To a gathering of newly called bishopric members, a counselor in a stake presidency had some pithy advice: "Forget about asking 'Why me?' and go to work."
The counsel is reminiscent of an experience from the life of President Gordon B. Hinckley. Downcast and discouraged in the early days after his arrival at Preston, England, his missionary field of labor, young Elder Hinckley wrote home to tell his father that he wasn't getting anywhere with missionary work and felt he was wasting his time and his father's money. His father's brief reply was "Dear Gordon, I have your recent letter. ... I have only one suggestion: Forget yourself and go to work" (Church News, Sept. 9, 1995, p. 4). Thus buoyed up, Elder Hinckley went on to serve an honorable mission that became the foundation for a career of Church service culminating in his call as president of the Church.
There are two occasions when the question "Why me?" might occur to us. One is when we are called upon to fulfill some duty or assignment in the Church for which we feel inadequate and unprepared. The other is when we pass through some adversity or perhaps a string of misfortunes that catch us off guard.
In either case, the advice is equally appropriate: "Forget yourself and go to work."
Some of the most noble souls ever to have lived have felt overwhelmed and inadequate when the Lord has presented them with some great challenge. In every instance, the Lord sustained and succored them, magnifying their own native talents and efforts.
When the Lord told Jeremiah that He had foreordained him to be a prophet, Jeremiah responded: "Ah, Lord God! Behold I cannot speak: for I am a (youth)." The Lord's response was "Say not, I am a (youth): for thou shalt go to all that I shall send thee, and whatsoever I command thee thou shalt speak.
"Be not afraid of their faces: for I am with thee to deliver thee, saith the Lord" (Jeremiah 1:6-8).
Similarly, Moses expressed doubt about his abilities when the Lord, at the burning bush, called him to lead the children of Israel from bondage (see Exodus 3-4).
In our day, President Spencer W. Kimball described the extreme agony of soul he felt at the time of his call to the apostleship before he sought and received the sweet assurance that the call was from God (quoted in Edward L. Kimball, Andrew E. Kimball Jr., Spencer W. Kimball, pp. 188-195).
When adversity besets us, we sometimes feel to ask what it is that we have done or haven't done that might be bringing the punishment of God upon us. The very question might be ill advised, for two reasons.
For one thing, we know that the righteous do not altogether escape the vicissitudes and vexations of life. God "maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust" (Matthew 5:45).
For another thing, trials can be an instrument whereby good men and women are refined to become greater. Characterizing Himself as "the true vine" and His Father as "the husbandman," Jesus taught, "Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit" (John 15:2).
Occasions of challenge or trial are not the time to despair. Rather, they are times for renewed resolve and faithfulness, for immersing oneself in the scriptures and for praying, not necessarily that our Father will remove the load, but that He will make us equal to it, as He did for Alma's people in bondage, when He eased the burdens that were placed upon their shoulders (see Mosiah 24:14-15).
In the days leading up to the saints' forced exodus from Nauvoo, Ill., in 1846, Newell Knight told his wife Lydia that they might have to move again, having already been driven from place to place. This was her response: "Well, there's nothing to discuss. Our place is with the Kingdom of God. Let us at once set about making preparations to leave" (quoted by descendant G. Richard Oscarson in Feb. 10, 1996, Church News, p. 3).
May such faithfulness, determination and fortitude grace our actions whenever we encounter challenge and trial.