The Family Fast

The Family Fast

From Chicken Soup for the Latter-day Saint Soul

The Family Fast

While serving as a missionary in Italy, I was fortunate enough to receive regular letters from a loving and supportive family. However, in the days before e-mail, letters typically took about two weeks to reach me. My mother, who was my most faithful correspondent, always kept me abreast of the main events in my family during my absence—but sometimes it felt like the “news” was more like ancient history by the time it got to me!

One afternoon as I opened Mom’s letter, I read something quite different from her typical cheery updates. I learned to my horror that an unspeakable tragedy had happened in my family. As I read on, my initial shock turned to grief, and I wished with all my heart that I could do something—anything at all—to help my young cousin. Although I had a firm conviction that my mission was truly the work of the Lord, and I knew that as His messenger I had urgent work to do, for that moment I longed to be home with my family, both lending and drawing strength and comfort. I kept reading, and discovered that my extended family had held a fast for my cousin. But the date of the fast had been nearly two weeks earlier, and once again, news had reached me too late. Even that small gesture had been denied me, and I felt completely powerless, adrift in painful and distressing thoughts.

Still stunned and grieving, I found myself picking up my missionary calendar without really knowing why. Before long, an idea struck me, and I picked up Mom’s letter again, searching for the date of the family fast. With a warm rush of gratitude, I realized that I actually had been fasting that day—and, in fact, I had even started my fast at an unusual time that compensated for the eight-hour time difference between Italy and my Idaho home. Naturally, I didn’t know at the time that anything was wrong in my family. I had simply felt a desire to demonstrate my devotion to the Lord and to seek His blessings in my labors. Nevertheless, I realized that this remarkable “coincidence” was in fact an extraordinary blessing. Although I was not consciously aware of doing anything that might help my family, I had actually participated in this family fast. My voice had been heard.

This realization brought a flood of tears, springing from an odd mixture of sorrow, love and thankfulness. I felt a powerful sense of the Savior’s love for my cousin and for me. In that moment I knew that in spite of the horrible events that had so deeply scarred my family, the Lord was indeed mindful of us. I knew that although my missionary service did not spare me, or my family, from the trials of mortality, I had no need to fear. And although my pain was insignificant compared to that of my cousin, my Heavenly Father was just as aware of my needs as He was of hers. Unquestionably, God’s hand is extended over all of His children.

Lisa Freeman

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