Mary and Suffering

Mary and Joseph were required to travel to Bethlehem as part of the census (taxation). Here was a governmental requirement that might have seen onerous at the time. It required Joseph and Mary and a lot of other people to travel to the hometown of their ancestors in order to be counted and maybe pay a tax. This was a journey of about 90 miles for the expectant Mary, not an easy task at that time. It would have been easy for Mary to simply not go (she probably could have made the excuse and either sent someone in her stead or had Joseph just go); but Mary went. She suffered in order to fulfill prophecy. Mary might have known that Jesus was supposed to be born in Bethlehem – there is much we do not know about what Mary knew. It is clear that she knew much but kept most of what she knew to herself; it was sacred knowledge. So Mary suffered and prophecy was fulfilled – Jesus was born in Bethlehem.

Suffering can be like that in our lives – it can (and usually does) have purpose. We might not know beforehand what the purpose of our suffering is, in fact, we rarely do. The Prophet Joseph was comforted in his sufferings with these words: “And if thou shouldst be cast into the pit, or into the hands of murderers, and the sentence of death passed upon thee; if thou be cast into the deep; if the billowing surge conspire against thee; if fierce winds become thine enemy; if the heavens gather blackness, and all the elements combine to hedge up the way; and above all, if the very jaws of hell shall gape open the mouth wide after thee, know thou, my son, that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good. The Son of Man hath descended below them all. Art thou greater than he?” (D&C 122:7-8).

Difficulties and suffering can give us experience; we can learn from them. There is much growth in adversity. Just as the adversity and resistance of weight training builds muscles, so can life adversity strengthen us. Or, we can let adversity destroy us. What we know from the scripture verses I quoted though is that adversity and trials give us experience; they help us. In addition, they are for our good. What we suffer will benefit us in the long run. In effect, the Lord will make it up to us in this life and/or in the next. Of course, much of our suffering might be due to our own sins. We can learn from our mistakes and sins. It would be better if we didn’t sin but we all do. Thankfully, the Savior provides the way for us to overcome our sins.

Jesus suffered more than anyone else who ever lived on earth. He descended below all so that He might comprehend all and atone for all. He was born in and through suffering and died in suffering but He rose triumphant from the grave. I’m sure his special mother, Mary, taught Him about suffering and how to faithfully bear it.

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