I’ve frequently heard people say that as long as they have faith and do the right thing, ‘the Lord will take care of them’. This lackadaisical attitude, however, has a destructive potential. Faith and doing right in hard circumstances is crucial but folks overlook that those things don’t absolve you from risk (including others’ actions) and natural law. When risk’s consequences come to bear, they will blindside and strike at the core. Risk’s punch is magnified for the complacent and unsuspecting.
Christ and scripture are quite clear that we will have trials and He’ll sustain us. That’s why faith is crucial. But it’s also made very clear that trials will be lightened, not removed – often lightened just enough for you to make it through or survive; you will be “refined by fire”. There are times risk and it’s consequences will cost your life even when you seek to do God’s will. I have ancestors that can attest to that – one was laid in a frozen grave in Wyoming and another in Utah from ‘a broken heart’ related to the Wyoming death. There are plenty of bad things that happen to good people all the time.
Many of us have heard the Francis Webster story of the Martin Handcart Company’s faith. Typically, the story ends with ‘ faith grew and not a single person fell away from the church’. Unfortunately, the story has been misconstrued (to a borderline urban legend), providing a false sense of security, diminishing free agency, and a poor lesson of consequences of trials.
The journey was absolutely horrible and Levi Savage was right to warn of the likely impending doom. They chose to press forward, regardless, wanting to be faithful and go to Zion ASAP. Some probably firmly believed they would be fine because they were doing God’s will and He’d keep them safe. In reality, risk and consequences were in play and all were subject to the deadly and debilitating results of their decision.
The conclusion about everyone being spiritually strengthened by the experience is false and a better lesson lost. Some went in eyes open prepared to accept that they had accepted significant risk, others were blindsided but focused on God and adapted to their potential new fates, and others did not. An excellent historical analysis of the story is available from BYU: Francis Webster: The Unique Story of One Handcart Pioneer’s Faith and Sacrifice.
The report includes the following key observations:
[PAGE 3]By attempting to make his testimony the universal sentiment of each member of these companies, a valuable and inspiring lesson has been lost. In its place has arisen a common perception that the price he paid to gain his powerful testimony simply involved pulling a handcart and enduring the hardships of an early winter. The lesson at the heart of his statement, however, goes beyond having to endure the cold and snow that all in the company experienced…
[PAGE 8]Although the Martin Company truly exemplified the motto “Faith in Every Footstep,” its members were not unlike any other disparate group of Latter-day Saints, such as those who made a similar journey at a different time or those found in a modern ward. There was a majority of the company, including Francis and Betsy Webster, whose faith seemed to grow with every step they took. There were also those who trudged along the trail, their faith little changed by what they experienced. Finally, there were those whose faith seemed to weaken along the way…
[PAGE 9]… While it is not known that anyone in the company apostatized directly as a result of the trials they endured in the cold and snow, there were Martin Company members who subsequently left the Church…
Being cavalier about risks on horizon and disregarding them with ‘it’s all in the plan and God will save us’ has a high likelihood of a very rude awakening. It also unrealistically displaces responsibility onto the Lord. Sure He’s in control but that doesn’t mean he’s “controlling” and we can dump our responsibilities on Him. He isn’t a micro-manager; more a laissez-fair Father. He typically just lets things play out without ‘making it happen’ (I bet we drive Him absolutely nuts with our reactions though). Natural law (His law) pretty much takes care of consequences, good or bad. He is critically involved through his Holy Spirit as a support and a guide to help prompt the faithful to avoid undue trials, to help us fight through trials and comfort us in tragedies and failures. Those are still miracles and growing experiences, if we so choose.
Really, virtually all curses, plagues, blessings and miracles come about by natural means – life takes care of it. Our choices and faith will determine if we turn things into a blessing or a curse. Things He actively made happen are exceptions to the rule and few in number (it wouldn’t surprise me if many of those exceptions were natural events the faithful were guided to and we just haven’t figured out yet).
Life is unfair. Its inherent risks and our screw-ups are certainly refining fires. We’re going to get unfairly beat up, have heartaches and may well lose our lives along the way but we know there’s a life beyond and we take hope and comfort in Christ’s Grace and His mansions beyond. We absolutely need to follow Christ, help each other, consistently repent and faithfully pray for God’s strength and blessings on us. We best also plan to be aware, anticipate, steel ourselves and put up a helluva fight to stick around here and make the best of it.
Disclaimer: I’m warning everyone right now that I’m not going to tolerate any dumping on anyone’s religious affiliation. While religious, this post isn’t a forum to troll people on their religion.