When prayers go unanswered; a 4th Watch God
CALLED TO SERVE
Back in 2008 while I was still in high school, I was asked to read a discourse titled, "Worshiping a 4th Watch God."
Being as young and naive as I was, I briefly skimmed through it, only catching the tone and feel of the discourse before tossing it to the wayside, never to be read again.
Fast forward three years.
It's 2011, and I am serving a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in Quito, Ecuador.
I was just called to be a district leader, train a new missionary, and reopen an area that was once occupied by elder missionaries.
The bus ride from Quito to el Coca (the area I was reopening), was a 8 hour bus ride, in the middle of nowhere, literally.
By this point in my mission, I had been in country for over a year, and had a grasp on the Spanish language.
Before receiving the phone call that I would be leaving my old area, where I spent the last eight months, I had a dream that I would be transferred and that I would be training a new companion.
I knew the call came from Him, but somehow I felt as though I was unfit for the task at hand.
It was raining and around 8:00 p.m. or so when we arrived to El Coca. Luckily we lived next to the branch president who, with a smile on his face, reached his hand through a metal grated window screen, and eagerly welcomed us.
My head was spinning. I honestly didn't know what to say or do because I was also the new second counselor of the small branch in El Coca.
I knew that God lived and I knew that He needed me to be here, but out of the 200 missionaries in Ecuador, why me?
Looking back, I wouldn't trade my experience for anything else. It was there I learned to trust God, but more importantly, I began to understand the reason I was there.
In Matthew 14:22-33, we read the miraculous story of Christ walking upon the water to calm the grueling storm that caused His disciples to toil all night long.
While reading this story, and talking about it with my companion Elder Brunner, it dawned on me what the discourse I read many years ago was trying to teach me.
THE 4TH WATCH GOD
"And when he had sent the multitudes away, he went up into a mountain apart to pray: and when the ending was come, he was there alone.
But the ship was tossed with waves: for the wind was contrary.
And in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went unto them, walking on the sea."
In his book, Jesus The Christ, James E. Talmage explains, "though they had labored through the night they had progressed less than four miles on their course; to turn and run before the wind would have been to invite disastrous wreck; their sole hope lay in their holding the vessel to the wind by sheer power of muscle."
In other words, their ship was about to be torn apart, and they had no other choice than to hold on, and pray that the winds would cease, eventually.
Talmage continues to explain, "Jesus, in His place of solitary retirement, was aware of their sad plight, and along in the fourth watch, that is, between three and six o'clock in the morning, He came to there assistance, walking upon the storm-tossed water as though treading solid ground."
By this point, His disciples were completely exhausted, worn out physically, emotionally and mentally, and desperately saving every last bit of energy to just hold on.
Has there ever been a time in your life when you have felt the same way? When you feel like you are completely exhausted and not sure if you are going to make it through until the next day? I have. Ever since I dislocated my knee and left my job at USA Today, I have been praying for help to get me to the next day.
Never in my life have I felt more exhausted. Sometimes I sit down at night and I wonder, What on earth am I doing? We have a baby on the way without a steady income, What are we going to do?"
Maybe this is what it means to worship a 4th watch God; to wait patiently, even if it means toiling all night in despair and trying winds until the Savior comes.
I've realized that when our prayers go unanswered, it's not because He isn't listening, but rather we follow and love a 4th watch God; a God that doesn't always come at the first hour, but waits and watches as we strive, push, and pull in order to keep moving forward.
"And when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, It is a spirit: and they cried out for fear.
But straightway Jesus spake unto them, saying, Be of good cheer; it is I; be not afraid."
So when the storms don't seem to be calming, or the gates of Heaven seem to be closed while we pound at it's doorstep, know that we love and follow a 4th watch God.
KEEP PUSHING FORWARD
Towards the end of my mission I had the opportunity to be a secretary to the mission president and work in the mission office. It was one of the most enjoyable times of my mission because it was there that I drew the closest to the Savior, and gained my testimony of the Book of Mormon.
Late one night while I was reading a talk that I had printed from the BYU Speeches archive, it occurred to me that I didn't understand the following:
"As the great tapestry of revelation unfolds in the Doctrine and Covenants, we come to know a Savior who has suffered for all of us. He took upon himself our sins, and his suffering is effectual for us if we would but come to him. He understands about our weaknesses, and he takes into account the intent of our hearts. The important thing is that none of us must ever stop the ongoing process of repentance. Some things may have to be worked at again and again before they are out of our lives. He is only displeased with us when we stop trying."
I know that in my personal life I have heard the voice of the Lord give me such hope, and His love echoes throughout my life, saying, "it's the striving that counts."
We don't have to be perfect, we just have to try.