This is part two of excerpts from John H. Groberg's inspirational autobiography, "The Other Side of Heaven", which was originally titled "In the Eye of the Storm". A wonderful film was made based on this book, starring Christopher Gorham and Anne Hathaway, recounting Groberg's missionary experiences in Tonga.
My first posting of excerpts from this book, which is one of my favorites, occurred on August 6, 2010. They were from the book's first chapter. To see this posting, go to http://positivethinkersjournal.blogspot.com/2010/08/excerpts-from-other-side-of-heaven-by.html.
After suffering the effects of a major, devastating hurricane that hit the Tongan islands, John Groberg made the following observations:
On the difference attitude makes:
By the end of the fifth week (following the hurricane), the food supply was low and there was still no boat. Things started to look and feel grim. I learned that attitude determined a lot. As people began to think pessimistically, things did get worse for them. The facts did not lend themselves to much optimism, but some on the island remained optimistic. I noticed a marked division among the people: some slid into negativism and defeat while others kept their optimism and faith intact and kept moving. Those who maintained their optimism seemed better off, physically and mentally.
On pondering the things of God:
It was a good time for pondering. I reflected on [Joseph Smith's] statement, "The things of God are of deep import; and time, and experience, and careful and ponderous and solemn thoughts can only find them out".
Sometimes the situations that compel us to [ponder], such as illness or disasters, are seen as cursings rather than the blessings they can be if properly used. Is it possible that in our busy, work-a-day world, one of the great blessings the Lord gives us is to put us in a situation where we must be quiet, without a lot of outside disturbance and pressures?
If the purpose of life is to know and love God, then maybe one of Satan's best weapons to keep us from that knowledge is to keep us so busy, even in doing good things, and so occupied with commitments and pressures that we don't allow ourselves to be still so we can know that God is God!
What a tremendous blessing faith is! Faith is the opposite of fear. We fear what we don't understand. When we understand who God is, who we are, how he loves us, and what His plan for us is, fear evaporates.
On challenges and growth:
When we begin to understand the relationship of opposition to growth and start to sense the type of growth God has designed for us and is trying to help us achieve, we tend to give thanks rather than complain about obstacles to overcome. People unchallenged are largely people undeveloped, be it physically, mentally, or spiritually.
Just as rockets must overcome the pull of gravity in order to roar into space, so we must overcome the pull of the world in order to soar into the eternal realms of understanding. That is where God is, and that is important!
Nine weeks after the hurricane, John Groberg and others on the small island were close to death for the lack of food. It was a severely trying physical time, replete with deeply fulfilling spiritual experiences, in which he became very close to God and gained much spiritual strength. He learned that:
The only thing that is important is your standing in the sight of your Father in Heaven. If that is as it should be, nothing else matters. If that is not as it should be, nothing else counts.
Both physical and spiritual elements are necessary and are in effect one when fully comprehended and perfected.
We must leave judgment to the Lord. He alone knows all the facts. We may have had some experiences with some people at some time, but only God comprehends all experiences with all people at all times. Only He can weigh everything in its proper context.
There aren't many things we must know to fulfill our purpose here, but the few vital things we must know must be known deeply and well.
Mortal life and its environment, while important in terms of growth, is really the abnormal rather than the normal state of things. I suppose seeing things in their true relationships is among the greatest gifts we can receive.
When a boat with provisions finally arrived, John described his mixed feelings:
Some said how good it was to eat again and to feel this great gratitude to God for saving our lives. But I felt something deeper. I would never say I was unhappy that life here would go on as before. But there was a wistful feeling - a subtle sense of postponement, as when darkness finally closes the brilliant colors of a perfect sunset and you realize you must wait for another evening to enjoy such beauty again.
That perfect sunset, though long since faded, never quite leaves our consciousness and is available for us to draw on as we come face to face with the sordidness and unpleasantness of this earth's challenges.
