I cringe when people tell stories about how they bargain with God. Pleading with God that if you do this then I will do this; I will give up such and such so that I can have this blessing. God does bless us when we obey His commandments but He sets up the terms not us. When I say this I get reminded of the story of Hannah and Samuel. The short version of the story is that Hannah wanted a child so much that she vowed that if He would bless her with a son she would give her child to his service in the temple. I don't claim to have perfect understanding of the scriptures but to me this story isn't about changing the Lord's mind, it is about changing Hannah's heart. So Hannah could come to a place that she would be willing to do whatever the Lord required of her; namely to joyfully give her son to the Lord. God knew that Samuel would become a great prophet. As a mother I am not sure I could give my young child away and only to see that child once a year.
I also have a hard time when people talk about they know God is good because they were given what they asked for in their prayers. Yes God is good. He answers prayers and the power of prayer is REAL. But what about the times when we don't get what we want, when the answer is "no," or "not right now" or "not in this life." Does that mean that God is not listening to our prayers, that we weren't righteousness enough, that we didn't have enough faith? Why do some seem to suffer year after year while others have their prayers answered they way they wanted? I don't know the answer. I do know that God knows ALL and that the things we experience in this life are custom-designed to bring us closer to God, to become more like Him. I know that each of us is different and we each need different trials or challenges to help us learn and change.
When life gets hard or scary or painful. I try to remember the story of Peter walking on the water toward Christ. Matthew 14:30."But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me. As Peter walked on the water, wait let stop for a second. He was walking on water! We talk a lot about the sinking Peter but let's not forget the walking on water Peter. We will all have times in our lives when we are living in our own perfect storm and expected to walk on the water. At some point between the boat and Christ Peter lost his focus, he looked around at the storm and feared, then he began to sink. I have felt that sinking into the stormy sea despair.
That last part of verse 30 and verse 31 shows us how to come back from that despair. Peter cried, "Lord, save me. And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him, and said unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?"
I have always overlooked verse 31 until now, "And when they were come into the ship, the wind ceased." Jesus immediately stretched forth his hand and caught Peter but the storm did not immediately stop. Peter walked back to the boat with Jesus on that stormy sea. The Lord is always waiting to help and strengthen us, but He doesn't always take away the storm. Sometime the storm lasts for years sometimes for a lifetime. Sometimes people say, "She is so strong, or I could never go through what so in so is going through." As I mentioned before we each have our individual trials but with Jesus as our rock we can do all things. I haven't experienced all things but with what I have experienced I have learned that it is much easier to spend less time doubting and worrying and more time praying and studying the scriptures.
My understanding of faith is that it requires action and not just a belief or words. If Jesus stretched forth his hand to catch Peter then Peter must have been stretching forth his hand or hands toward Jesus. That is an action an action of faith. What will we be required to show as our action of faith? My guess is that it will be whatever we need to give up to become more like God.
I love that talk by President Dieter F. Uchdorf in this last general conference. https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2014/04/grateful-in-any-circumstances?lang=eng He said, "Could I suggest that we see gratitude as a disposition, a way of life that stands independent of our current situation? In other words, I’m suggesting that instead of being thankful for things, we focus on being thankful in our circumstances—whatever they may be." So I am looking for things to be thankful for each day. Does that mean that I pretend that everything is fine or that I am happy with our circumstances? No. But it does mean that I trust that things will get better in God's own time and way. It means that I exercise faith and show that I love Him by keeping His commandments. And when I fall short, I get up and try again. Philippians 4: 13 I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.