Cory Sharp on Repentance as a Solution to Suffering

Good afternoon Brothers and Sisters! For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Cory Sharp. I’ve been in the ward for just about a year and half, and I was lucky enough to meet my eternal companion, Tera, while attending here. She has blessed my life in ways for which I am eternally grateful; I will always have a special place in my heart for the ward where I met my best friend. I am thankful for the opportunity I have to speak for what is only the second time in my life, as anxious as it makes me I know that, at the very least, I was able to grow closer to my Heavenly Father in preparation for this talk. I pray that in addition to that, I might say something that will have a positive impact on you all as well. Brother Morris asked me to speak on a topic of my choosing, so I have decided to speak about repentance as a solution to suffering. It’s the theme that has been the most relevant to my life and has brought me closer to my Father in Heaven than any other, so I love sharing my testimony of the practice…

I think it must be pretty obvious that, in general, nobody desires to suffer. It’s not what people consciously seek out, though some may mistakenly believe that they deserve to suffer… In any case, I believe that most people would choose the way out of suffering if they saw it as an available option… I believe that people want to have joy in life… I also know that Heavenly Father wants us to have joy in life and that He has given us the means to do so, as D&C chapter 19, verses 16-17 says: “For behold, I, God, have suffered these things for all, that they might not suffer if they would repent; But if they would not repent they must suffer even as I;” Christ atoned for us and gave us the way out of suffering… How wonderful it is that we have someone who cares so much for us, that He would make such a great sacrifice to offer us a way out of suffering!

I’ve been through some difficult times in my life, as I believe we all have… And certainly having help through those difficult times is both desirable and available… But to be honest I think that the most overall suffering I’ve done is in the day to day… In the little things that happen that throw me off and make me feel angry or irritated… The moments that cause me to feel discontent… It’s the cumulative effect those moments have that make the difficult times even worse… So I’ve often wondered how to fix it… What I’ve come to learn is that it is important to be able to clearly define suffering in order to better access the way out…

The terms pain and suffering are often used interchangeably, but I feel that for the purposes of seeking joy, it is important to use the terms to label two very different things. In my understanding, pain is the physical sensations or signals that tell us something is happening in our bodies as a response to various circumstances, not only physical damage or illness but also loss, change or other challenges… Pain is unavoidable; it’s a natural part of being alive and, by its very existence, is clearly a part of God’s plan for us. On the other hand, suffering is the interpretations and stories that we weave around the pain with our less than capable minds, it’s our thoughts and judgments that compound the pain and make us miserable. Suffering is simply the result of our conscious or unconscious resistance to reality and as such, is optional… Having said that, if repentance is a solution to suffering, then by implication it is suggested that sin is involved as well…

I’ve often had the feeling that when people think of sin, they think mostly of the more grievous, breaking the Ten Commandments type of sins… That anything less than that is either not worthy of repentance or not worth the effort… But what is sin, really? There is a definition that stands out to me from a book I’ve read about finding joy in life, it says: “Literally translated from the ancient Greek in which the New Testament was written, to sin means to miss the mark, as an archer who misses the target, so to sin means to miss the point of human existence. It means to live unskillfully, blindly and thus to suffer and cause suffering.”… If God has established a purpose for this life, and that purpose is His will, then to miss the point of human existence is to live in resistance to His will. If Christ shows us the way to live, if He is the light for us to follow, then to live unskillfully and blindly means that we are not following His example, it means our own will is leading us in a different direction than where His light shines…

While it’s possible that they aren’t the exact same thing, I have failed to find any fundamental difference between defining objective reality and defining God’s will. As nothing can happen contrary to God’s will, nothing can happen contrary to what actually happens… So I equate the two, and in other words, I believe we sin when we live in resistance to reality. We suffer when we live in resistance to reality… To paraphrase from a book about repentance: “We do not know, nor do we have the slightest idea, how God works. We don’t know what He can really do for us. We cannot even imagine it. Miracles really do exist, we can experience them in every moment of our lives if we just stop trying to understand everything with the intellect, and let go of our judgments, opinions and expectations, and learn to let ourselves be taken by the flow of life. It is necessary to become aware that we, ourselves, are our own greatest obstacles in our lives! We say that we trust but we don’t really. We say that we give our problems to God but we still hold on to them. When we don’t stop thinking about them, and we get upset and worry, we let God know that we want to solve everything alone because we do not have faith in Him. In that way, we don’t get answers to our prayers because we have ‘expectations.’ We believe that we know what is right and perfect for us, and when we ask something of God, we do it in an almost commanding way. We tell Him what we want, how, what color and at what time we want it… God has much more for us than we can imagine, it is right there for the taking if only we can align our will with His and see it in front of us.”…

