Well, the holidays are over, so I guess I have no more excuses as to why I haven't written in our blog! We've been traveling and gearing up for our last semester of school (and by "our" I mean Ben's) and trying to figure out where we are going after that. Grad school here we come! We're just not sure which grad school yet.
The last few weeks have really taught me a lot about how aware of us God really is. Even when I'm not thinking about my problems, He is, and He's preparing to help me with them. Of course, He can't just drop the solutions into my brain without me asking for them, and He can't force me to do what I need to in order to solve the problem. I need to make the choice on my own. Going through some of the trials we've been dealing with (health issues, financial issues, and baby sleep issues, to name a few) I've noticed that God always has a solution ready and waiting for me, I just have to access it. I learned how to do just that in one of my religion classes, and I thought I would share it here.
The way to access God's solutions to our problems is a 3 step process that is actually pretty simple to follow. I learned this in context of accessing miracles, but I have no problem replacing the word "miracle" here with "solution", since miracles we seek usually tend to solve problems we are facing. To give credit, this information comes from Ross Baron, a Stake President and religion teacher at Brigham Young University-Idaho.
The first step to finding the solution to our problems is to desire. Now, that might seem like a no-brainer, since everyone would love to have their problems go away; this is actually talking about proving to God that you're serious about finding a solution. Nobody likes having problems, and most people will complain about them, but complaining doesn't mean you're serious about doing something to solve the problem. Like I said earlier, God isn't going to just drop the solution in my lap. I have to ask for it. Asking in prayer is one way to show our desire to receive an answer. Studying the scriptures is another way to manifest desire, because it shows we are searching God's words, believing that we will find the answer there. Pondering possible solutions is another way. God gave us a brain and He wants us to use it. He wants us to use logic and reasoning and think through things. If we expect God to give us a detailed description saying exactly what we should do, we are being slothful, (according to the scriptures). So the first thing to do is show God you truly desire an answer (or miracle, or solution).
The second step is usually easier, it is to receive inspiration. Now, this is actually God's part of the process: we seek a solution, He inspires us as to what action we need to take. Receiving this inspiration will only happen if we are paying attention. Do you have a feeling you need to do something specific? Did an idea pop into your mind of what do to while you were praying or studying? Did you suddenly remember an experience where something you learned earlier would apply to your current situation? Pay special attention to your feelings and thoughts when you're praying, studying the scriptures, and thinking about solutions. This is how God reveals to you what you're supposed to do. Occasionally He will place someone in your path that says "you need to do _____ in order to fix your problem", but usually He answers you with thoughts and feelings. If you aren't sure if your thought or feeling about something is coming from Him, ask Him in prayer. He'll let you know.
The third step is the hardest. The third step is to do what God inspired you to do, or to put it in gospel terms, to act. The reason this is so hard is because sometimes the thing God has asked us to do doesn't seem as if it will directly or immediately solve your problem. A perfect example is financial issues: most people would readily accept the answer to get a second job if they have insufficient finances to provide for the family, because more working = more money, and therefore the deficit is taken care of in simple math. A lot of people struggle with receiving the answer to pay their tithing, because paying something doesn't put more money in your bank account, it takes away from it. This is where we need faith. Do I have the faith that if I pay my tithing - which initially gives me less money than I already have - that God will provide the way for me to pay all my bills and feed my family? This is where most people fail to receive a miracle, because they fail to act on what God has asked them to do. They just don't see how paying ANOTHER "bill" could be the answer to their financial problems, and so they ignore the instruction from God. Without their action, God cannot produce the miracle, and so they are left to themselves to figure our their financial problems. On the other hand, if they act and pay their tithing (even if it doesn't make sense), God works miracles in order to bless them with the answer to their problems. Sometimes those miracles are subtle, and sometimes they are very obvious, but He works them just the same. The important thing to remember is that He WILL NOT provide the miracle if you don't act on what He has asked you to do. A lot of people expect God to just give them the answers, but there is nowhere in scripture where we find evidence of God doing a miracle for somebody before they were obedient to what He told them to do.
My favorite example of this pattern in the scriptures comes from the Old Testament. In Joshua chapter 3, the Israelites are finally done wandering in the wilderness and need to enter the promised land, but they have a problem: The Jordan river stands between them and the promised land, and it's currently at flood level. Joshua (the Prophet at the time) has big shoes to fill - he's been called to be their leader right after Moses, who did amazing miracles like parting the Red Sea,making water come from a dry rock, and causing an earthquake to happen that only destroyed the part of land where the wicked people were standing. Joshua is doing a lot of seeking in order to know how to be an effective leader to these people. God promises him in verse 7 that He will do miracles through Joshua and show the people that Joshua is God's prophet just as Moses was. God then instructs Joshua to tell the priests carrying the Ark to go and stand in the middle of the river. Now to the common man, this seems pointless and silly. How will a handful of men standing in the middle of an overflowing river help thousands of people get across it? This is where faith comes in. They just need to do it, even if they don't understand why. So the priests do it. They act on what they were told to do. The result was a miracle. As soon as their feet touch the water, it stops flowing from that point, but further up stream the water is still flowing. It literally looks as if an invisible wall is blocking the water, causing it to heap higher and higher as if the water was standing up. Kind of like this, but I imagine it higher:
The people then walked across on completely dry ground - not mud - dry ground. God could only do this miracle after the people got their feet wet. This pattern repeats itself over and over and over in the scriptures.
So to recap - desire the answer, pay attention to receive the inspiration of what to do, and then DO IT, no matter how hard or ridiculous it seems. Without the action, the rest of the process is useless, and you receive no miracle. It all comes down to whether or not you have the faith to act.