When I first started going to therapy (for real, the first first time I saw a therapist I wasn't really sure about it so I didn't do the work so it doesn't count)I talked a lot about my kids and my husband. After all, they were (are!) the people I spent most of my time and energy taking care of and supporting. Back then I felt like I was sacrificing so much to be the wife and mother they needed and, well, I wasn't sure I felt very good about that. It was just so hard. So hard that I was drained and frustrated and angry all the time. This wasn't how it was supposed to be. Something, somewhere must have gone wrong. I was in therapy to ferret that out and exorcise it.
I got married pretty young (19) and had my first baby pretty young (21). Being young and naive, I thought that because I had married a righteous priesthood holder in the temple and because I had received spiritual confirmation about getting pregnant that I was doing everything right. I mean, I knew I had little weaknesses; I knew I needed some tweaking before I would be ready to meet my maker, but I was doing all the important stuff right. I figured my life would be easy because I followed the path that my Primary teachers, Young Women leaders, and my parents had laid out. I mean, that's how it's supposed to work right? God told the Nephites and Lamanites over and over that if they were righteous they would prosper in the land. It was only hard when they were bad. Temple marriage was like a fairy tale. As soon as you got the girl in the beautiful dress with the handsome RM at her side in front of the castle-like building the battles had already been fought, the dragon slayed, and it was time for the happily forever after. Right?
Wrong. Very wrong.
Look at Nephi. He was a prophet who never failed to declare the word of the Lord--even when it made his brothers time him to the ship's mast for days. Remember Abinadi? He was pretty righteous and he got burned at the stake. And then there's Jesus, our Savior and Redeemer. He suffered tremendously--words are inadequate to express what He went through in the garden of Gethsemane and on the cross--and He was perfect. Hard things happen for a lot of reasons, many of which are not the direct result of the individual.
Don't misunderstand me. When we intentionally sin the consequences are real and painful. Even when we don't intentionally sin, when we only trangress or make mistakes there are consequences. But everything in our lives can't be traced back to our own choices. There are too many other people in the world for that to be the case.
My therapist is not LDS and didn't think to point out the cosmic nature and purpose of trials. (Which is probably for the best because I sure wasn't hearing that lesson. I mean, how many had that been taught in Church and I didn't hear it? Apparently I needed a different presentation of that truth.) Instead she listened as I dissected every choice that lead to my marriage and my children and my life. She listened as I unburdened and re-burdened my weary mind. And then she quipped, "You know, just because something is hard doesn't mean it's wrong. It just means it's hard. Some things, like marriage, are just hard some of the time."
I snatched an appointment card off the table and scribbled her words on it. I told her I wanted to believe it but I wasn't sure if I could. What did it mean? "Just because something is hard doesn't mean it's wrong." Did it mean that I could make good choices and some things in my life would still be hard? Did it mean that I had no control?
Yes. And no. Yes my life would still be hard--the Lord chastens and scourges those He loves--and no because I still did have some control. I didn't have control over all my circumstances or my trials. I didn't choose to have depression or the other things that made me feel like my life was headed for the trash can. God was (is!) the one in control of all that. My job was to figure out how those circumstances and trials would change me and my relationships. Would it be a refiner's fire or just fire and brimstone? That's all I need to figure out. The rest I can give up to God.
Of course I'm still working on figuring all that out--it will probably take me the rest of my life and maybe even some of eternity to really get it--but when things get rough, on the really bad days when the house is a wreck and the kids are all screaming and I just want to lay in bed because I can't face it all, I remember, "Just because something is hard doesn't mean it's wrong. It just means it's hard." And I breathe a little easier.