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John Hilton III

July 11, 2012

There are times each of us face discouragement: Problems arise, circumstances change, challenges come, those we love make choices that break our hearts. We feel alone and are filled with despair. In such moments, we sometimes close our eyes to the gifts God has given us and ask the Lord what we’ve done to deserve our trials.

Sister Janice Kapp Perry, a beloved LDS composer who has given the Church some of its most memorable and meaningful songs, knows such trials well. At one point in her career, she began to feel heavy pain in her left arm and hand. The more she composed, the worse the pain became. She visited doctor after doctor who assured her it was nothing life-threatening, but they had no success in curing the ailment. Soon, the condition became so severe that the middle fingers on her left hand would curl under, and she could no longer play the piano except with her little finger and thumb. She requested priesthood blessings and was promised healing—in due time. Some days she would cry out in frustration, “Why? Why this test? When I am trying to write music to glorify Thee and build the Kingdom, why my hand?”

A friend suggested visiting a doctor who had helped others with similar problems, so Sister Perry made an appointment. She was surprised to find out that this doctor was blind. During their visit he asked the typical questions, and she complained about how intense the pain was becoming. Then suddenly the irony of the situation struck her. Here she was complaining to a man who was blind.

“Doctor,” she finally said, “may I ask you a personal question?”

 “Of course,” he replied.

“How do you deal with your test?” she asked.

A smile crept across the man’s face. “I’m so glad you asked,” he responded. He then explained that he had made the determination to focus on what he had and not on what he lacked. “Obviously,” he said, “there are many things I can’t do as a blind physician. But I don’t dwell on those. I focus on what I can do and then I do it well.

 “Sister Perry,” he then said gently, “I notice you still find a way to compose music even though it is difficult.”

Sister Perry nodded thoughtfully.

The doctor continued, “My wife and I decided that we could let this trial draw us closer to God or turn us away from Him. We chose to let it draw us closer.”

That day Sister Perry went home and wrote another song and dedicated it to the blind doctor. She called it “The Test” (The Light Within, Prime Recordings, 1985):

Tell me friend, why are you blind?
Why doesn’t He who worked the miracles
Send light into your eyes?
Tell me friend, if you understand
Why doesn’t He with power to raise the dead
Just make you whole again?
It would be so easy for Him.
I watch you and in sorrow question why.
Then you, my friend, in perfect faith reply:
Didn’t He say He sent us to be tested?
Didn’t He say the way would not be sure?
But didn’t he say we could live with Him
Forever more, well and whole
If we but patiently endure?
After the trial, we will be blessed.
But this life is the test.

Too many raise an angry fist at heaven when they’re faced with tests and trials, when they should be extending an open hand to receive the help God so willingly offers. So instead of closing our eyes to the miracles in our lives, we should turn to Heaven for strength, focusing on our blessings to help us avoid self-pity and depression. Expressing gratitude to our Heavenly Father helps us move forward with improved perspective and hope, and more important, it helps us see just how much we really have. Even in times of darkness, we can learn to look for and follow the light of the Lord. We can “look to God and live.”