His Burden Is Light | Sterling C. Hilton


♪ ♪ ♪ ♪>>THIS DEVOTIONAL ADDRESS
WITH STERLING HILTON WAS
GIVEN ON OCTOBER 13, 2015.>>GOOD MORNING,
BROTHERS AND SISTERS, AND WELCOME TO OUR DEVOTIONAL. WE ARE PLEASED TO HAVE
BROTHER STERLING HILTON, THE CHAIR OF THE
DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATIONALLEADERSHIP AND FOUNDATIONS,
AS OUR SPEAKER THIS MORNING.
WE EXTEND A SPECIAL
WELCOME TO HIS WIFE, HEIDI,
AS WELL AS THEIR FAMILY MEMBERS
AND FRIENDS WHO HAVE JOINED US.
BROTHER HILTON HAS BEEN THE
CHAIR OF THE DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATIONAL LEADERSHIP AND
FOUNDATIONS IN THE MCKAY SCHOOL OF EDUCATION SINCE 2009. HE RECEIVED HIS BACHELOR’S
DEGREE IN ECONOMICS FROM BYU, AS WELL AS TWO MASTER’S DEGREES;
ONE IN POLITICAL SCIENCE, AND ONE IN STATISTICS.HE EARNED HIS PHD IN
BIOSTATISTICS FROM
JOHNS HOPKINS UNIVERSITY.PROFESSOR HILTON JOINED BYU AS
A STATISTICS PROFESSOR IN 1996,
AND IN 2003 JOINED THE
MCKAY SCHOOL OF EDUCATION.
HE TEACHES COURSES IN RESEARCH
AND STATISTICS METHODS AND DATA-DRIVEN DECISION MAKING. BROTHER HILTON ENJOYS
SPENDING TIME WITH HIS FAMILY AND IS AN AVID RUNNER. HE CURRENTLY SERVES
AS THE SUNDAY SCHOOL PRESIDENT IN HIS WARD. HE AND HIS WIFE, HEIDI,
ARE THE PARENTS
OF FOUR CHILDREN.NOW WE’LL NOW BE PLEASED TO HEAR
FROM BROTHER STERLING HILTON.>>GOOD MORNING. I AM HUMBLED TO STAND
WHERE PROPHETS, APOSTLES, GENERAL AUTHORITIES,
UNIVERSITY PRESIDENTS, IMPORTANT SCHOLARS,
AND EVEN WORLD LEADERS HAVE STOOD. AS A STUDENT AT
BYU 30 YEARS AGO, I ATTENDED THE DEVOTIONALS
AND FORUMS QUITE FAITHFULLY. I LOVED TAKING A BREAK ONCE A
WEEK TO LISTEN TO REMARKABLE INDIVIDUALS SHARE THEIR
INSIGHTS ON A MYRIAD OF TOPICS. I ENJOYED LISTENING AND LEARNING
WITHOUT ANY WORRY THAT I MIGHT BE TESTED ON WHAT I WAS HEARING. [LAUGHTER]
IT WAS EDUCATION AT ITS BEST. NOW, I AM WHAT I USED TO
REFER TO AS THE DARK HORSE IN THE DEVOTIONAL LINEUP. A DARK HORSE IS A COMPLETELY
UNKNOWN QUANTITY WITH NO NAME RECOGNITION WHATSOEVER. YOU ARE PROBABLY LIKE ONE
OF MY STUDENTS WHO LOOKED AT THE LIST OF SPEAKERS FOR
THE SEMESTER AND ASKED, “WHY ARE YOU ON THE LIST?” MY RESPONSE TO HER IS,
“I DON’T KNOW! “I’VE BEEN ASKING MYSELF
THAT SAME QUESTION!” WHATEVER THE REASON, I’M HERE,
AND I HOPE THAT SOMETHING I SHARE THIS MORNING WILL MOVE
YOU TO OPEN YOUR HEARTS TO THE WHISPERINGS OF THE HOLY GHOST
AND THAT YOU WILL BE ENCOURAGED IN YOUR EFFORTS TO FOLLOW OUR
LORD AND SAVIOR JESUS CHRIST. ONE OF MY FAVORITE SCRIPTURES
IS FOUND IN MATTHEW 11. IT’S CHRIST’S UNIVERSAL
INVITATION THAT SPEAKS TO EACH OF US PERSONALLY.“COME UNTO ME,
“ALL YE THAT LABOUR
“AND ARE HEAVY LADEN,
“AND I WILL GIVE YOU REST.
“TAKE MY YOKE UPON YOU,
“AND LEARN OF ME;
“FOR I AM MEEK AND
“LOWLY IN HEART:
“AND YE SHALL FIND
“REST UNTO YOUR SOULS.
“FOR MY YOKE IS EASY,
AND MY BURDEN IS LIGHT.”
