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Following Your Heart, Following God, When Life Is Out of Control and Impossible

By Tim B


The following is my response to someone in a different setting who is having a legitimately very difficult time in her life right now. She started off by talking about the suggestion someone else made that she should follow her heart. I’m not going to include what she wrote, because I don’t have her permission, so what I’m writing is missing some of the context as to exactly what I’m responding to. But most of the things that I say here apply to pretty much everybody who’s having a rough time in life, and so I thought I’d bring them here, because, sometimes, people who are having a rough time in life come here — you might have seen one or something. So I’ll put a little “—” to show where her comments would go if I was including them, to give you a little bit of an idea about the flow of the conversation (understanding that she hasn’t responded to anything I’ve said, and probably hasn’t even seen what I said as I’m preparing this.”

If you happen to see this in its original form, please read my post titled “Hi. My Name Isn’t Tim B.

But following your heart is not about doing what you want to do, or what makes sense to do. Not in a Mormon context. Follow your heart means to listen with your heart to the whisperings of the Spirit, and follow that. With annoying regularity, those paths are quite different. Personally, I think the Spirit has a twisted sense of humor sometimes, but, whatever, things work better when you do them God’s way than when you do them your way, at least if you’re me. But I’m still trying to get him to cut me some slack on actual scripture study, and I think I’m wearing him down a little — I’ll let you know when he starts seeing thing my way. Should be real soon now.

Sounds like a mess. Sounds like three messes, at least. Some of those messes are outside your control, but some of them you have power to change. I would suggest you look closely at which are which, and what you can do with the ones you can do anything with that could give you more options to be able to get through this. Most of those messes are temporary.

No. If this was Hell, you’d actually be dead, and your chest wouldn’t hurt. Do *not* view that as an invitation to become dead to avoid the chest pain. That’s a permanent solution to temporary problems, and is dumber than soap.

Everything material, perhaps. A friend of mine spent a summer working for a mission that reaches out to street kids in California some years ago. He told me about a time that he was looking at a kid that was sleeping on a cot in a room full of other kids, and he mentioned to one of the other workers there that this kid had nothing — no family, no education, no means of support, and no apparent prospects at a future, and no solutions to the addictions ravaging his body. The coworker told my friend that he was wrong, “He has breath, and he has God. And that’s enough.”

Doing God’s work doesn’t have much of a paycheck, but the retirement plan is out of this world. But you’re not out of this world yet, so I guess it’s not time to retire yet.

But how is it that your lifetime of service in the Church didn’t teach you the way the Church really works? Did you not notice that all the people in it are human, fallible, and finite? That none of them is capable of seeing to their own needs, let alone someone else’s? There’s a lot more to this Church than popcorn on apricot trees and centerpieces for tables, and some of it is pretty gritty, and hard-core. If you’ve not been introduced to that last part until now, let me welcome you to it. This is where the Gospel actually happens.

Perfect people with perfect lives and perfect homes and perfect families don’t need God, and they don’t need breath, because they don’t exist. The Gospel is not for those without need — it is for us, and we all have need. We all have weakness — not weaknesses, but weakness: the state of being weak. None of us is strong — not one. Not me, not you, not your ex, not your dad, not your bishop, not your SP, not Pres. Monson.

And that weakness gives us the capability of becoming humble. That’s why God gave it to us, because his Grace is *only* sufficient for those who humble themselves before him *and* have faith in him. He wants to save us all, so we all have to be weak, and, even then, most of us won’t humble ourselves before him. Check out the part of the Book of Moses where it talks about Enoch, and how upset God is that humans won’t do this. He loves us, and he is so very angry that we turn our backs on all the help he wants to give us which will give us eternal life. The whole reason he bothers to make worlds and put people on them is so can give us eternal life and immortality, and we just don’t care enough to give up our pride, and to love him enough to believe in him and do what he tells us will make us happy. So he weeps about us, and Enoch, seeing this, doesn’t even know what to do about it.

I hear that some people can just decide to humble themselves. I think they’re a bunch of sissy brown-nosers, myself. The rest of us have to be compelled to be humble, and that definitely includes me. I’ve had to take a few whacks upside the head with God’s clue-by-four to even get as far as I have with this, and I’m still a few fries short of the whole Happy Meal.

Life is hard. For everybody. Even the clean and pretty ones. Following God demands from us everything we have to give — every ounce, every drop, every breath, everything that is in us. 100.000000% 99.999999% is not enough. So, if it seems like life is really, really hard, and like you can’t make it on your own (and it kinda sounds that way from here — you seem to be a little unhappy with how things are going at the moment), then maybe you’re exactly where you need to be right now.

He might have other things on his mind too. I can’t tell you how happy I am to not be a bishop. No way I could do all of that — I can’t even be a consistent Home Teacher.

So if you do everything right, God’s supposed to give you a cookie and a glass of milk and a attagirl? Look at the first part of Ether 12:27 to see what God does to those who come unto him. Look at what he allowed to happen to Job. And every prophet in any dispensation — show me the cake-walk life anywhere in scripture. Look at what happened to the only person who got everything right — made every single choice correctly, and never once sinned, not even for a second.

Then this is the right time for you to be introduced to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It was made with you in mind, for moments just like this — when you begin to understand that you can’t make it on your own. I recommend it to you in the strongest terms.

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6 Responses to “Following Your Heart, Following God, When Life Is Out of Control and Impossible”

  1. Rex Goode said:

    Tim, this is wonderful! I’m pleased to not be a sissy brown-noser, although I can sometimes be a bit of a sissy.

    There’s so much meat in what you wrote. It’s great.

    I especially like your first paragraph where you pointed out that we and the Spirit have different ideas about what we need. I’ve had to work hard to accept that.

    Thanks so much for posting this.

  2. Tim B said:

    You’re welcome. And no, you’re not a sissy brown-noser. You do it the hard way, just like me. Pride Anonymous — giving up pride by allowing God to pry it out of my fingers one fiber at a time. If he pulls hard enough.

    I just wrote this because I could see so strongly (in the parts you can’t read) this sense of disappointment and betrayal that she had done the check-list and God and Church owed her the life she wanted. I think the gospel is too important to get lost in all of that. It’s a failure that comes from so much emphasis on the “Only True Church, ” I think. It’s not that that’s not true — it’s that it gets overly emphasized, because the Church is made up of tangible people that you can see, and it’s easy to jump from “inspired leaders” to “perfect leaders” and get into all sorts of problems.

  3. julie said:

    Well said Tim. The only way God is going to get me to give up my pride is to knock me out and keep me out. jk. I wish I could be a sissy brown noser and then maybe it wouldn’t be so hard.

  4. Tim B said:

    It’s always hard. Every time. For everybody. See also “life of Jesus Christ.” If he doesn’t get a cake walk life, I don’t think any of us has a shot at it.

  5. julie said:

    He was also part God when He had to go through what He did. We are not. And it is possible to put more on ourselves than we can handle. I believe what God says about not giving us more than we can handle, but when we add things on top of what God has already given us, then what? I really don’t feel I can go through and handle it as well as what Christ went through.

  6. Tim B said:

    Oh, there’s no way we can do as well as he did. Not even close. He didn’t goof the whole time — I can’t get through an afternoon with some kind of stupid choice.

    But my point was more that life is hard for everybody, and it was hardest for the one who made the best choices. That doesn’t mean, of course, that there’s a direct connection between making good choices and having a harder life. So “being hard” isn’t a sign that something’s wrong.

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