Think of a time when your faith has been truly tried. What did you do? Did you hold out hope that things would work out? Did you become angry with God for forgetting you? Did you tell yourself, “I know it’s possible, but if not …”?
Two months and one week ago, my friend’s little boys lost their pet lizard.
Let that time frame sink in for a minute: More than two months. Nine weeks. 70 sleeps.
She was a Christmas present, and the boys were ecstatic to welcome Tangerine into their family. One day, they took their new lizard out of her little aquarium to play with her in some boxes they had set up. And she escaped.
For days, Kale, Jace and Grey prayed every night that they would find their sweet Tangerine. They even held a family fast. But days turned into weeks, weeks into a month, and then soon almost two months had passed with no sign of their lost amphibian. My friend Nikki, their mother, said around a month into hoping, she decided she’d better give the “but if not” talk.
“At first, I really believed that Heavenly Father could make this happen,” she said. “Every night I’d pray, ‘Heavenly Father, these little testimonies are so fragile! Please, I know you can do this.’ And even though I thought it just wasn’t logical, I felt like I needed to double down on my faith. The thought that kept coming to me was, ‘Keep believing.’”
But around week five, even that became too much.
“I felt so responsible for my kids’ faith,” she wrote in her journal. “I couldn’t understand why the Lord wouldn’t just make the lizard come out and testimonies would be nurtured and confirmed.”
Eventually, she gave up. She just couldn’t stand encouraging her kids to keep hoping for something that probably wouldn’t happen. She lost her faith that their lizard would turn up at all, let alone alive. She stopped praying for a miracle and burrowed down into spiritual darkness.
Last week, I was able to listen to the general conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Like millions of members worldwide, I listened with a hopeful heart that I would receive answers and peace to questions and concerns I had been having.
For 25 years, ever since I was baptized as a member of the church at 8 years old, I have slowly been adding spiritual water to my gospel well and have built up a large reserve by now. Every church meeting and conference session, every scripture study, every service opportunity, every temple visit, family home evening, life lesson and fervent prayer is a cupful or a bucketful of water poured in. Sometimes I draw from that well of faith, dipping deeply and drinking freely, knowing it’s a give-and-take and that I will never thirst so long as I am refilling, redoubling my efforts every time I need sustenance and reassurance.
But lately, I have felt as though worldly influences, negative social media posts and shocking news stories have slowly been chiseling a hole in my rock of faith, draining me of the things I’ve always known and believed, emptying faster than I could replenish.
Then, I heard President M. Russell Ballard, acting president of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, speak on having faith the size of a mustard seed.
“Elder George A. Smith,” President Ballard said Saturday morning in his talk titled “Precious Gifts From God,” "remembered some advice the prophet Joseph Smith gave to him: 'He told me I should never get discouraged, whatever difficulties might surround me. If I was sunk in the lowest pit of Nova Scotia and all the Rocky Mountains piled on top of me, I ought not to be discouraged but hang on, exercise faith, and keep up good courage and I should come out on the top of the heap at last.'”
I knew why I had been feeling sorrowful and drained of spiritual water. The answer was simple but hard to admit. I wasn’t trusting my Savior. I didn’t fully believe he could remove my mountains of doubt.
My friend Nikki was under her own pile of spiritual rocks when her miracle occurred.
“Last night, 11:30, TJ and I were brushing our teeth,” Nikki wrote in her journal, “and we both froze — there was a lizard staring at us! Much thinner, but clearly our Tangie was just hanging out in the middle of our room.”
Nikki woke up their son Grey and told him the incredible news. It was the miracle they had been praying for over the last two months.
The next morning, they told their other kids about finding Tangie.
“Grey knew all along that Heavenly Father would answer his prayers,” Nikki said. “But my 11-year-old Kale and 9-year-old Jace had both given up, like me.”
Needless to say, they were all ecstatic.
That morning, Jace said a prayer.
“Heavenly Father,” he said, “we are thankful Tangerine is home. We are sorry we lost faith. We will do better next time.”
It was like a lightning bolt shot through me when she shared those words. No matter how deeply we are buried, our Savior gently and consistently reaches down to lift us out of our dark pits of unbelief. “We are sorry we lost faith.”
Jesus Christ, our living water, patches our leaky wells and uncovers our hiding places of fear and frustration, ever encouraging us to “do better next time.”
When the lizard appeared, the Spirit taught my friend a powerful lesson.
“You still believe, even when it’s hard to believe,” she said. “Heavenly Father knew better than I knew how to help my kids grow their testimonies. He knew the lizard would turn up, but he knew when it would be best for all of us to learn the lessons he wanted to teach. I’m so glad I learned on a lizard because next time, when it’s harder, I will remember.”
By the way, Tangerine has acquired a new name: Lazarus.
“Kinda perfect for this time of year,” Nikki said.Comment on this story
“Whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life” (John 4:14).
If your well is running dry, if your faith seems smaller than a tiny mustard seed, if it’s hard to keep believing that your current situation could possibly get better, “hang on, exercise faith, and keep up good courage.” Remember the source of your water. Like Lazarus the lizard, your miracle may be just one day away from staring you in the face.
I will do better next time.