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Finding Strength in Our Challenges

Jessie Robbins
October 03, 2023 11:15 AM

"Wherever you are in your life, whatever stage you are in, we can all take comfort that if we are striving to do our best, the Lord is there with us, and we do not need to fear. You will be strengthened in your specific challenges you are experiencing now as you do your best and have faith in Jesus Christ to guide you through."
— Jessie Robbins

Finding Strength in Our Challenges

By Jessie Robbins
I am grateful for this opportunity to speak today and share my testimony with you. 

I have been fascinated lately by the concept of doing hard things and the growth that comes in those moments. I believe that as eternally progressing beings, growth is part of who we are and oftentimes, it is through our challenges that that growth comes. When we are pushed and stretched to our limits, we are changed. I think back on the tough experiences I have had throughout my life, and while they were difficult and frustrating at the time, I see the growth that I experienced in them. I see lessons that I learned; lessons of faith, perseverance, relying on the Lord and turning to Him to strengthen me. 

I think about the challenge it can be to hike. I love hiking, but it’s not necessarily the hike that I enjoy the most. I am usually the one complaining on the way up the mountain, questioning my decision to hike in the first place. But when I reach the summit, there is usually a view and the hike is suddenly worth it. I see how far I came and I recognize the growth and the accomplishment. I see how I pushed past my own weaknesses and continued to climb, even when I was maybe being stretched to my limits. I see the windy, steep trail where I almost gave up and turned around. I see myself, pushing past my doubts and feelings of inadequacy. And most importantly, I see my own growth. And that is the moment that I love hiking. 

Several years ago, I returned to my mission in Norway with a goal in mind. I wanted to hike Pulpit Rock, also known as Preikestolen, one of Norway’s most famous hikes. 

It is only about a 5-mile hike and it takes about 4 hours to complete it. We got up early and drove to the trail head, optimistic and excited for the adventure. We started on the hike, and it quickly became steep, with rugged rocks and boulders that we had to climb over. It was cold and slippery. Soon, we were hiking through snow. 

I began to question my decision and desire to complete that hike. I kind of wanted to give up. I started to think that maybe just looking at the pictures of what it looks like at the top would be enough. I remember complaining several times and thinking to myself, “this better be worth it.” 

Before I tell you how my hike ended, I want to talk for a moment about what I learned from this hike that applies to challenges we may go through today. Just like this hike, life can be challenging, with ups and downs and steep climbs. We may have to walk on slippery trails and cold snow. Think for a moment about the challenging hikes and trails you are facing right now. We are a few weeks into the semester, and you may be feeling the stress of balancing school, homework, dating, work, family, social life, callings, projects, assignments, etc. Some of you may be new to college and trying to figure out how this whole college scene works. Some of you may have come from other countries to be here and are trying to learn a new language and culture. Some of you may be graduating soon with the challenge of figuring out what’s next in life. Some of you may have feelings of loneliness, anxiousness, and stress. These are very real struggles that we face on our journeys. Whatever your specific trials are, I know there is growth and learning that can come from them. And one thing I have learned, and have a testimony of, is that we need these challenges in our lives. We need to be pushed because that is where we grow; physically, spiritually, emotionally, and mentally. 

So how do we get through the challenging times of our lives? I have a few suggestions and principles that have worked for me in my life. 

First, I have found that our challenges become more bearable when we keep our focus on the Savior. When hiking, if I look down the whole time, there is a very small chance that I will finish that hike with a happy, positive attitude. But when I make the effort to look up, look around me and look where I’m going, it doesn’t feel as difficult. Likewise, when our focus is set on Christ, he strengthens us in our challenges and trials every time. He does not fail us. Life is busy, but I find it helpful to evaluate myself every once in a while, and ask myself, “Where is Christ in my busy schedule and how much time am I giving to Him every day?” 

When I was younger, my favorite time of the year was Christmas. I remember getting so excited to get out the Christmas decorations and put them up all over our home. One of my favorite parts of decorating was setting up the nativity scenes around our house. I was very particular about how the nativity scene should be set up. 