I LOVE THIS PASSAGE BECAUSE
IN A FEW SHORT VERSES, CHRIST LAYS BEFORE US
THE PATH TO ETERNAL LIFE. THE OVERTONES AND
UNDERTONES OF THESE VERSES RESONATE WITH TRUTH. FIRST, THE VERY FACT
THAT IT IS AN INVITATION “TO COME,” “TO TAKE,”
AND “TO LEARN” ALL INDICATE AN ACKNOWLEDGMENT
OF AND A RESPECT FOR OUR AGENCY. THIS RESPECT FOR AGENCY CAUSES
ME TO THINK OF OUR PRE-MORTAL LIFE WHERE WE FOUGHT IN OUR
FATHER’S ARMY TO PRESERVE AND MAINTAIN THE CONDITION
OF AGENCY IN THIS LIFE. IT SEEMS RIGHT THAT CHRIST,
WHO IS THE LINCHPIN IN OUR FATHER’S PLAN OF HAPPINESS,
ACKNOWLEDGES THAT IT IS OUR CHOICE TO COME UNTO HIM OR NOT. I ALSO APPRECIATE THE SIMPLE
PROMISE OF REST THAT IS GIVEN. HAVING LABORED UNDER SIN
AND ITS HEAVY WEIGHT OF GUILT AND SEPARATION FROM GOD,
I AM GRATEFUL FOR THE PROMISE OF REST AND RECONCILIATION
CHRIST PROMISES TO THOSE WHO COME UNTO HIM. I FIND GREAT MEANING
IN THE WORD YOKE. IT EVOKES SO MANY IMPORTANT
THINGS ABOUT CHRIST’S PATH.A YOKE IS A WOODEN BAR OR FRAME
BY WHICH TWO DRAFT ANIMALS ARE
JOINED AT THE NECKS FOR WORKING
TOGETHER TO PULL A HEAVY LOAD.
A YOKE IS ALSO A FRAME FITTED
TO A PERSON’S SHOULDERS TO CARRY
A LOAD IN TWO EQUAL PORTIONS.WHETHER WE ENVISION A
DOUBLE OR SINGLE YOKE,
THE SAVIOR IS PART
OF THIS IMAGE.
WE ARE EITHER TEAMED WITH HIM,
SIDE-BY-SIDE,
OR WE ARE CARRYING HIS YOKE.YOKES IMPLY BURDENS
OR HEAVY LOADS;
THUS BY TAKING HIS YOKE UPON US,
WE ARE ALSO TAKING UPON US THE
LOAD TO WHICH IT IS ATTACHED.THE SEQUENCE OF FIRST TAKING
AND THEN LEARNING INDICATES THAT THIS ISN’T AN ARMCHAIR
EXERCISE OF THE INTELLECT. IT IS EXPERIENTIAL. ONLY THROUGH EXPERIENCING
CHRIST’S PATH FOR OURSELVES CAN WE LEARN OF HIM AT THE LEVEL
NECESSARY TO PROVE OURSELVES AND TO RECEIVE HIS GIFT. I LOVE IT THAT CHRIST DOESN’T
KEEP HIS LEARNING OBJECTIVE HIDDEN. HE TELLS US QUITE PLAINLY
WHAT WE WILL BE LEARNING: “FOR I AM MEEK AND
LOWLY IN HEART.” THIS STATEMENT PICKS UP AND
ECHOES THE RECURRING THEME THAT CHRIST TAUGHT HIS
DISCIPLES WHEN HE SAID, “…I SEEK NOT MINE OWN WILL,
“BUT THE WILL OF THE FATHER WHICH HATH SENT ME.” CHRIST’S PATH IS A PATH
OF MEEKNESS AND SUBMISSION. WE MUST LEARN TO SUBMIT
OUR WILLS TO THE FATHER’S. IF WE FOLLOW HIS
PATH TO THE END, WE WON’T JUST FIND REST,
BUT WE WILL “FIND REST UNTO OUR SOULS.” THIS PHRASE ECHOES THE NUMEROUS
PROMISES OF ETERNAL LIFE THAT ARE FOUND IN THE SCRIPTURES
AND THAT ARE PROMISED TO ALL WHO CHOOSE TO RECEIVE IT. I CONFESS THAT THE LAST VERSE,
“FOR MY YOKE IS EASY AND MY BURDEN IS LIGHT,”
HAS BEEN WONDERFULLY PROBLEMATIC FOR ME SINCE I HAVE EXPERIENCED
TRIBULATION SOMEWHAT REGULARLY ALONG CHRIST’S
PATH OF DISCIPLESHIP. YOU PROBABLY AREN’T LIKE ME,
BUT I HAVE BEEN KNOWN TO MUTTER UNDER MY BREATH,
“I WONDER IF I CAN SUE “FOR FALSE ADVERTISING. [LAUGHTER]
HOW IS THIS EASY AND LIGHT?!” OF COURSE, THAT’S JUST WHEN
I’M FEELING A BIT ORNERY. I TRULY, FULLY BELIEVE THAT
