The Savior, while hanging on Calvary's cross, cried out in anguish, `O God, where art thou?" (Matt. 27:46.)
Is it possible that Jesus, even for a moment, might have thought His Father had abandoned Him at the very hour in which He most needed comfort and reassurance from on high? No mortal can comprehend the agony of the Savior's suffering, but many do understand the need to call out to our Father in moments of distress, fear and anguish.The Prophet Joseph Smith's plea while imprisoned in Liberty, Mo., is one example of man's attempt to bring the Lord God from "the pavilion that covereth HisT hiding place." (D&C 121:1.)
Joseph needed his Father. He needed comfort.
This need is illustrated – inadequately at best – in the experience of a young child who is left alone for a few minutes when his mother goes into another room. The youngster, apparently thinking he has been abandoned, gives a wail, which communicates one thought: "Where art thou?"
As the child matures, he is able to go longer periods of time without the physical presence of a parent to constantly reassure him. However, our relationship with our Heavenly Father should be different. He never intended that we cease to seek Him.
Joseph's plea was heard from that horrid prison in Missouri. Just as the mother might comfort her child, the Lord answered: "My son, peace be unto thy soul." (D&C 121:7.)
The Lord did not promise that all would be well, that there would be no more troubles. Instead, He gave Joseph an eternal perspective to the adversity and afflictions that had and would come into the Prophet's life. They would, promised the Lord, last "but for a small moment." (D&C 121:7.)
Falsely accused, Joseph had languished in jail for nearly half a year. Yet the anguish he felt was not self-directed; he was as distraught over the suffering of his fellow saints as he was over his own afflictions. His trials, the Lord promised, would be brief. But were they necessary?
Henry Ward Beecher, an American writer and clergyman (1813-1887), once proclaimed: "Affliction comes to us all not to make us sad, but sober; not to make us sorry, but wise; not to make us despondent, but by its darkness to refresh us, as the night refreshes the day; not to impoverish, but to enrich us."
In a letter dated March 15, 1839, and sent from his prison to a friend, Mrs. Norman Bull, Joseph acknowledged: " . . . trials will only give us the knowledge necessary to understand the minds of the ancients. For my part, I think I never could have felt as I now do, if I had not suffered the wrongs that I have suffered. All things shall work together for good to them that love God. . . . I suppose there will soon be perplexity all over the earth. Do not let our hearts faint when these things come upon us, for they must come, or the word cannot be fulfilled." (History of the Church 3:285-286.)
We may never fully understand the reasons the Lord permits His faithful servants to suffer adversity. However, at least one purpose for Joseph's adversity was explained: " . . . know thou, my son, that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good." (D&C 122:7.)
In a June 3, 1855, discourse, Brigham Young taught: " . . . if the saints could realize things as they are when they are called to pass through trials, and to suffer what they call sacrifices, they would acknowledge them to be the greatest blessings that could be bestowed upon them. But put them in possession of true principles and true enjoyments, without the opposite, and they could not know enjoyment. . . . If they should not taste the bitter, how could they realize the sweet? They could not."
Adversity, then, can be a benefit to us. While we do not seek it, we must know what to do when it might come upon us. We must seek the Lord and His help and comfort. In our moments of greatest feelings of abandonment, fear and despair, we, as did Joseph, may cry, "O God, where art thou?" Only as we seek the Lord will we be privileged to discover there is no pavilion that hides Him or His blessings from us.