By Dawn Norton
“There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.” William Shakespeare
We humans are fickle creatures. We have a tendency to be unhappy at every turn. We look at our circumstances. We look at our neighbor or family member’s circumstances. We determine they are better off than we and we choose to suffer because of it.
In modern America, we have a great disparity between the very poor and the very rich, but relative to the rest of the world, our very poorest citizens are equally as rich as the richest citizens in many other countries. As an example, America’s poorest are about as rich as India’s richest. See footnote. The poor in America are richer than around 70% of the rest of the world. That’s not to say, our poor don’t feel the weight of their circumstances, but merely to demonstrate the Law of Relativity at play in everyday life.
The Law of Relativity states that our experiences are not necessarily “good” or “bad.” The goodness or badness is understood when viewed in light of our own or others experiences. (American poor in contrast to Indian poor) In addition, there is a compensatory nature to the Law of Relativity which is that every adversity will have an equal or greater blessing attached to it. The experiences that we are comparing are the prime opportunity to really “see” as God sees and to choose gratitude instead of suffering.
When we remain open, we find that it is the things we see as “bad” that help us reach into creativity and wisdom to grow. We find growing within us reserves of strength and inspiration like so many acorns ready to reach heavenward to become great oaks. Those reserves come from faith in Something larger than ourselves.
When I was a little girl, I remember learning the stories of Jesus. My grandmother took me to Christian Science Sunday School, and I learned about his death. I remember hating the story. I couldn’t understand why my Jesus had to die. I knew he was my Jesus. They told me he had all power, but if He did, why did He have to die? My heart ached. I wanted to go back in time and make sure that Jesus DIDN’T die. I wanted Him to live forever. I wanted Him not to suffer. I didn’t understand the compensatory nature of the Law of Relativity.
The story of Jesus, His life and His death, at least for Christians, IS the greatest miracle and witness of love. Within it, is the most profound demonstration of this law. All the powers of darkness and evil conspired against the Son of Man to prevent what eternity had already provided for those very events. The way was prepared far in advance for the greatest rejoicing there could ever be, making up for the greatest suffering ever performed.
God created life on this Earth and a plan for that life. Those He created chose mortality through their actions. Because of those actions, they fell from God’s presence. Because of that fall, a rescue was needed to bring them back into His presence. Jesus was that plan. He was willing to live as we lived, and subject Himself to mortality and agency, so that the distance could be closed from Hell to Heaven. The love of Jesus Christ, and His willingness to be the bridge across that distance, by laying down His life as a willing sacrifice, gave every person who ever lived the opportunity to repent and return home. Because of Him, the price has been paid for the judgment on our heads, and instead of punishment, we receive mercy, grace, love, freedom, joy, and happiness. Ultimately we receive “all that the Father has.” That’s some amazing compensation!
As an adult and having many experiences studying and applying the gift of the atonement to physical and emotional pain, grief and suffering, loss and other experiences common to mortality, I’ve learned personally why my Savior did what He did. I’ve learned why he voluntarily laid down His life and I know that He took it up again. So, that He could love me like no one else, understand me as no one else, and lift and heal me like nothing else. And even though the little girl in me still doesn’t want Him to have died, I can be glad, joyful, grateful that He did, for what it has provided for my life.
No matter what we stumble through in life, we can know that all things work for our good. Not only that, but if we love God, we can also receive Christ’s image and glory. (Romans 8: 28-30) The Law of Relativity in everyday life contains the same blessings and promises. In any problem or worry, we can know without a doubt, that we may receive an equal blessing. We can know absolutely that if we are facing a big challenge, that there is a great answer coming. Putting our focus there is often the very thing required to show us the way to get there.
If a man drives into the woods in a truck to cut firewood, but gets stuck in drifts of snow, he could see this as a troubling situation, and it may be. He may be stuck for hours, days, or months depending on the relative circumstances. Depending on what he brought along, and the worry or fear he embraces, this could be an opportunity or a devastation.
Being motivated by his situation, he realizes that as long as there is no weight or load in the back of the truck, he will remain stuck. So he goes to work chopping the wood he came to chop in the first place and loads the truck with it to keep his family warm. Only after the truck is filled with the load, is he able to have enough traction to release himself from the icy grip and return safely home.
Such a man’s relief and joy at overcoming the obstacle of being stuck in the snow would be apparent, welcome, and understandable. His return to his family would likely inspire feelings of gratitude and accomplishment.
This true story told by David A. Bednar reveals the underlying principle of the Law of Relativity. Generally, when things don’t go our way or as planned, we want to say that it is bad. But in every bad there is a seed of opportunity or goodness, to the degree of the “badness” of the situation. He says, “It was the load of wood that provided the traction necessary for him to get out of the snow, to get back on the road, and to move forward.” (Bear Up Their Burdens with Ease, Elder David A. Bednar, 2014 Annual General Conference)
Moving forward is the point after all. Remaining stuck can happen in a variety of ways. It doesn’t matter if it’s a truck in a snowdrift, or being a victim of any number of life’s difficult circumstances; divorce, abuse, war, or other traumas. Each one has just as much potential for good as the degree of bad contained in it. When we have a large challenge to face, we can actually rejoice, knowing that an equal compensatory harvest is on it’s way.