THERE IS NO DECEPTION IN CHRIST, SO I KNOW HE MEANT WHAT HE SAID. I JUST HAVEN’T FULLY
UNDERSTOOD IT. AS I HAVE PONDERED THIS PHRASE
AND TRIED TO RECONCILE IT WITH ALL MY EXPERIENCES,
I HAVE COME TO SEE IT IN A NEW WAY. IT SEEMS THAT THE PREVIOUS
VERSE HOLDS THE KEY. WHAT IF CHRIST’S YOKE
IS THE FATHER’S WILL? PLAIN. SIMPLE. EASY. AND WHAT IF WE CONSIDER LIGHT AS
A NOUN INSTEAD OF AN ADJECTIVE? WE DON’T OFTEN THINK
OF LIGHT AS A BURDEN; HOWEVER, REMEMBER THE SCRIPTURES
THAT TEACH WHERE MUCH IS GIVEN, MUCH IS REQUIRED? RECEIVING LIGHT BRINGS
DUTY AND RESPONSIBILITY. SOME SCRIPTURAL
SYNONYMS FOR LIGHT ARE TRUTH, GLORY, AND LOVE. WHEN I READ VERSE 30
IN THIS WAY, IT TAKES ON A WHOLE
NEW MEANING FOR ME. “FOR MY YOKE IS
“THE FATHER’S WILL, “AND MY BURDEN IS LIGHT,
TRUTH, GLORY, AND LOVE.” UNDERSTANDING THIS PASSAGE IN
THIS WAY HAS HELPED ME MORE FULLY UNDERSTAND THAT WHEN
WE YOKE OURSELVES TO CHRIST, WE COMMIT TO DO ALL THINGS
OUR FATHER COMMANDS US TO DO. WHEN WE REMAIN YOKED TO CHRIST
IN TIMES OF PROSPERITY AND JOY, AND IN TIMES OF TRIBULATION
AND SUFFERING, WE LEARN OF HIM AND
BECOME LIKE HIM. WE LEARN TO DIVEST OURSELVES
OF SELFISHNESS AND REPLACE IT WITH SELFLESSNESS,
TO OBEY AS HE OBEYED, AND TO LOVE AS HE LOVED. BY SO DOING,
WE KEEP OUR SECOND ESTATE. SO, HOW DO WE DO TAKE
CHRIST’S YOKE UPON US? SIMPLE: WE FOLLOW HIM
AND STRIVE TO EMULATE HIM. HIS PERFECT OBEDIENCE
TO GOD’S COMMANDMENTS, BOTH UNIVERSAL AND PERSONAL,
ILLUSTRATE NOT ONLY A PERFECT LOVE FOR OUR FATHER,
BUT ALSO A PERFECT SUBMISSION OF HIS WILL TO THE FATHER’S. CHRIST’S EXAMPLE OF SUBMISSION
IS SO PERFECT THAT WE SOMETIMES MISS THE TRUTH THAT CHRIST
ACTUALLY HAD HIS OWN WILL. WE SEE CHRIST’S WILL, HOWEVER,
AS HE OBEYED THE FATHER’S PERSONAL COMMANDMENT TO HIM
TO BRING ABOUT THE ATONEMENT. WE SEE IT IN THESE
WORDS CHRIST PRAYED: “FATHER, IF THOU BE WILLING,
“REMOVE THIS CUP FROM ME: “NEVERTHELESS NOT MY WILL,
BUT THINE, BE DONE.” HERE WE CLEARLY
SEE CHRIST’S WILL, WHICH IS SEPARATE
FROM THE FATHER’S. WE ALSO CLEARLY SEE HIS
PERFECT AND COMPLETE SUBMISSION, FOR HE ACCEPTED HIS BURDEN
AND SUFFERED IN GETHSEMANE, AND DURING THE ILLEGAL
SANHEDRIN TRIAL, AND IN PILATE’S PALACE,
AND AT GOLGOTHA. HE SACRIFICED HIS LIFE EVEN
WHEN THE FATHER WITHDREW HIS SPIRIT AND LEFT HIM ALONE. THERE IS ANOTHER IMPORTANT
LESSON TO BE LEARNED ABOUT TRIBULATION FROM LUKE’S ACCOUNT
OF THE SAVIOR’S SUBMISSION IN THE GARDEN OF GETHSEMANE. AFTER CHRIST HAD COMMITTED
HIMSELF TO GOD’S WILL TO BRING ABOUT THE ATONEMENT,
WE READ THE FOLLOWING:“AND THERE APPEARED AN ANGEL
“UNTO HIM FROM HEAVEN,
STRENGTHENING HIM.”I BELIEVE CHRIST’S COMPLETE
YIELDING ALLOWED THE FATHER
TO SEND THIS HEAVENLY SUPPORT.THE PURPOSE OF SUCH HELP
WAS TO STRENGTHEN CHRIST IN
CARRYING THE BURDEN PLACED
UPON HIM BY THE FATHER,
NOT TO LIFT IT FROM
HIS SHOULDERS.
GOD’S WILL FOR CHRIST WAS
THAT HE LOVE, AND SUFFER,
AND SACRIFICE, AND ATONE.THE FATHER DIDN’T REMOVE THIS
BURDEN, NOR DID THE ANGEL.
CHRIST CARRIED THIS BURDEN,
WHOSE WEIGHT CAUSED SUFFERING
WE CANNOT UNDERSTAND.LUKE EXPLAINS,
“AND BEING IN AN AGONY HE
“PRAYED MORE EARNESTLY:
“AND HIS SWEAT WAS AS IT
“WERE GREAT DROPS OF BLOOD
FALLING DOWN TO THE GROUND.”
WELL, I HATE TO BE THE
ONE TO BREAK IT TO YOU, BUT TRIBULATION AND
SUFFERING ARE PART OF THE PATH OF DISCIPLESHIP. OF COURSE,
YOU’VE ALREADY FIGURED THIS OUT. AND THERE’S ALSO PROSPERITY
AND JOY, TOO, THAT BALANCES THE OTHER. NOT THAT I’M SUGGESTING THAT
PROSPERITY AND JOY AND TRIBULATION AND SUFFERING
COME IN EQUAL PROPORTIONS. MY EXPERIENCE SUGGESTS THAT THE
FORMER FAR OUTWEIGHS THE LATTER; HOWEVER, TRIBULATION AND
SUFFERING ARE PART OF THE PATH. HOW WE RESPOND TO
OUR LIFE CONDITIONS, WHETHER IN PROSPERITY
OR TRIBULATION, IS WHAT MATTERS IN MORTALITY. REMEMBER OUR LIFE ON EARTH
IS A PROVING GROUND, A TRIAL. OUR PATTERN OF CHOICES
DETERMINES THE DEGREE OF PROMISED GLORY THAT
WE ARE WILLING TO RECEIVE FROM OUR LOVING FATHER. CHRIST’S PATH TEACHES US HOW
TO RECEIVE ALL OF OUR HEAVENLY PARENTS’ GLORY BY TEACHING US
HOW TO BE OBEDIENT IN ALL THINGS THEY COMMAND US TO DO HERE. HERE IS WHAT I’VE LEARNED
SO FAR FROM MY PERIODS OF TRIBULATION AND SUFFERING. I HAVE LEARNED THESE THINGS
AS I HAVE LEARNED TO WILLINGLY SUBMIT MY WILL TO THE FATHER’S. WHEN I HAVE CHOSEN
TO HARDEN MY HEART, MY TRIBULATION HASN’T
SANCTIFIED ME. FOR ME, LEARNING TO SUBMIT
IN ALL THINGS IS A PROCESS. I’M LEARNING LINE UPON LINE,
PRECEPT UPON PRECEPT, WHICH IS WHY TRIBULATION EBBS
AND FLOWS THROUGHOUT OUR LIFE. I’VE LEARNED THREE THINGS
I’D LIKE TO SHARE WITH YOU: FIRST, EXPERIENCING TRIBULATION
REVEALS REMNANTS OF THE NATURAL MAN WITHIN ME,
AND SUBMITTING MY WILL CLEANSES AND REFINES MY
SOUL OF THESE REMNANTS. SECOND, EXPERIENCING
TRIBULATION REVEALS AN ESSENTIAL DIMENSION OF GOD’S BURDEN
OF LIGHT AND TRUTH AND LOVE, AND SUBMITTING MY WILL EXPANDS
MY CAPACITY TO RECEIVE THE GIFTS OF FAITH, HOPE, AND CHARITY. FINALLY,
EXPERIENCING TRIBULATION IS A NECESSARY CONDITION UNDER WHICH
WE MUST PROVE OURSELVES FAITHFUL AND OBEDIENT TO GOD’S WILL. WE MUST PROVE OURSELVES
IN ALL THINGS IN ORDER TO RECEIVE ALL THEIR GLORY. A POEM ENTITLED “INDWELLING”
BY THOMAS EDWARD BROWN BEAUTIFULLY EXPRESSES OUR
NEED TO PUT OFF THE NATURAL MAN AND ELIMINATE SELFISHNESS
SO WE CAN PUT ON THE CLOAK OF SELFLESSNESS.“IF THOU COULDST EMPTY
“ALL THYSELF OF SELF,
“LIKE TO A SHELL DISHABITED,
“THEN MIGHT HE FIND THEE
“ON THE OCEAN SHELF,
“AND SAY- ‘THIS IS NOT DEAD,’
“AND FILL THEE WITH
“HIMSELF INSTEAD.
“BUT THOU ART ALL
“REPLETE WITH VERY THOU,
“AND HAST SUCH
“SHREWD ACTIVITY,
“THAT, WHEN HE COMES, HE SAYS-
“‘THIS IS ENOW,
“‘UNTO ITSELF-
“‘TWERE BETTER LET IT BE:
“‘IT IS SO SMALL AND FULL,
‘THERE IS NO ROOM FOR ME.'”
WHEN WE OBEY GOD’S COMMANDMENTS
AND DILIGENTLY TRY TO FOLLOW THE DOCTRINES OF CHRIST,
WE PUT OFF LARGE PORTIONS OF THE NATURAL MAN;
HOWEVER, REMNANTS STILL REMAIN. THESE REMNANTS ARE THE
PART OF OURSELVES THAT IS CENTERED ON SELF RATHER THAN
BEING CENTERED ON OTHERS. ELIMINATING THESE REMNANTS
THAT ARE DEEPLY EMBEDDED IN OUR SOULS IS NOT AN EASY TASK. SOMETIMES WE DON’T EVEN KNOW
CERTAIN ASPECTS OF THE NATURAL MAN STILL EXIST WITHIN US. TRIBULATION HAS A WAY
OF BRINGING TO LIGHT THE REMNANTS OF THE NATURAL MAN
THAT STILL RESIDE WITHIN US. UNLIKE THE GOD IN THOMAS BROWN’S
POEM WHO SEEMS CONTENT TO LET US BE SMALL AND FULL OF SELF,
OUR LOVING FATHER OFFERS US TRIBULATION TO POKE AND TO
PROD US TO EMPTY OURSELVES OF SELF THAT WE MIGHT BE
FILLED WITH HIS LIGHT INSTEAD. I WOULD LIKE TO SHARE WITH YOU A
FEW PERSONAL EXPERIENCES THAT HAVE TAUGHT ME THESE THINGS. I DO SO TO ILLUSTRATE IN A VERY
CONCRETE WAY THAT THESE PRINCIPLES ARE TRUE AND
NOT JUST SOME THEORETICAL AND SCRIPTURAL ABSTRACTION. BY CHOOSING MY OWN EXPERIENCES,
I AM TAKING A RISK. I RUN THE RISK OF YOU MISTAKENLY
THINKING THAT I’M PUTTING MYSELF FORWARD AS AN EXAMPLE TO FOLLOW. I’M NOT. CHRIST IS OUR EXAMPLE. I ALSO RUN THE RISK OF
YOU MISTAKENLY THINKING THAT I AM SUGGESTING MY
TRIBULATIONS ARE SOMEHOW UNIQUE AND GREATER THAN ANYONE ELSE’S. I’M NOT. I BELIEVE THAT EVERYONE
EXPERIENCES TRIBULATION, AND THAT THESE TRIBULATIONS
ARE INDIVIDUALLY TAILORED TO FIT THEIR CIRCUMSTANCES AND NEEDS,
THEIR STRENGTHS AND WEAKNESSES. WE ARE TOLD THAT WE
“MUST NEEDS BE “CHASTENED AND TRIED,
EVEN AS ABRAHAM,” BUT THAT DOESN’T MEAN WE WILL BE
COMMANDED TO SACRIFICE OUR SON. I BELIEVE IT MEANS THAT WE
WILL ALL BE TRIED AS ABRAHAM, PUSHED BEYOND OUR LIMITS IN
ORDER TO EXPAND THESE LIMITS. I ACKNOWLEDGE THAT THE
CONDITIONS THAT CAUSE YOU TRIBULATION AND SUFFERING
WILL BE DIFFERENT FROM MINE; HOWEVER, IF WE FOLLOW CHRIST’S
PATH OF MEEKNESS AND SUBMISSION, THEN OUR SANCTIFICATION
WILL BE THE SAME. SO, I SHARE MY OWN
EXPERIENCES BECAUSE THEY ARE WHAT I KNOW BEST,
AND SOMETIMES THE LESSONS WE LEARN FROM SUFFERING AREN’T EASY
TO DISCERN FROM THE OUTSIDE. IN SHARING MY OWN EXPERIENCES,
I ALSO BEAR TESTIMONY OF THE REALITY OF GOD’S PROMISE TO
LEAD US BY THE HAND AND GIVE US ANSWER TO OUR PRAYERS. I TESTIFY THAT THE JOY AND
HAPPINESS WE RECEIVE IN THIS LIFE AND IN THE NEXT FROM
WALKING CHRIST’S PATH ARE FAR GREATER THAN WE CAN IMAGINE. I AM GRATEFUL FOR GOD’S
GUIDANCE AND LOVE, AND I ACKNOWLEDGE
IT IN ALL ITS FORMS. IN THE EARLY FALL OF 2000,
MY WIFE AND I WERE PROMPTED TO PURSUE THE ADOPTION
OF A CHILD FROM INDIA. WE ALREADY HAD TWO BIOLOGICAL
DAUGHTERS AND AN ADOPTED SON, BUT WE FOLLOWED THAT PROMPTING,
AND FOUR AND A HALF YEARS LATER, WE WERE OFFERED A THREE-MONTH
OLD BABY NAMED CHETNA, WHOSE NAME MEANS “AWAKENING”
OR “BRIGHT INTELLIGENCE.”CHETNA HAD A
ROUGH START IN LIFE,
SPENDING SIX OF HER FIRST
12 WEEKS IN THE HOSPITAL.
BUT SHE WAS A FIGHTER AND
SURVIVED TO THREE MONTHS OF AGE,
QUALIFYING HER TO BE
PLACED FOR ADOPTION.