I truly believe that problems and suffering only exist according to our perceptions and expectations that contend with God’s will and reality… In other words, they exist when we take offense with God’s will; when we take offense with reality… There is a quote from Elder David A. Bednar that I believe is applicable to this concept, speaking of taking offense he says: “When we believe or say we have been offended, we usually mean we feel insulted, mistreated, snubbed, or disrespected. And certainly clumsy, embarrassing, unprincipled, and mean-spirited things do occur in our interactions with other people that would allow us to take offense. However, it ultimately is impossible for another person to offend you or to offend me. Indeed, believing that another person offended us is fundamentally false. To be offended is a choice we make; it is not a condition inflicted or imposed upon us by someone or something else. In the grand division of all God’s creations, there are things to act and things to be acted upon (see Nephi 2:13-14). As sons and daughters of our Heavenly Father, we have been blessed with the gift of moral agency, the capacity for independent action and choice. Endowed with agency, you and I are agents, and we primarily are to act and not just be acted upon. To believe that someone or something can make us feel offended, angry, hurt, or bitter diminishes our moral agency and transforms us into objects to be acted upon. As agents, however, you and I have the power to act and to choose how we will respond to an offensive or hurtful situation.” … If we didn’t take offense when things didn’t go according to our expectations, I don’t believe we would recognize the things that happen in our lives as problems, but as opportunities to better our lives and the lives of others. On the other hand, if we do take offense when things don’t go according to our expectations, we are missing the point; we are living blindly and unskillfully… In short, we are sinning and are in need of repentance…

Repentance is vitally necessary to fully trust in the Lord, when we repent and utilize the cleansing power of Christ’s atonement, we let go of our expectations that “miss the mark”… It’s the practice of repentance and acknowledging that our own understanding isn’t enough that leads us down the right path in all that we do, and the only way to avoid losing that path is to keep repenting, to keep letting go of expectations and to keep submitting to God’s will… Proverbs chapter 3 verses 5-6 says: “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths.”

It is also important to know that God works in His own time, and the desired result of repentance isn’t always immediate. It takes real diligence and faith to know that the process is working… The results are often found in the next time a difficult situation arises, when we surprise ourselves and realize that we didn’t react as negatively as we had in the past… Confidence in the process builds and we recognize that whatever situations may occur are not causing us to suffer as much, even if the pain of a situation is as real as it ever was… We are able to see that whatever is happening is God’s will… How do we know? Because it’s actually happening, it’s the reality of the moment… There hasn’t been a single experience that has ever occurred in my life that hasn’t proven this process to be the truth… I fall short constantly, as we all do, but the process of repentance as a solution to suffering is always there to fall back on… Ready and waiting… The thought that comes to my mind is that “His hand is stretched out still.”

Throughout my life I have noticed that when I put off repentance, even for the irritations I feel over little, seemingly trivial things, remain within me and will rear their ugly head throughout my life until I appeal to my Father in Heaven, telling Him that I am sorry… That I want His forgiveness… That the value of being free from my own stories is far greater than the pride of being “right”, even when reality is constantly proving me wrong… Pride is tough, it’s incredibly deep-seeded and is reinforced by every story we’ve ever told ourselves about the way things are “supposed” to be…

Blending a family has proven to be quite the challenge, at least as far as the boys are concerned… Figuring out how to help them adapt, how to incorporate the different situations that they come from and to find some common ground has been a real challenge for me… It was difficult enough when it was just Kyson that I was working with, all the stories and expectations I have had for how children should behave, how I should respond, how to discipline… They were constantly challenged by reality… Blending our family only added to the confusion and conflict between reality and my expectations… While some of my expectations for them may be reasonable, even healthy for helping them grow into capable adults… Many of them need to be adjusted and without a willingness to let go of my expectations, it’s going to be harder on everyone involved… But even when it comes to the valid expectations I have for them, I open myself up to suffering when I argue with the reality that it’s not coming easily to them, that there is push back and uncertainty along the way… It is possible for me to exist in these situations and not suffer… All I have to do is be willing to repent and have faith that my humility will be rewarded with revelation for how to move forward… How much better it will be for them in those moments when I don’t bring my suffering into the equation… When I am able to respond with patience and confidence that as long as I move forward with Christ in my heart, I am going to do right by them… It’s a work in progress… I hope I’m getting better as time goes on… I pray that I can be forgiven for the moments when I fall short…

Brothers and Sisters I know that anything is possible through Christ, we can live happy, joyous lives when we follow His plan and follow His example… The way is right in front of us, all He asks is that we repent and come unto Him… It is my hope that I never lose sight of these truths, that I can always keep a prayer of repentance in my heart and strive to be humble… I’d like to end by bearing my testimony that I know that Christ lives, that He suffered and died for us so that we may find joy in life and one day return to Him… I know that this is His Church, that Russell M. Nelson is a prophet of God, and that our families can be together forever… I pray to always remember these truths, and I do so in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *