Quotes on Suffering

All we suffer builds our character and makes us more worthy to be called a child of God. — President Spencer W. Kimball

Concerning his personal suffering, Joseph [Smith] was promised, “Thy heart shall be enlarged.”  An enlarged Joseph wrote from Liberty Jail, “It seems to me that my heart will always be more tender after this than ever it was before. . . . I think I never could have felt as I now do if I had not suffered.”  (The Personal Writings of Joseph Smith)  Was Joseph not told, “All these things shall give thee experience and shall be for thy good”?  (D&C 122:7) — Elder Neal A. Maxwell, Ensign, May 1992, p. 39

Now, we find many people critical when a righteous person is killed, a young father or mother is taken from a family, or when violent deaths occur.  Some become bitter when oft-repeated prayers seem unanswered.  Some lose faith and turn sour when solemn administrations by holy men seem to be ignored and no restoration seems to come from repeated prayer circles.  But if all the sick 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.

If pain and sorrow and total punishment immediately followed the doing of evil, no soul would repeat a misdeed.  If joy and peace and rewards were instantaneously given the doer of good, there could be no evil – all would do good and not because of the rightness of doing good.  There would be no test of strength, no development of character, no growth of powers, no free agency, no Satanic controls.

Should all prayers be immediately answered according to our selfish desires and our limited understanding, then there would be little or no suffering, sorrow, disappointment, or even death; and if these were not, there would also be an absence of joy, success, resurrection, eternal life, and godhood. — President Spencer W. Kimball, “Tragedy or Destiny,” Improvement Era, March 1966, pp. 180, 210; Book of Mormon Student Manual, Religion 121 and 122, p. 79

Suffering can take us one of two ways.  It can be a strengthening and purifying experience combined with faith, or it can be a destructive force in our lives if we do not have the faith in the Lord’s atoning sacrifice.  The purpose of suffering, however, is to build and strengthen us.  We learn obedience by the things we suffer.  We should be humbled and drawn to the Lord, as in the case of the prodigal son who appreciated his home only after going into the world and experiencing sorrow when he shut out his loved ones. — Elder Robert D. Hales, “Your Sorrow Shall Be Turned to Joy,” Ensign, November 1983, p. 65

When we take Jesus’ yoke upon us, this admits us eventually to what Paul called the “fellowship of [Christ’s] sufferings” (Philip. 3:10).  Whether illness or aloneness, injustice or rejection, etc., our comparatively small-scale sufferings, if we are meek, will sink into the very marrow of the soul.  We then better appreciate not only Jesus’ sufferings for us, but also His matchless character, moving us to greater adoration and even emulation.

Alma revealed that Jesus knows how to succor us in the midst of our griefs and sicknesses precisely because Jesus has already borne our griefs and sicknesses (see Alma 7:1112).  He knows them firsthand; thus His empathy is earned.  Of course, we do not comprehend it fully any more than we understand how He bore all mortal sins, but His Atonement remains the rescuing and reassuring reality.

No wonder, of all the things for which we might praise Jesus when He comes again in majesty and power, we will praise Him for His “loving kindness” and His “goodness”; moreover, we will go on praising Him for ever and ever!  (See D&C 133:52; see also Mosiah 4:6, 11; Alma 7:23.)  We will never need to be coaxed. — Elder Neal A. Maxwell, General Conference, April 1997

I am struck quite forcibly by the idea that no man has yet become President of the church of him who suffered so much who has not himself undergone some special challenges previous to that moment.  The challenges vary from President to President, but the ways in which these men have coped with these challenges are strikingly similar.

If we use Jesus as a model in the midst of the suffering about which we’re speaking, then it is also noteworthy that even in the midst of his exquisite agony he managed to have compassion for those nearby who were then suffering much, though much less than he – those on the adjoining crosses or about him below the cross.  How marvelous it is when we see people who are not so swallowed up in their own suffering that they cannot still manage sympathy, even empathy, for those who suffer far, far less.  How many of us here may have undergone the embarrassment of being comforted by those who had more reason to be comforted than we?  Yet we recognize in that act of theirs a saintliness to which we would so gladly aspire. — Elder Neal A. Maxwell, “But For a Small Moment,” BYU Fireside, September 1, 1974

Most of our suffering, brothers and sisters, actually comes because of our sins and not because of our nobility.  Isn’t it marvelous that Jesus Christ, who did not have to endure that kind of suffering because he was sin-free, nevertheless took upon himself the sins of all of us and experienced an agony so exquisite we cannot comprehend it?  I don’t know how many people have lived on the earth for sure, but demographers say between 30 and 67 billion.  If you were to collect the agony for your own sins and I for mine, and multiply it by that number, we can only shudder at what the sensitive, divine soul of Jesus must have experienced in taking upon himself the awful arithmetic of the sins of all of us – an act which he did selflessly and voluntarily. If it is also true (in some way we don’t understand) that the cavity which suffering carves into our souls will one day also be the receptacle of joy, how infinitely greater Jesus’ capacity for joy, when he said, after his resurrection, “Behold, my joy is full.”  How very, very full, indeed, his joy must have been! — Elder Neal A. Maxwell, “But For a Small Moment,” BYU Fireside, September 1, 1974

Jesus Christ, who by far suffered the most, has the most compassion – for all of us who suffer so much less.  Moreover, He who suffered the most has no self-pity!  Even as He endured the enormous suffering associated with the Atonement, He reached out to others in their much lesser suffering.  Consider how, in Gethsemane, Jesus, who had just bled at every pore, nevertheless restored an assailant’s severed ear which, given Jesus’ own agony, He might not have noticed!  (see Luke 22:50–51).

Consider how Jesus, while hanging so painfully on the cross, instructed the Apostle John about caring for Jesus’ mother, Mary (see John 19:26–27).  Consider how in the midst of the awful arithmetic of the Atonement, Jesus nevertheless reassured one of the thieves on the cross, “To day shalt thou be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43).  He cared, even in the midst of enormous suffering.  He reached outwardly, when a lesser being would have turned inwardly.

Jesus’ loving and discerning character is such that He gives customized counsel, taking into account our differing bearing capacities.  He healed 10 lepers, but only one returned to thank Him.  He didn’t chide that leper, whereas you and I sometimes unload on the undeserving.  Instead, He simply said, “Where are the nine?”  (Luke 17:17). — Elder Neal A. Maxwell, “Enduring Well,” Ensign, April 1997

In that most burdensome moment of all human history, with blood appearing at every pore and an anguished cry upon His lips, Christ sought Him whom He had always sought – His Father. “Abba,” He cried, “Papa,” or from the lips of a younger child, “Daddy.”

This is such a personal moment it almost seems a sacrilege to cite it.  A Son in unrelieved pain, a Father His only true source of strength, both of them staying the course, making it through the night – together. — Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, “The Hands of the Fathers,” Ensign, May 1999