribulation, that we gain the education that we come here to acquire..." --Orson F. Whitney, in Faith Precedes the Miracle
“This life experience is designed for our growth and progress. Our trials will not be more than we can handle, but they cannot be less if we are to fill the measure of our creation.” --Ardeth Greene Kapp, in Rejoice! His Promises Are Sure
“If we looked at mortality as the whole of existence, then pain, sorrow, failure, and short life would be calamity. But if we look upon life as an eternal thing, stretching far into the premortal past and on into the eternal post-death future, then all happenings may be put in proper perspective...Is there not wisdom in his giving us trials that we might rise above them, responsibilities that we might achieve, work to harden our muscles, sorrows to try our souls? Are we not exposed to temptations to test our strength, sickness that we might learn patience, death that we might be immortalized and glorified?...If all the sick for whom we prayed were healed, if all the righteous were protected and the wicked destroyed, the whole program of the Father would be annulled and the basic principle of the gospel, free agency, would be ended. No man would have to live by faith...Being human, we would expel from our lives physical pain and mental anguish and assure ourselves of continual ease and comfort, but if we were to close the doors upon sorrow and distress, we might be excluding our greatest friends and benefactors. Suffering can make saints of people as they learn patience, long-suffering, and self-mastery." --Spencer W. Kimball