I would place the baby Jesus in the center with the other figures, circling around the baby, so they could all see him. I not only did this in our home, but I would “fix” them when I would see them at stores. At the time, I was just doing it so that everyone could see the baby Jesus but I have thought about this several times in my life and the significance of placing myself so that I can always see Christ and so that my focus is on him. 

Some of you may be familiar with the Olympic athlete Noelle Pikus-Pace.

 She competed in the Skeleton race in the 2010 and 2014 Winter Games. In that event, athletes build momentum as they sprint and then dive headfirst on a small sled. They race down a winding, icy track at 90 miles or 145 km an hour with their faces just inches above the ground.

She has talked of competing in Germany at the most dangerous skeleton track in the world. It was a challenging run for her as she flipped over on her sled a few times, onto her back. On the final curve, she said, “My sights were set solely on the roof of this massive curve as I repeated over and over, “Don’t hit the roof. Don’t hit the roof.” I was looking at the roof, and I hit it.” She goes on to say, “Where are you looking? What are your sights set upon?… If we see the roof coming, we can shift our gaze to where we would like to go, rather than where we don’t want to… and we can continue on our course and safely cross the finish line” (Noelle-Pikus Pace, 2014, Keeping Your Life on Track, Deseret Book Company)

In the New Testament, in Matthew, Christ says,

“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” (Matthew 11: 28-29).

Sister Camille Johnson, Relief Society General President, has spoken about the relief we can find in the Savior. 

She has said, “I joyfully declare that our mortal burdens, these rocks in our figurative backpack, need not feel heavy.

Jesus Christ can lighten our load.

Jesus Christ can lift our burdens.

Jesus Christ provides a way for us to be relieved of the weight of sin.

Jesus Christ is our relief” (Camille N. Johnson, Jesus Christ is Relief, Apr 2023 General Conference).

No matter what our challenges and struggles may be, rest is found in the Savior. He is our answer and the solution. Where you look is where you go. So keep your focus set firmly on Christ. 

Second, I have found strength and power in daily immersing myself in the scriptures. 

President Nelson said, "I promise that as you prayerfully study the Book of Mormon every day, you will make better decisions — every day. I promise that as you ponder what you study, the windows of heaven will open and you will receive answers to your questions and direction for your own life. I promise that as you daily immerse yourself in the Book of Mormon, you can be immunized against the evils of the day." (Russell M. Nelson, The Book of Mormon: What Would Your life Be Like Without It?, Oct. 2017 General Conference.

I don't know about you but I am in need of those blessings and promises that he gives.

When I was a senior in high school, I was challenged by one of my leaders to read the Book of Mormon 3 times in 3 months. I have a hard time saying no to a challenge, so I had to accept. I remember that I had to read about 17 pages every day for 90 days straight. This was a lot for me in my busy high school life. I had school, homework, a part time job and my social life that I had to keep up on. But I accepted the challenge. I found myself reading my scriptures every chance I got. I would get up early and read a few pages in the morning, I would read during lunch time at school, on my work break and before I went to bed. I was constantly thinking about finding time to read my scriptures and I took every open opportunity to do so. At first, I was just trying to accomplish this challenge, but it turned into me looking forward to reading those pages every day. As I spent time in the scriptures daily, I discovered who Christ was and what he meant to me personally. He was my friend, my source of peace and my example. 

2 Nephi 32:3 says, “Feast upon the words of Christ; for behold, the words of Christ will tell you all things what ye should do.” I understood that promise as I took this challenge. I found spiritual strength in my daily life, and I figured out what it meant to “hunger” after the gospel because I looked forward to reading every day. I was happy! And as a teenager, sometimes it can be hard to be happy! My focus shifted to my Savior every day and I can remember feeling peace and true joy, even as a teenager. 

There are many meaningful scriptures that have impacted me throughout my life. For example: 

The scriptures remind me to remember. There are countless examples where the Lord delivered his people out of bondage and captivity. Later, they were reminded that because they were delivered before, the Lord could deliver them again, if they continue to believe and have faith. He will do the same for us as we remember how he has helped us in the past. Helaman 5:12 says, “… Remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation…” As we remember Christ, build our foundation on Him, and remember how he has strengthened us in the past, I believe we will be strengthened in what we are going through today. 