AT THE TIME OF OUR MATCHING,
SHE HAD NO KNOWN
MAJOR DISABILITIES.AMONG THE MANY PAPERS AND
FORMS YOU FILL OUT DURING AN
ADOPTION IS A THREE TO FOUR
PAGE FORM LISTING CONDITIONS
YOU ARE WILLING TO ASSUME
IN YOUR ADOPTED CHILD.
THE LIST RANGES FROM
“PERFECTLY NORMAL”
TO VERY SEVERE DISABILITIES.WE HAD INDICATED “NOT ACCEPT”
TO ALL BUT A FEW OF THE MILD DISABILITIES. WE WERE NOT MOTHER THERESA. WE WERE APPROACHING OUR 40’S,
AND ALREADY HAD THREE KIDS. WE WEREN’T LOOKING
FOR A CHALLENGE. AS WE CONSIDERED THE POSSIBILITY
OF ADOPTING CHETNA, WE PORED OVER THE
TWO-INCH THICK MEDICAL FILE WE HAD BEEN SENT. WE CONSULTED WITH
OUR PEDIATRICIAN. WE STUDIED IT OUT IN OUR MINDS,
WE PRAYED, AND WE DECIDED TO ADOPT CHETNA. THEN WE WENT TO THE
PROVO TEMPLE SEEKING CONFIRMATION OF OUR DECISION. IT CAME CLEARLY AND PEACEFULLY,
“YES, THIS IS YOUR CHILD.” WE WERE OVERJOYED THAT
WE HAD FOUND HER AT LAST. WE CALLED OUR SOCIAL WORKER
AND TOLD HER OUR DECISION. FOUR WEEKS LATER,
WE WERE TOLD THAT CHETNA’S PRIMARY CAREGIVER AT THE
ORPHANAGE IN CALCUTTA WAS CONCERNED THAT SHE
WASN’T RESPONDING TO SOUND LIKE SHE SHOULD. WE WERE ASKED IF HER HEARING
COULD BE TESTED AGAIN. WE GAVE PERMISSION,
AND THEN RECEIVED A CALL A FEW DAYS LATER TELLING US THAT
CHETNA WAS PROFOUNDLY DEAF IN HER RIGHT EAR AND
SEVERELY DEAF IN HER LEFT. OUR SOCIAL WORKER QUICKLY
ASSURED US THAT WE COULD RECONSIDER OUR DECISION,
THAT WE HADN’T AGREED TO THIS. WHAT SHE DIDN’T KNOW WAS THAT
SINCE WE HAD LISTED OUR ANSWERS ON THAT FORM YEARS EARLIER,
WE HAD CHANGED. AMONG THE MANY CHANGES WAS THE
WITNESS WE HAD RECEIVED FROM THE HOLY GHOST IN GOD’S TEMPLE. WE KNEW THAT ADOPTING
CHETNA WAS PART OF GOD’S PERSONAL PLAN FOR US. SO WITHOUT HESITATION,
WE TOLD HER, “THERE IS NO CHANGE
“IN OUR DECISION. WE ACCEPT THIS CONDITION.” SIX WEEKS AFTER THAT,
WE LEARNED THAT SHE WAS BLIND. THIS TIME THE NEWS CAME
BY LETTER INSTEAD OF PHONE. IN THE LETTER,
WE WERE AGAIN TOLD THAT WE COULD RECONSIDER OUR DECISION. WHEN MY THEN
12-YEAR-OLD DAUGHTER ELIZABETH READ THIS LINE,
SHE ASKED WHAT IT MEANT. WHEN I EXPLAINED IT TO HER,
SHE SAID WITH SOME FERVOR AND INDIGNATION,
“WELL, WE AREN’T GOING TO DO THAT!” SHE WAS RIGHT. WE WROTE BACK AND SAID,
“THERE IS NO CHANGE “IN OUR DECISION. WE ACCEPT THIS CONDITION.” LATER THAT NIGHT,
AFTER THE KIDS WERE IN BED, AND WITH SOME FEAR AND
TREPIDATION IN OUR HEARTS, MY WIFE AND I HELD HANDS
ACROSS OUR KITCHEN TABLE AND WONDERED ALOUD HOW
WE WERE GOING TO DO THIS. A DEAF AND BLIND CHILD? WE FELT OVERWHELMED,
BUT WE PUT OUR TRUST IN THE LORD AND MOVED FORWARD. WHEN I LEARNED THAT
CHETNA WAS BLIND, I WAS AFRAID. BLINDNESS TOUCHED UPON