Here are some more lessons learned - excerpts from the book:
As [my] family called down on the powers of heaven to bless their missionary son in a way they could not physically do, the powers of heaven came down, lifted me up, and in a spiritual way allowed me for a brief moment to once again join my family circle in prayer. I was one with them. I was literally swallowed up in the love and concern of a loving family and sensed for a moment what being taken into the bosom of Abraham might be like (see Luke 16:22).
I was given to understand also that there are other circles of love and concern, unbounded by time or space, to which we all belong and from which we can draw strength. God does not leave us entirely alone - ever!
I learned that when people are discouraged, they don't need criticism or lectures - they need positive examples of happiness.
If we humble ourselves before God and sincerely ask for His help, He will help us. First, He will help us see ourselves as we really are, which is at the same time one of the hardest and one of the most blessed things we can understand.
Sometimes when things aren't going right, we think we need to get away from a place or a person. Sometimes that helps, but most of the time what we need is to get away from our old self and our selfish feelings.
There is no such place in this universe as a place too small or a people too few to not warrant our full effort and more.
To know that He suffered and died for others as well as for us is the greatest single force in the universe to give us the desire and the power to help others. Literally, the universe is filled with His love, and we should be filled with love because of Him. Oh, how we should try with all our hearts to become part of this infinite love!
I suppose we were bitten with about the same frequency, whether standing or swinging the machete, but you didn't notice the mosquitoes, the heat, or the smells so much when you were working hard.
It makes you feel good when you have finally accomplished something quite challenging. You appreciate a home much more when you have labored for a long time to build it.
The more earnestly I prayed, the brighter the light became. My thought was no longer, "How do I get out of this?" but rather, "What is God's will? What should I do? I'll do it, no matter what it is." I felt much better. I was still shaking, but light and courage were now replacing darkness and fear.
How sweet sleep is when you have done your duty and followed God's will - no matter what was required!
True faith in God does not require specific physical benefits but rather a sincere desire for God's will to be done, knowing that He knows best. When we understand His will through faith, no further questions or problems exist, for even if His will is different from our original will, His will becomes our will.
God will always provide a way for us to escape from danger if we seek him sincerely, even though the means he uses may sometimes be quite unusual.
The eternal question always has been and always will be not what people act like, or what they look like, or where they come from, or where or when they lived, or what language they speak, but what they are.
I am convinced that learning another language helps us understand our own language better. We see things we have never thought of before. The gift of tongues is much more than just saying or understanding words; it involves deeper understanding that come from a divine source far beyond mere words.
I'm not sure we can truly appreciate something until we have lost it, or at least been without it for a while. I wonder if we can actually be grateful for something we have never been without?
I wondered if maybe even Jesus needed to feel what it was like to be without His Father, if only for a short time, in order to fully appreciate what it is to be with Him and be encompassed by His love.
I learned how important it is to constantly make deposits into this eternal kindness bank, not only for ourselves but also for others. No kindness shown is ever lost. It is always deposited and available, with added interest, to be drawn on in time of need by us or others. I wondered if the whole universe isn't balanced by depositing and withdrawing acts of kindness. Maybe the total amount of kindness available to draw on and bless our lives is the total amount of kindness deposited by all of us as we bless others' lives.
It pays to be kind, not only for what it does to others, but also for what it does to us.
Every day and every situation was less than ideal, and if I let circumstances or conditions govern my actions, I would just sit and rot. We had to decide ahead what we should do and then move forward and do it regardless of the weather, apathy, or opposition.
The Lord has ways of teaching us truths that many of us miss by refusing to go through some of the required "unpleasant" prerequisites.
If we pray with all of our heart for that which is right, that which is according to God's will, it will be granted as the scriptures promise. The key, of course, is to be willing to accept His will and ask for those things that are according to His will.
I know there are always lessons to learn, as well as blessings to gain, if we are only willing to pay the price for them. I am convinced that there is more potential in the smallest area, or in the seemingly least significant calling, than any of us will be able to achieve.
See also Part 3, Excerpts from "The Other Side of Heaven" by John H. Groberg at:
Part 3, Excerpts from John Groberg's "The Other Side of Heaven"