As I have browsed through the news each day, like everyone else, I am inundated with story after story about the current pandemic.  Although part of me really tries to skip over the hundreds of similar headlines about this depressing topic, another part of me finds it interesting to see what new things are being discovered about the disease and its effects on the world.  I find it intriguing that we are still learning new symptoms and new facts about how this ailment can impact the human body.

Additionally, I have been reading and listening to experts from every field of study talk about the consequences that the disease is having on all the various aspects of life throughout our world.  From the psychological factors, to the environmental influences, to economic impacts, each aspect of our lives is being changed to some degree by this “natural disaster.”  But, although everyone seems to agree that the pandemic has changed our lives, the degree of change has varied greatly based on each individual’s circumstances.  Everyone has been impacted differently.  And on top of that, even the experts have various thoughts and hypotheses about what long-term effects will follow.

As for me, personally, I don’t know which outcomes seem most probable, nor do I care to dwell much on these debates.  I have tried to remember from the beginning of this struggle that God is watching over his children and has allowed this pandemic to take the course that it has.   The aspect that has most urgently drawn my attention has been the effect that it has had on my relationship with God.  I know that even in such large, sweeping events He has lessons for each of us to learn individually.  Even the broad, general conditions that we face in this life are ways for us to be tested and learn from our experiences on a very personal level.  I feel the need to constantly ask, “what am I learning from this challenge?”

For years now we, as latter-day saints, have been prepared line upon line and precept upon precept for some of the challenges that we are now facing.  We have been transitioning and preparing our spiritual lives to be home-centered and church-supported.  We have been encouraged to develop better and more effective home study of the gospel.  We have always been admonished to repent and develop more Christlike characteristics to prepare ourselves to call upon the Lord in faith during our trials.  We have been given the direction and the time to practice ministering in more diverse and meaningful ways to those around us.  It seems that now is the time for us to use what we have learned.  I feel like we have had the classroom lecture portion of a spiritual training course and we have now been sent out to receive the hands-on learning.

As I take time occasionally to reflect on how I am doing with the actual hands-on experience, I’ve had no problem recognizing many of my shortcomings and weaknesses.  The teachings and lessons that I readily accepted and agreed with in a classroom setting have been much harder for me to actually implement and carry out in a daily real-life application.  Sometimes I’m overtaken in guilt at what I feel has been a half-hearted response to the Lord’s call to action.   Fortunately, though, I have also been comforted, knowing that the Lord will still accept my efforts if I don’t give up and when I try to do better each day.    As long as we keep trying to do better, we are still learning and the Lord will bless our efforts.  So, whether I feel that I am lacking in my personal study, my family study, my ministering efforts, my Sabbath Day observance, or all of the above, I take heart in the fact that the plan of salvation is based upon the principles of change and growth which come through consistent effort to improve.

I testify that I have seen the Lord’s hand bless me and others.  He truly hears us as we approach Him in humility.  It is my prayer that we will all humble ourselves before him and continue faithfully in our efforts to follow the covenant path and strive to do His will.  In doing so, He will pour out the blessings that we seek for ourselves and our families.