I’ve been told that God will not help someone out because of free will. He cannot interfere with free will because of the fact that this is a fallen world. His hands are tied. Is this true? That no amount of faith can overcome the demands of free will.
The difficulty in that statement is defining what “will not help” means. Surely God helps us every day, as explained by King Benjamin:
Mosiah 2:19 And behold also, if I, whom ye call your king, who has spent his days in your service, and yet has been in the service of God, do merit any thanks from you, O how you ought to thank your heavenly King!
20 I say unto you, my brethren, that if you should render all the thanks and praise which your whole soul has power to possess, to that God who has created you, and has kept and preserved you, and has caused that ye should rejoice, and has granted that ye should live in peace one with another—
21 I say unto you that if ye should serve him who has created you from the beginning, and is preserving you from day to day, by lending you breath, that ye may live and move and do according to your own will, and even supporting you from one moment to another—I say, if ye should serve him with all your whole souls yet ye would be unprofitable servants.
But the person who told you this likely had other forms of “help” in mind. While God respects our agency and will not force us to do his will, God is also a loving Father, willing to bless the lives of his children. Some blessings are unconditional, freely given to all, such as those mentioned above, the resurrection, or the sun and the rain:
.Matthew 5:45 That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.
Other gifts require some effort on our part. Here, the Savior teaches of God’s generosity in this parable:
Luke 11:9-13 And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.
10 For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.
11 If a son shall ask bread of any of you that is a father, will he give him a stone? or if he ask a fish, will he for a fish give him a serpent?
12 Or if he shall ask an egg, will he offer him a scorpion?
13 If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?
The key is verse 9. If we would receive, we must ask, seek, and knock. Another sort of blessing is reserved only for those who show themselves worthy:
Malachi 3:10 Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.
11 And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, and he shall not destroy the fruits of your ground; neither shall your vine cast her fruit before the time in the field, saith the Lord of hosts.
12 And all nations shall call you blessed: for ye shall be a delightsome land, saith the Lord of hosts.
In our most recent General Conference, in his talk “Take the Holy Spirit as Your Guide“, Elder Larry Y. Wilson shared an example of one way that we work with the Lord to receive guidance. In it, a sailor is guided to go and investigate a problem, to observe what is happening. Then as he goes to the Lord, the Spirit helps him to understand what to do next. I recommend studying this talk to increase your understanding of how the Lord’s guidance and our agency work together to our good.
Another type of blessing frequently testified to in scripture is granting us the strength to endure our trials. Some claim that trials are proof God doesn’t exist, or doesn’t love us. On the contrary, they are both a natural consequence of living in mortality, and present necessary opportunities for our learning and growth – part of the purpose of mortality. The story of Alma and his people gives the perfect example of this principle (emphasis mine):
Mosiah 24:15 And now it came to pass that the burdens which were laid upon Alma and his brethren were made light; yea, the Lord did strengthen themthat they could bear up their burdens with ease, and they did submit cheerfully and with patience to all the will of the Lord.
Two important things to remember are that we cannot change God’s will and should not seek any blessing contrary to it, and that we cannot “pray away” the agency of others. Such “blessings” cannot be granted because they are contrary to God’s will and plan for us. Also, there is a popular adage which goes something like this: “God will not do for us something we can do for ourselves.” While there may be exceptions to this rule, it’s generally the case that if we are seeking for the Lord to do something for us which we could accomplish ourselves if we just put forth the effort, we’re not going to receive the desired blessing. This is surely related to agency (we should be using our agency to go and do rather than just ask), but it is also related to what is sometimes called “the economy of heaven”, as well as to our purpose here on earth – to learn, to grow, to overcome the weakness of the natural man, to expand our own capacity. The best way to accomplish our purpose here on earth is to put forth consistent effort, continually striving to do more and become more.
So, if you’re hoping God will miraculously clean the house for you, or make a bowl of ice cream magically appear in front of you so you don’t have to go to the freezer or the store, you’ll probably be disappointed. But if you are seeking the will of the Lord, if you are doing your best to live according to gospel truths, if you are following his pattern for receiving strength and revelation, you can ask with confidence for the Lord’s help.
In closing, I’d like to tell you about something which happened to a friend of mine, who hates yard work. One spring, she prepared herself to go out and fix several sprinklers which had not been working correctly the previous year. She dressed in work clothes, got out tools and gloves, and got her car keys and wallet so that once she identified the sprinklers which would have to be replaced she could go and buy the replacements. Then, knowing how much she hated doing this work, she knelt and prayed for the Lord to help her to have patience, to think things through, and to not make matters worse by getting frustrated. She then arose and went to work. As the she tested each zone, the sprinklers which had not worked the previous year worked. Only three of the simplest heads needed to be replaced. The entire job took a fraction of the expected time. As my friend related this story, she shed tears of gratitude for this gift which others might think small, but which was great in her eyes. Whether the sprinklers were miraculously fixed, or some natural change caused them to work better is irrelevant. Either way, my friend was strengthened to accomplish her task, and blessed by it being made simpler than she expected. I believe her preparation and willingness to work were key to receiving the Lord’s help.
My friend and I both testify that God does indeed help us. The details may not match our expectation. The timing may not be what we hope. It may require struggle and hard work on our part, but the Lord is always there, helping us in the way he knows best. I hope that you too will be able to trust in his love and recognize his help in your daily life.