Irony, the crust on the bread of adversity

Several excerpts from Elder Neal A. Maxwell’s great talk on irony:

“Irony is the hard crust on the bread of adversity. Irony can try both our faith and our patience. Irony can be a particularly bitter form of such chastening because it involves disturbing incongruity. It involves outcomes in violation of our expectations. We see the best laid plans laid waste.

“Words then issue, such as Why me? Why this? Why now? Of course, these words may give way to subsequent spiritual composure. Sometimes, however, such words precede bitter inconsolability, and then it is a surprisingly short distance between disappointment and bitterness.

“In coping with irony, as in all things, we have an Exemplary Teacher in Jesus. Dramatic irony assaulted Jesus’ divinity almost constantly.

“For Jesus, in fact, irony began at His birth. Truly, He suffered the will of the Father “in all things from the beginning.” (3 Ne. 11:11.) This whole earth became Jesus’ footstool (see Acts 7:49), but at Bethlehem there was “no room … in the inn” (Luke 2:7) and “no crib for his bed” (Hymns, 1985, no. 206.)

“At the end, meek and lowly Jesus partook of the most bitter cup without becoming the least bitter. (See 3 Ne. 11:11; D&C 19:18–19.) The Most Innocent suffered the most. Yet the King of Kings did not break, even when some of His subjects did unto Him “as they listed.” (D&C 49:6.) Christ’s capacity to endure such irony was truly remarkable.

“You and I are so much more brittle. For instance, we forget that, by their very nature, tests are unfair.”

Maxwell notes many more ironies associated with Jesus, then, near the end of his talk, writes:

“We come now to the last and most terrible irony of Jesus: His feeling forsaken at the apogee of His agony on Calvary. The apparent withdrawal of the Father’s spirit then evoked the greatest soul cry in human history. (See James E. Talmage, Jesus the Christ, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1916, p. 613.) This deprivation had never happened to Christ before—never. Yet, thereby, Jesus became a fully comprehending Christ and was enabled to be a fully succoring Savior. (See Alma 7:11–12.) Moreover, even in that darkest hour, while feeling forsaken, Jesus submitted Himself to the Father.”

What a teacher irony in adversity can be, but only if we are humble in trial, as was Jesus.

Neal A. Maxwell, “Irony: The Crust on the Bread of Adversity,” Ensign, May 1989, 62. Italics mine.

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