This past Sunday we had two speakers who focused on talks from this past General Conference that focused on the role of affliction and chastening in our lives. Both talks forced my thoughts to the story of Alma and his people in bondage after their conversion and the establishment of the church in the wilderness.
This account has always impressed me, in part because it is the most powerful realization of the promise given in 1 Nephi 1:20. Here we have a people chosen by their faith and ultimately delivered by God's mercy.
But today I was struck by the pattern in verse 14-16. First, the people are told that they will be strengthened, and why this is happening--so that they will know that God is there for them in the midst of their afflictions.
The promise is then fulfilled in verse 15, as the burdens are made light and the people are made strong. In all of this they demonstrate their faith and patience, which is precisely the thing that makes us able to bear our burdens. The trials are not removed immediately, but we grow and can handle them more capably.
And then we find the fulfillment of the promise as the Lord delivers the people. As is repeated 120 years later, in 3 Nephi 1:13, the Lord tells the prophet to be of good cheer, that their patience and faith are rewarded and they are freed from their bondage.
The same process works for each of us, as we are in bondage to any number of weaknesses, addictions, sins, and fears. To be delivered, we must be patient, humble, and faithful, and in all of this we find strength, comfort, and ultimate freedom through the atonement of Christ.