Researching and writing have never been a problem for me, in fact I relish the tasks. But coming up with an idea --- you know: an original, earth-shattering idea --- has always been a great struggle. (I realized in grad school that the real problem was self-doubt; I would not raise my hand in class because I thought my answer was too obvious, or perhaps wrong, only to see the next student lavished with praise for offering the same answer. You've all had it happen!)
When a deadline is thrown on top of it all, I reach near paralysis.
Hence, as I neared the end of my MA, I began to feel a great deal of pressure to get that big paper written and to have it be brilliant. I struggled with idea after idea, researched topic after topic, and simply could not settle. My committee was offering me little guidance (mostly because I wasn't seeking enough), and my supervisor was overconfident in my abilities. It came to a point where he said he needed a proposal --- tomorrow.
I struggled all night to solidify something, and in the morning drove to campus woefully unprepared. I sat and cried in the parking lot, feeling a real degree of despair, and wondering how after all my prayers and all my work I still was empty-handed. Then a hymn came strongly to mind (and even though it wrecks the story I can't at the moment remember which), and delivered to me a message of peace. I wiped my tears and opened my scriptures, which fell to the verse, "Wherefore ye must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men" (2 Nephi 31:20).
Steadfastness, I had demonstrated. A love of God was embedded in my veins. Love of men I had strived diligently to cultivate by serving well in my family and in the church. But hope! And a perfect brightness of it?
An unexpectedly genuine smile slid onto my face, as I felt my burden lifted completely from me. I felt light and joyful, and somehow so hopeful. I gathered up my books and headed to meet my supervisor. I had no idea what I was going to present to him! But I was now the complete recipe --- steadfastness, love, and hope. Somehow, when I left his office I had a complete and comfortable plan laid out for my paper, and his approval besides! The rest is history.
Today I taught Sunday School to the 12-13 year olds. The topic was on how we are refined by adversity, and that God allows us to pass through trouble so that we can be made stronger. He knows that very pure metal comes only from the very hottest fire (and he needs men and women of the very purest metal for his work). He has said he will not allow us to be tried above that which we are able to bear --- so perhaps it is a compliment from him when we are given that kind of trial which we think is too strong for us. He knows we are the stronger ones.
I warned them that Satan would like it if he could get everyone to stop loving God. But he knows that, with some, this is an unrealistic goal. So instead he tries to get them to believe God has stopped loving them. This is just as effective. The belief that God has turned his back on us leads us to despair and to seek other avenues for help. Despair is the devil's playground.
But hope, a perfect brightness of it, has as much saving power as despair has destroying power. It has saved me more times than the one above, and in far more serious circumstances. I have passed through more dangerous despair in my time than I'd share here, though I am no Job. But as I am called to pass through adversity again and again in the future, I must remember that the Love of God was the victor then --- and it will be ever.
If we, who know of God and his beautiful plan for the human family, cannot express hope in this life, who can? I believe we, above all people of the earth, have the responsibility to hope. And with that responsibility, when we are loving and diligent, comes a most elegant capacity.