I was teaching the Gospel Doctrine class. The topic involved spiritual gifts listed in the New Testament, the Book of Mormon, and Doctrine & Covenants. I emphasized the idea that church members (including women) could ask for and acquire these gifts. A man (in an authoritative position in our ward) challenged and chastised me. The more I explained my position the more aggressive he became—in front of everyone in the class. Not wanting to cause a scene, I changed the subject. After class, I tried to reconcile with him. His aggression escalated. Clearly, I wasn’t going to change his mind, so I walked away.
I was angry at his close-mindedness and his disrespect toward me as a woman. Obviously, I couldn’t fight this battle alone. So, I called on God. God could change this man’s mind. Praying for divine intervention, I humbly asked God for three specific things:
- Open this man’s mind regarding spiritual gifts (and women).
- Open this man’s mind regarding ME and my spirituality, my intentions, and my abilities.
- Show me proof that this man’s mind and attitude toward me had changed.
- I knew these things would happen only IF this was the Lord’s will.
God delivered. He always does. The very next Sunday was fast and testimony meeting. This man got up and bore testimony about spiritual gifts. He said he’d spent the last week reading about them–and how the Spirit impressed upon him the ability of Church members to acquire these gifts. He looked at me and said, “I know there are people in this room who have had sacred experiences using these gifts.” As he spoke, I too, felt the Spirit. I knew the Lord had intervened in my behalf and changed this good brother’s viewpoint. Gratitude filled my heart. From then on, this man treated me with the utmost deference and respect. And he never challenged me again.
I was driving my brand new car, and a guy rear-ended me at a stoplight. Cursing at me, he drove off. Without my cellphone, I was helpless—and furious. I wanted this guy to be accountable for what he did to me. I got home and immediately asked God to intervene. I humbly asked Him for the following:
- I wanted this guy brought to justice. I knew God could do this.
- I wanted evidence or proof when this guy was caught.
- I would submit to God’s will regarding this situation.
A few days later, a cop showed up at my door. A witness had seen the hit and run. Using a cellphone, the witness took a photo of the man’s license plate and called the cops. The bad guy was apprehended. The cop showed me a photo of the bad guy, and I was able to identify him. The next morning, I told an LDS colleague about this experience. He said, “That was a true blessing that a witness took action!” My colleague repeated, “What a blessing!” Indeed. A blessing created by divine intervention—because of my direct request.
"Joan of Arc" Artist Unknown
I was having difficulties with a friend. Our friendship had deteriorated to the point where we hadn’t spoken to each other for many months. Rightly or wrongly, I wrote my friend a letter regarding our prolonged silence. At the very least, I desired some sort of closure. Before I mailed the letter, I asked God to show me the consequence or outcome of my decision. Specifically, I wanted to know my friend’s response, and what I could expect from her in the future. The Lord obliged my request. Factual information came into my mind. Thus, here’s what I knew for sure:
- I knew my friend would not respond to my letter for about a year. The two of us would have absolutely no communication with each other during this time frame.
- Her eventual response to me would be a letter via “snail mail.”
- I knew what she would say to me in that letter. I knew what her main points and reasoning would be.
- I knew the friendship would not recover. (And I shed some tears as a result.)
Using the above information, I wrote a rough draft response letter to my friend and tucked it away. Eleven months later, my friend’s letter arrived in my mailbox. Her letter contained all of the elements previously revealed to me. So, I retrieved my response letter and mailed it to my friend. The situation was still painfully difficult. My daughter saw my friend’s letter on the kitchen counter and exclaimed in surprise, “Mom, it all happened—just like you said it would.”
Recently, I had a very similar experience with another friend (via Facebook.) Once again, through divine guidance, I knew of my friend's motivations and negative intentions toward me. I knew what to expect from her. In fact, her current behavior toward me echoed (almost exactly) what the Spirit had revealed to me (many years previously) about her. Similar to the example above, I prayerfully fashioned an email and waited for the appropriate time to send it. Thus, I knew exactly how and when to respond to her---in word and action. Eventually, I sent the email. I still felt some anxiety. And anger. But here's the thing: I didn't blindly act out of anger toward my friend. Rather, my response was careful, deliberate, and prayerfully considered.
Know Your Opposition. Know Your Enemy
In my previous post, I used the word “opposition” to define an enemy. Opposition can take many forms. And like it or not, opposition plays a significant and consistent role throughout our lives. We can overcome opposition and experience peace when we call upon God for deliverance. With God’s help we will be victorious. Every single time. Using the above examples, I’ve framed Christ’s admonition to “pray for your enemies” to a new level or dimension: praying not just for our enemies but about our enemies. The ability to spiritually discern our enemies or opposition provides us with extremely valuable information. Here are just a few advantages:
- We can anticipate (and thus prepare) for when an enemy will strike out at us.
- We can know our enemy's motives as to why he or she wants to attack us.
- We can know the strategies our enemy is using or will use against us.
- We can learn and understand what we did (if anything) to provoke our enemy. Thus we can change our negative behaviors if need be.
- We can know how to act and what to say when in the presence of our enemy.
- We can anticipate where our enemy might be and thus avoid him or her.
