How many times have you started reading the Book of Mormon and started quoting 1 Nephi 1:1 "I, Nephi, having been born of goody parents..." and kind of gone onto auto-pilot for the remainder of the verse? I have to admit that I'm guilty of that. Sometimes when you've read something so many times you get arrogant and think something along the lines of "I know that verse. I've read it xxx amount of times. I'm going to hurry up and get past it so I can get to some of the 'good' verses."
Yep, that would be my attitude sometimes, sadly.
Now that I'm doing the BYU-I Pathway program I'm taking more time to really study the scriptures and to ponder them again. One of the study prompts for our first lesson is on this first verse in the Book of Mormon and how it mentions that Nephi had seen many afflictions, been highly favored of the Lord, and knew of the goodness and mysteries of God. At first glance these three things seem to contradict one another. If you're highly favored of the Lord, shouldn't life be easier? Why would you have many afflictions if you're right with God and doing what you're supposed to? And how do afflictions and feeling highly favored lead to a knowledge of the goodness and mysteries of God?
Here's how I see them working together:
When we're "right" with God and are doing what we know He wants us to do, we are almost automatically put in opposition to the world around us, and with that comes opposition from those who are uncomfortable with what we're doing, or who disagree with our beliefs, or who are actively fighting against what God wants. These would be the cause of many of the afflictions we see in our personal and professional lives. Then you have the everyday afflictions of mortality: sickness, fatigue, discouragement, selfishness, pride, temptation, etc. No matter how righteous we are, we are going to suffer afflictions in this life. It comes with the territory, and when we're on God's side, we may actually experience more afflictions than others who are living in the world.
Experiencing afflictions doesn't affect our standing with God. We can be highly favored of God for doing what He wants us to, but still go through terrible trials and challenges. What being highly favored may do, though, is to help us to understand the reasons behind some of the afflictions and to recognize the goodness and mysteries of God in our life. We can see beyond what we are going through at the moment and know that God is working in our life to make something good happen. We better understand how God works, what His will is for us, and more readily see the blessings we are experiencing, even in the midst of sore trials.
So being highly favored and experiencing afflictions and knowing the goodness and mysteries of God really are inter-related. They show a comprehensive view of a life dedicated to God, and show that good and bad happen in life, but if we are "right" with God, we're going to be more at peace because we'll understand His ultimate plan for our life, which is to live eternally with Him.