A VERY DEEP-SEATED PERSONAL FEAR OF MINE. GRATEFULLY, THERE WASN’T
JUST FEAR IN MY HEART; THERE WAS ALSO FAITH. I BELIEVED CHRIST HAD
GIVEN SIGHT TO THE BLIND IN NEW TESTAMENT TIMES,
AND I BELIEVED THAT HE COULD DO SO TODAY. SO I STARTED TO PRAY DAILY AND
FAST WEEKLY THAT CHETNA WOULD BE GIVEN HER SIGHT. I DID THIS FOR FIVE MONTHS. AT FIRST, THESE PRAYERS AND
FASTING WERE GROUNDED IN MY OWN FEARS OF BLINDNESS. GRADUALLY, THEY PROGRESSED
TO BEING GROUNDED IN MY INABILITY TO PARENT
A CHILD WITH BLINDNESS, AND THEN TO A CONCERN
FOR HER LIFE CONDITION. FINALLY, THEY BECAME
FIRMLY GROUNDED IN GOD’S WILL BEING DONE,
REGARDLESS OF THE OUTCOME. THERE WAS A POINT BETWEEN THE
THIRD AND FOURTH STAGES OF MY PROGRESSION THAT I ALLOWED
DOUBT AND ANGER INTO MY LIFE. ESSENTIALLY,
I LET GO OF GOD’S HAND. DURING THIS PERIOD,
MY PRAYERS WEREN’T PRAYERS AT ALL;
THEY WERE DEMANDS COUCHED IN THE TRAPPINGS OF PRAYER. I TREATED GOD LIKE A SHORT-ORDER
COOK AT A ROADSIDE CAFÉ WHO HAD GOTTEN MY ORDER WRONG. FINALLY,
AFTER THREE WEEKS OF WALKING IN THE LIGHT OF MY OWN SPARKS
INSTEAD OF IN GOD’S LIGHT, I PAUSED LONG ENOUGH FOR
THE SPIRIT TO PENETRATE MY MIND WITH A SINGLE QUESTION:
“DON’T YOU TRUST ME TO TAKE “CARE OF CHETNA UNTIL
“SHE IS IN YOUR CARE, “TO PROVIDE FOR HER WHAT
I KNOW SHE NEEDS?” THAT QUIET QUESTION
BROUGHT ME UP SHORT, AND I CAME TO MYSELF. MY RESPONSE TO THE SPIRIT’S
QUESTION MOVED ME TOWARDS COMPLETE SUBMISSION. IT HAD TAKEN NEARLY FIVE MONTHS,
BUT I WAS FINALLY ABLE TO SAY WITH ALL MY HEART
AND WITHOUT CONDITIONS OR HIDDEN RESERVATIONS,
“THY WILL BE DONE.” FAST FORWARD NOW 11 YEARS,
FOR I HAVE NEITHER THE TIME NOR CAPACITY TO TELL YOU A HUNDREDTH
PART OF OUR JOURNEY WITH CHETNA, OF ITS SUMMITS AND VALLEYS;
HOWEVER, I CAN TELL YOU THAT PEOPLE ARE DRAWN TO HER LIGHT. GOD’S LIGHT AND LOVE
SHINE THROUGH HER EYES. SHE CAN SEE. IT’S A GIFT FROM GOD,
WHO KNEW WHAT WE DIDN’T. WHEN WE BROUGHT CHETNA HOME
FROM THE ORPHANAGE IN CALCUTTA,WE DIDN’T KNOW SHE WOULDN’T
BE ABLE TO MOVE HER FINGERS,
HANDS, AND ARMS TO SIGN AS
A WAY OF COMMUNICATING,
THAT SHE WOULDN’T BE ABLE
TO SWALLOW SUFFICIENTLY WELL
TO GAIN WEIGHT AND THRIVE,
THAT SHE WOULDN’T WALK OR TALK,
AND THAT THE ONLY MUSCLE GROUPS
THAT SHE WOULD BE ABLE TO
CONTROL AT WILL ARE THOSE
THAT CONTROL HER SMILE.
IN SHORT, WE DIDN’T KNOW
THAT SHE WOULD HAVE
QUADRIPLEGIC CEREBRAL PALSY.WE DIDN’T KNOW ANY
OF THESE THINGS.
ALL OF THESE CONDITIONS WOULD
BE REVEALED TO US OVER TIME.
BUT GOD KNEW,
AND IN HIS INFINITE KINDNESS,
HE GAVE CHETNA HER SIGHT
AND HER SMILE THAT SHE
MIGHT HAVE ONE AVENUE OF
COMMUNICATION WITH HER WORLD.