However, acquiring this information is predicated on the Lord’s willingness to reveal it, our individual faith, our willingness to use the information according to God’s will and only for righteous purposes.
"Capture of Joan of Arc" by Adolphe Dillens
Talk about empowerment! God has empowered and strengthened me with this ability to discern when I’ve faced opposition in the form of extended family members, friends, frenemies, co-workers, students, and strangers. My children, close friends, and family members often ask me to pray with/for them regarding their own opposition/enemies. Consequently, our families can be empowered and protected. Time and again, God delivers—as long as our motives are righteous. There are other conditions I’ve had to meet:
- I must ask in faith for the Lord’s intervention.
- My desires for peace must be righteous and align with the Lord’s will.
- I must have faith that He will deliver me.
- I must be willing to say and do what God wants me to say and do—even if it means humbling myself and apologizing to those who have hurt me or fought against me.
- Here’s the hardest and scariest part: I must be willing to act on faith before I receive proof or evidence of my enemy’s intent or actions.
God will fight our battles against our enemies. Proverbs says, “Fret not thyself because of evil men.” I’ve truly come to believe this. There’s another old saying: “Keep your friends close and your enemies closer.” Here's what I do to keep less-than-friendly people at a safe distance; I humbly ask the Lord for the following:
- Power to recognize a person who has ill intentions toward me before he or she strikes.
- Power to recognize manipulative behavior.
- Power to recognize when a person is truthful or dishonest with me.
- Specific instruction on how to attain power over my enemies. I ask the Lord to give me the victory.
- Power to know if and when I need to confront an enemy.
- Specific instruction on what to say to an enemy.
- Specific instruction on how to act.
- Soften my heart toward my enemies. (This softening takes awhile!)
- Soften my enemies’ hearts toward me. (Sometimes they do, often they don’t.)
I realize this type of prayer is very bold. But Christ tell us, “Ye have not because ye ask not.” In the Book of Mormon, Nephi poignantly writes two chapters revealing his fervent prayers for deliverance from his angry brothers:
My God hath been my support; he hath led me through mine afflictions. He has confounded mine enemies, unto the causing of them to quake before me. Behold, he hath heard my cry by day, and he hath given me knowledge by visions in the night time. And by day have I waxed bold in mighty prayer before him; yea, my voice have I sent up on high and angels came down and ministered unto me."
"Nephi Bound by Laman and Lemuel" by Walter Rane
He further writes:
"Will thou deliver me out of the hands of mine enemies? May the gates of hell be shut continually before me. O Lord, wilt thou make a way for mine escape before mine enemies! Will thou make my path straight before me! Will thou not hedge up my way, but the ways of mine enemy.
Behold, I Nephi, did cry much unto the Lord my God, because of the anger of my brethren. But behold, their anger did increase against me, insomuch that they did seek to take away my life. Yea, they did murmur against me. And it came to pass that the Lord did warn me, that I, Nephi should depart from them and flee…with all those who would go with me" (2 Nephi 4, 5).
Talk about a bold prayer. Repeatedly, God gave Nephi the victory over Laman and Lemuel. (And like Nephi, we too, must cut off all contact from our enemies–even family members–if we are being abused or reconciliation is impossible.)
Joseph Smith wrote in D&C 127:2:
And as for the perils which I am called to pass through, they seem but a small thing to me, as the envy and wrath of man have been my common lot all the days of my life; and for what cause it seems mysterious, unless I was ordained from before the foundation of the world for some good end, or bad, as you may choose to call it. Judge ye for yourselves. God knoweth all these things, whether it be good or bad. But nevertheless, deep water is what I am wont to swim in. It all has become a second nature to me; and I feel, like Paul, to glory in tribulation; for to this day has the God of my fathers delivered me out of them all, and will deliver me from henceforth; for behold, and lo, I shall triumph over all my enemies, for the Lord God hath spoken it."
Though Joseph Smith was eventually martyred by his enemies, he still lived with a clear conscience. That is a life of true peace. Unless our destiny involves martyrdom, the rest of us have some “breathing room” in terms of our own enemies. Whether an enemy occupies a permanent residency in our lives is pretty much a personal decision. But beware! Keeping our enemies “close by” is costly in terms of our physical and emotional well-being. Surely, a lot of energy (often negative energy) is required to maintain a relationship with an enemy and/or a “frenemy.” What’s more, perennial enemies and frenemies won’t stop unless or until their opponents stop. (The last sentence sounds obvious, but I spent years in some painful relationships before I figured this out.)
George Bernard Shaw nailed this idea when he said, “I learned long ago never to wrestle with a pig. You both get covered in mud and the pig likes it.” Very true. Surely, we’ve all rolled around in the mud at various times in our lives—we’re human. And at some point, we will definitely play the role of “bad guy” or enemy. Still, people who thrive on drama, control, power, rivalry, and contention enjoy these mud baths or a walk on the dark side. (Whether they admit it or not.) Thus, if we find ourselves forever slogging around in the pigpen, something’s wrong—with us. We can climb out of the pigpen. We can hose off and stay clean. In my next post, I’ll write more about this topic.
May our deliverance be nigh,