The scriptures remind me that God’s plan is better than my own and he sees the purpose behind my experiences. Isaiah 55:8-9 says, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” This scripture is especially comforting to me when life doesn’t quite work out like I thought it would or when I am waiting on the Lord for blessings that have been promised me. He has a perfect plan that is always better than my own. The scriptures remind me to remember the bigger picture. 

I am reminded in Matthew 7:7-8 that I can find answers to my questions. “Ask and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find, knock and it shall be opened unto you: For every one that seeketh, receiveth; and he that seeketh, findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.” From this scripture, we know the Lord will answer our prayers if we ask him, he promises us that. 

John 14:27 says, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you; not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” I am reminded from this scripture that peace, a feeling we all yearn for, does not come from the world. It is found only in Christ. I am reminded to be confident in His care, trust in His redeeming power and have faith in the promises that are given to me. 

These are just a few scriptures that get me through challenging times. These, and others, bring strength that cannot come from the world. They testify of Christ and act as a guide and compass that give us a sense of direction. Power is found in the scriptures. 

My third principle and promise that I have found helpful throughout my life is the truth that if I am obedient, blessings, relief and direction will always follow because I will have the Holy Ghost with me. I find it easier to navigate the challenges of life when I have the constant and guiding hand of the Holy Ghost with me. 

In Gospel Topics under Holy Ghost it says, “As we strive to stay on the path that leads to eternal life, the Holy Ghost can guide us in our decisions and protect us from physical and spiritual danger” (Holy Ghost, Doctrinal Studies). 

When Elder Bednar spoke at Ensign College at the beginning of this year, he spoke of the purpose and guiding hand of the Holy Ghost. He said: 

“I think too many times we pray, and we sit there and we wait for something to happen which means nothing is going to happen. When we act in faith, when we ask in faith, and when we say amen, we get to work on the thing that we have been praying about and we are guided in ways that most of the time we don’t even recognize. 

If you are trying to honor your covenants and be good and do good, God will help you be where you are supposed to be.

If there is something in your life presently that inhibits the Holy Ghost from guiding you, then repent and do it soon and do whatever you need to do so that you can again wax strong in the presence of God, … and you can have the assurance that you are going to get where you need to be so you can do what you need to do” (David A Bednar, Living in Revelation, Jan. 2023, Ensign College). 

I think back on my life, and I see the numerous times revelation and answers came as I was moving my feet and trying my best to be obedient and have the spirit with me. I have never had a big, life altering moment where the Spirit struck me. It has been through striving my best to live with the Spirit daily, and that is how I have been guided and directed. 

I was in high school when they changed the mission age. I was excited. Excited for everyone else who was wanting to serve a mission. I did not, so I forgot about it and started planning out my future of going to college and hopefully getting married. Months passed without another thought about a mission. I attended church, tried to serve those around me, prayed, paid my tithing, read my scriptures regularly, etc. This was the same time I accepted the Book of Mormon reading challenge that I spoke about. I remember attending a Youth Conference that I didn’t necessarily want to participate in, but I went anyway. I was doing my best to live my life so that the spirit would be present. And it was. The only thing I could think about on that youth conference was a mission, even though the conference had nothing to do with missionary work. I came home, went to church that Sunday and couldn’t get it off my mind, no matter how hard I tried. Again, I wasn’t even praying about it or doing anything to receive any special revelation, I was simply trying to be obedient and live my life in a way where I felt the spirit. Obedience leads to revelation, even if you may not be looking for something specific. 

A mission was what I needed at that time of my life. My testimony and love of the gospel grew as I served. I learned lessons that have shaped me into who I am today. I will always be grateful that I had the spirit with me to guide me in that direction. 

