Editor's note: "The Spoken Word" is shared by Lloyd Newell each Sunday during the weekly Mormon Tabernacle Choir broadcast.
Have you ever thought of life as a school? There are some obvious similarities — both give us many opportunities to learn. Both provide teachers and tutors to guide our learning. And in life, as in school, we have experiences that could be considered tests, and they are rarely easy.
In life, the tests may come in the form of pain, sorrow and disappointment. Despite what a student might tell you during final exams, academic tests don't usually require so much suffering. But if we think of life's hardships as a kind of test — as part of our education — we might find more purpose in them and even find them valuable.
Orson F. Whitney, a religious writer from the early 20th century, said this about the school of life: "No pain that we suffer (in life), no trial that we experience is wasted. It ministers to our education, to the development of such qualities as patience, faith, fortitude and humility. All that we suffer and all that we endure, especially when we endure it patiently, builds up our characters, purifies our hearts, expands our souls, and makes us more tender and charitable. ... It is through sorrow and suffering, toil and tribulation, that we gain the education that we came here to acquire" (see "Faith Precedes the Miracle" by Spencer W. Kimball).
As difficult as it sometimes is, the curriculum of life is perfectly suited to teach us what we need to learn. Life can teach us wisdom, refine our desires and soften our attitudes. It can stretch us and help us grow and improve. And while life might seem a lot easier if it were pain- and trouble-free, it would not be sweeter. We know the sweetness of life because of — not in spite of — the bitter. We know happiness because we know sorrow. We appreciate light because we have experienced darkness.
That doesn't mean we welcome such tests. But when they come, as they do for all of us, it helps to see them as opportunities to learn and grow. After all, the most meaningful learning takes place outside of a classroom, in the school of life.