The prophet Nephi states something at the beginning of The Book of Mormon that has always intrigued me.
”…and having seen many afflictions in the course of my days, nevertheless, having been highly favored of the Lord in all my days;….”
Then he matter-of-factly goes on. But wait just a minute here! How can Nephi have both of those phrases coming out of his mouth nearly in the same breath?
We know about at least a few of his afflictions from his recording some of them (his brothers beating him with a rod simply because he was trying to follow the Lord, his brothers tying him up and leaving him essentially to rot near the ship’s masthead, etc., etc., etc.)
Most people I know equate absence of trials as then evidence of God’s fondness for them. Yet for Nephi, his severe experiences do not impact his belief or knowledge of God’s goodness and grace.
So what has Nephi discovered that so many of us might not yet know? For most of us, it is a quick path - after much affliction - to exclaim (similar to Job’s friends in the Bible) that afflictions must be a sign of God’s anger (that, or of His absence)?
But as the Bible Dictionary states under "Job, Book of," Job learned that “there is a mystery in the incidence of suffering that only a fresh revelation can solve.” (p. 713) Apparently Nephi had been given that “fresh revelation.” Could it be that his understanding was that the two were not necessarily interrelated?
Reading further in 1 Nephi 1, one word which Nephi continually repeats is that of “mercy.” I found this most interesting, that he would breathe this word with such fervor, given his experiences. For example, few of us have had brothers trying to murder us, let alone some of the other serious challenges he faced while trying to follow Christ.
When I referred to Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dicationary, I found the following definition listed first under the word Mercy: “Compassion or forbearance shown especially to an offender or to one subject to one’s power” and “compassionate treatment of those in distress.”
The word "offender" could very well encompass us all. What good is calling ourselves Christian if we harbor grudges and refuse to forgive another for what we perceive as *their* unpardonable sin(s). In fact, the first offense we make in the eyes of God could virtually make us outcasts in His mind.
But Nephi is telling us otherwise. No, instead, Nephi attests to the fact that the Father of all living is indeed merciful and kind. In fact, Nephi quotes his father as stating:
”Great and marvelous are thy works, O Lord God Almighty!....thy power, and goodness, and mercy are over all the inhabitants of the earth; and, because thou art merciful, thou wilt not suffer those who come unto thee that they shall perish!”
And Nephi himself states, even after having lived through violent acts caused by others:
”But behold, I, Nephi, will show unto you that the tender mercies of the Lord are over all those whom he hath chosen, because of their faith, to make them mighty even unto the poweer of deliverance.”
Somehow amidst all his suffering at the hands of others, he seemed to have encountered that same “fresh revelation” mentioned in the Bible Dictionary regarding Job’s suffering. Somehow Nephi encountered the knowledge of God. And in that process, he was led to exclaim as to the wonders and mercy of our Father in Heaven.
I’ve learned as I’ve puzzled over his two contrarian statements (exceeding trials yet knowing of God's goodness) in 1 Nephi 1:1, that “fresh revelation” is the only true source of peace when challenges seem to explode in our face. Only God knows the source of our suffering, whether natural, other-caused, or self-caused. And only He knows the escape, which path is always led by Him who knows the way of all suffering.
So as you face any possible challenges, trials, or difficulties, know that you, too, like Nephi, can receive “fresh revelation” and eventually be able to exclaim like both he and his father did (and Job, also) that God is good and that all is well.
May He so bless us in that path of personal “fresh revelation” is my fervant prayer and hope for all of us.