In his same Ensign College address, Elder Bednar went on to say, 

“The vast majority of the time you are being influenced by the Holy Ghost and you have no idea that it is happening. We have the expectation that we have to be consciously aware in the moment that we are receiving revelation and that is not true. In fact, I would suggest much revelation is occurring as we are simply pressing forward, being good and trying to get better with God’s help”. (“Living in Revelation”, Ensign College, Jan. 2023) 

From my personal experience, I believe that I was being influenced by the Holy Ghost while I was striving to do my best. Navigating through the challenges of life is easier when we have the spirit with us because we are strengthened. 

President Nelson has said, “I did not say that making covenants makes life easy. In fact, expect opposition, because the adversary does not want you to discover the power of Jesus Christ. But yoking yourself with the Savior means you have access to His strength and redeeming power” (Russell M. Nelson, Overcome the World and Find Rest, Oct 2022 General Conference). 

We can be assured that even in our toughest times, if we are doing our best to be obedient and have the Holy Ghost, we are being guided. 

I appreciate the hymn we sang today. “Let Us All Press On”. It is one of my favorite. It comes with a promise that I find a lot peace and comfort in. 

It says, “If we do what’s right, we have no need to fear. For the Lord our helper will ever be near.” 

Wherever you are in your life, whatever stage you are in, we can all take comfort that if we are striving to do our best, the Lord is there with us, and we do not need to fear. You will be strengthened in your specific challenges you are experiencing now as you do your best and have faith in Jesus Christ to guide you through. 

I return to my Pulpit Rock hike. It was a challenging hike for me. I wanted to give up several times, but I did not. I found strength from the encouragement of my family, from keeping my gaze up and thinking about the view at the top. After a lot of steep hills, snow, cold weather and several complaints, I made it! And it was worth it. 

The view at the top was breathtaking. It was worth the steep hills and walking through snow. The sense of accomplishment that I felt, and the view made me forget about hours of complaining and the challenge it was to reach the top. And, as I said, the best part of the hike was seeing the growth and accomplishment in myself from doing this challenging thing. Would I still have enjoyed the view if it wasn’t as challenging? Absolutely! However, I don’t think it would have meant as much to me, had the road been easy. I wouldn’t have grown in the same way. 

President Monson shared a poem from Douglas Malloch that have always I loved. It says… 

Good timber does not grow with ease:

the stronger the wind the stronger the trees” (Douglas Malloch, “Good Timer,” in Sterling W Sill, Making the Most of Yourself, 1971). 

Our difficult challenges that we go through make us stronger and bring growth if we allow them to. We are blessed with resources and help to navigate through them. As we strive to keep our daily focus on Jesus Christ, immerse ourselves in the scriptures and strive to have the spirit with us by being obedient, I know he will strengthen us. These are simple principles, but they make all the difference in our lives. 

President Nelson has said, “When the focus of our lives is on Jesus Christ and His gospel, we can feel joy regardless of what is happening—or not happening—in our lives” (Russell M. Nelson, Joy and Spiritual Survival, Oct 2016 General Conference). 

I testify that Jesus Christ is our source of peace, joy, comfort, relief, and happiness. These are feelings that we cannot get from the world. As we center our focus on Him, look to him in all things, we will be able to not only endure our challenges, but we will become who we are meant to become during them. We are here to learn and to grow, and it is often through our challenges that we do that. Jesus Christ lives. He knows us and knows the things we are going through. He knows exactly how to help us. As we do our part to look to Him, involve Him in our lives, we will develop into who we are meant to become. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

About the Speakers

Jessie Robbins

Jessie Robbins has been working at Ensign College since May of 2022. She currently works as an Associate Registrar in the Registration Office. She was born in Logan, Utah and grew up in Kaysville and Farmington, Utah. She served as a missionary in the Norway, Oslo mission. Following her mission, she attended Southern Virginia University where she earned a bachelor’s degree in Family and Human Development. She is an avid pickle-ball player and loves to challenge anyone to a friendly competition.

She has served in a variety of church callings including Primary teacher, Sunday School Teacher, Relief Society Teacher, First and Second Counselor in the Relief Society Presidency and Relief Society President. She currently serves as the First Counselor in the Relief Society Presidency.

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