NOW, MANY MIGHT THINK THAT
CHETNA’S SMILE IS THE SMILE OF SOMEONE MENTALLY DEFICIENT,
THAT SHE IS UNAWARE OF HER CIRCUMSTANCES,
AND, THEREFORE, INCAPABLE OF TRUE AND
MEANINGFUL CHOICE. THEY WOULD BE WRONG. CHETNA IS WHOLE
IN MIND AND SOUL. IT IS HER BODY
THAT IS AFFLICTED. SHE CHOOSES HER RESPONSES
TO HER CONDITIONS AND TRIBULATION JUST AS FREELY
AS YOU AND I CHOOSE OURS. THROUGH HER PATTERN OF CHOICES,
CHETNA HAS BECOME MY GREATEST TEACHER OF HOW TO BEAR
MY BURDENS WITH GREATER GRACE AND PATIENCE. SHE TEACHES ME HOW TO
SUFFER LONG, TO BE KIND, TO BEAR ALL THINGS,
AND TO ENDURE ALL THINGS. THUS, WHEN SHE SMILES,
THE LIGHT SHE IS CARRYING EMANATES FROM HER SOUL. SHE REASSURES ME THAT GOD
IS REAL AND THAT ALL IS WELL BECAUSE WE HAVE HIS LOVE. THE PURPOSE OF OUR TRIBULATION
IS NOT CRUSHING, HOPELESS DESPAIR. THE FRUIT OF OUR SUFFERING
CAN BE A BRIGHT HOPE. REMAINING STEADFAST IN CHRIST
THROUGH OUR AFFLICTIONS AND ADVERSITY INCREASES
OUR CAPACITY TO SEE OUR PROMISED END MORE CLEARLY. LIKE A POWERFUL SPOTLIGHT
THAT SHINES MORE BRIGHTLY IN COMPLETE DARKNESS,
OUR SUFFERING REVEALS CHRIST TO US. WE SEE HIS PROMISE OF
SALVATION, OF RESURRECTION, AND OF ETERNAL LIFE MORE
CLEARLY IN OUR MIND’S EYE, AND WE LOOK FORWARD WITH A
BRIGHT HOPE TO THAT PERFECT DAY, SEEING IT AFAR OFF,
BUT KNOWING THAT IT LIES AHEAD. DO I BELIEVE I AM FINISHED? NO,
JUST ASK ANYONE WHO KNOWS ME, I AM NOT A FINISHED PRODUCT. I HAVE MILES TO GO
BEFORE I SLEEP. WILL MY PATH AGAIN BECOME
STEEP AND ROCKY AND PAINFUL? CERTAINLY, BUT I DO NOT
FEAR WHAT LIES AHEAD. I KNOW IN WHOM I HAVE TRUSTED. HE HAS SHOWN ME HOW TO CARRY
ON WHEN DARKNESS SURROUNDS ME. AND NOW YOU. WHAT WILL YOU DO WHEN YOU
EXPERIENCE TRIBULATION? IF IT’S TRIBULATION THAT COMES
FROM PUTTING OFF CHRIST’S YOKE AND LEAVING HIS PATH,
THEN I ENCOURAGE YOU TO REPENT AND RETURN. BUT WHAT IF IT’S TRIBULATION YOU
EXPERIENCE ALONG CHRIST’S PATH? WHAT WILL YOU DO WHEN YOU
COME TO YOUR GETHSEMANES? FOR GETHSEMANE MOMENTS ARE
BOUND TO COME TO THOSE WHO TAKE CHRIST’S YOKE UPON THEM AND
FOLLOW HIS PATH OF DISCIPLESHIP. I ENCOURAGE YOU TO CHOOSE
A BATTLE CRY OF COMMITMENT. THERE ARE MANY TO CHOOSE FROM:
“CHOOSE YOU THIS DAY “WHOM YE WILL SERVE,
“BUT AS FOR ME AND MY HOUSE, WE WILL SERVE THE LORD.” “CAST NOT AWAY THEREFORE
“YOUR CONFIDENCE, “WHICH HATH GREAT
RECOMPENSE OF REWARD.” “SHALL WE NOT CARRY ON
“IN SO GREAT A CAUSE? “GO FORWARD AND NOT BACKWARD. “COURAGE…AND ON,
ON TO THE VICTORY!” “TRUST IN THE LORD WITH
“ALL THINE HEART; “AND LEAN NOT UNTO THINE
“OWN UNDERSTANDING. “IN ALL THY WAYS
“ACKNOWLEDGE HIM, AND HE SHALL DIRECT THY PATHS.” I TESTIFY THAT IF
WE WILL REPENT, OUR CHASTENINGS WILL
CLEANSE OUR SOULS OF SIN. IF WE SUBMIT WITH
MEEKNESS TO GOD’S WILL, OUR AFFLICTIONS WILL REFINE
US AND EXPAND OUR CAPACITY TO RECEIVE AND CARRY MORE
LIGHT AND TRUTH AND LOVE. SO, STAY THE COURSE! I ENCOURAGE YOU NOT
AS A BYSTANDER ON THE SIDELINES WATCHING YOU RUN,
NOR AS A FINISHER WHO HAS COMPLETED THE RACE,
BUT AS A FELLOW RUNNER WHO IS RUNNING THE RACE WITH YOU. REMEMBER THIS PROMISE FROM
THE LORD AS YOU EXPERIENCE TRIBULATION AND SUFFERING. IT APPLIES TO ALL WHO
SUBMIT TO GOD’S WILL. “BUT THEY THAT WAIT
“UPON THE LORD SHALL “RENEW THEIR STRENGTH;
“THEY SHALL MOUNT UP “WITH WINGS AS EAGLES;
“THEY SHALL RUN, “AND NOT BE WEARY;
“AND THEY SHALL WALK, AND NOT FAINT.” IN THE NAME OF JESUS CHRIST,
AMEN. ♪♪
>>THIS DEVOTIONAL ADDRESS
WITH STERLING HILTON WAS

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