Tag Archives: Jesus

Faith to Be Still

We talk about the faith to move mountains, the faith to heal the sick, the faith to make things change. More often though, I think we need to exercise the faith to stay still in a world of constant change, to hold on when things aren’t happening like we want, and to trust God when he seemingly leaves you alone. Faith is not always the grandiose manifestations of God’s power. Sometimes the greatest faith is necessary to simply be.

I recently went through the worst episode of depression that I have ever experienced. Although things were incredibly difficult, this was not a trial of faith for me. It was a trial of body and mind- a physical, emotional, and social trial. I wondered if I would make it through, not because I lacked faith, but because I did not know how much my physical body could endure before I would break. I had suffered so much for so long that the only thing left was my faith. This particular period of depression though was also a reassurance of God’s love and trust in me.

As the depression progressed, I felt like I was stripped down to my core. Layer after layer of the things I thought were important, the things I thought made me me, were stripped away until I found out exactly what I was made of. In the end, it wasn’t my strength or reliability, it wasn’t my knowledge or willpower, it wasn’t my obedience, and it wasn’t the service or the good deeds that made me me. I found that it is faith that makes me who I am.

I was doing a lot of good things. I was helping people. I was productive. I was a positive influence in the world. I recently read a quote I had written in my journal a few months ago that said, “you find your faith when you are doing all the right things, but everything goes wrong.” I was doing all of the right things. I was being an influence for good. I was doing everything I knew how to do to take care of myself. Things just went horribly wrong. But in the breaking and utter despair, I found something beautiful.

When everything else fell away, I found my core was faith. Not just the faith to move mountains, but the faith to stay where I was, to stand alone, and to stay standing when mountains and valleys and rivers moved all around me. I had faith that God could take away my depression. I had faith that I could be healed and made whole. But I felt like God told me that wasn’t the plan. He told me that this was just what I was going to have to live with for a while. I didn’t know how long it would last. I didn’t know when it would be over or if I would ever get better, but I knew that I trusted God anyway. In the midst of my darkest hours, I found the faith to trust God with all of me even when that faith was all I had left to give.

I have had depression for as long as I can remember. It had never been this bad before, and I am not sure I could have made it through if it had been this bad before. But throughout this trial I was so grateful for how I had been prepared for what I was going through. I was grateful for the previous years of depression that taught me resilience and perseverance. I was grateful that I now have friends that could be there for me through it. I was grateful that I have a good, stable job with an understanding boss. And now I am completely grateful, not just that things have gotten better, but that I experienced this so that I could discover the faith already within me to “be still and know that [He] is God.”

Advertisements

Sleep on Now- The Loneliness of Depression

I took a week off of work and stayed with my sister. Depression had gripped me so tightly that I could not breathe. I just wanted the pain to be over. It was good to have this time off, but I didn’t get better. In fact, I might have just realized how bad it really is.

This depression has been so thick, so debilitating, so all-consuming that I have related to how Job felt and how Christ must have felt in the Garden of Gethsemane. I don’t really know what they went through. I have no idea. But I believe it took them to their limits, and this depression has taken me to mine.

During this difficult time, I could feel my friends becoming less able to be there for me. I knew I was sliding into a dark place that no one could really understand. But I hoped that I could still feel them on the other side of the darkness. I knew they couldn’t be with me, but I hoped I wouldn’t feel like they left me.

It makes me think of Christ in the Garden of Gethsamane. He asked his closest friends to stay with him, to pray with him. He told them that his soul was “exceeding sorrowful even unto death.” They knew he wasn’t okay, but they fell asleep anyway. And when he wanted them to be there for him, when he went back to see if they were still there, they were asleep. And in the agony of loneliness and pain, he asked, “could ye not watch with me one hour?” I understand that question. I understand that loneliness, but I probably would have slept too…

The human body can only do so much. I think of what Christ said, “The spirit truly is ready, but the flesh is weak.” Humans can only do so much. No matter how bad your friend is hurting, sometimes you physically cannot be there for them. That doesn’t say anything about how much you love them. It just is evidence of our human weakness. And like Christ, I have come to understand that sometimes my friends just aren’t capable of being there for me in my greatest struggles.

I don’t think I know what Christ went through. He suffered pain and emotional anguish that I cannot even imagine. But I do know that because of that, he understands. He understands when my friends can’t be there for me. He understands my begging for any other way. He understands the agony and pleading for the end of the pain. And because he understands, I am not alone. God is always just a prayer away.

So I too can say to my friends, “sleep on now, and take your rest: it is enough.”

Never Alone

The last few months have been a very difficult time for me. There have been moments of agony and despair and desperate pleading for any other way. However, through these difficulties, I have found peace in knowing that I am not utterly alone. Others have been through similar circumstances and understand the feelings I face.

I have taken comfort from scriptural stories where the trials faced seemed more than one could bear. I have read in the book of Job, “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him.” I have read the account of the Savior when he asks for the cup to be removed from him. I have read in D&C 121 where Joseph Smith asks how long God will let his people suffer. I do not hold myself on par with any of these people. I am not a prophet. I do not see myself as anything other than a lonely child trying to do my best. But with these great men, I share their pleadings and their faith.

Depression is very lonely. It can seem to be the longest path you have ever taken. It is difficult to move on, not knowing whether there is any sense of relief in the distance. I have pleaded for the end. I have begged for any other way. I have prayed for relief, for help, for things to just be a little easier. I have felt myself drowning and sensed my friends slipping farther away, the deeper I go.

But through all of this, through the pain and loneliness and heartache, I have understood what faith and hope are. Faith is not simply believing in something you cannot see. It is standing with what you believe in times when you do not know if it will be worth it. Hope is not just thinking that things will get better. Hope is believing that even though things are not getting better, there is a greater purpose in this pain you are called to endure.

My faith is not like a giant. I do not know if I always trust in a greater plan. I wonder sometimes how long this will last and how much I will have to endure. I wonder when the end will come. What I do know is that I trust in the God who made heaven and earth. I trust in a Savior that lived and died for me. I cling to the hope that because my Savior walked his long and lonely path alone, I do not have to be alone. And “though he slay me, yet will I trust in him” because I know that he has never left me and will never leave me. And if all my friends leave or cannot help because this darkness becomes too much for them to bear, I have a perfect friend that is just a prayer away.

Depression is the hardest trial I have ever faced, but because of him I do not have to do it alone. We never have to bear it alone.

I Will Not Leave You Comfortless

Tonight in my scripture study class someone asked why God sometimes seems to leave us when we need him most. He quoted the scripture, “I will not leave you comfortless” and then asked why that didn’t seem to be true at times.

I thought about this for a minute and my mind rested on the word “leave”. Sometimes we do feel comfortless. Sometimes it feels as though God has abandoned us, that we are hopeless, helpless, and alone. Sometimes in our times of greatest need we will wonder where God is and why he would leave us when we’re doing everything right, when we are doing our best to follow Him and do His will. But that word “leave” is very important. He does not say, “I will not allow you to be comfortless,” or “I will not let you feel alone.” He says that He will not leave us that way.

I struggle with depression, suicidal thoughts, loneliness, anxiety, and more. I do not ask why bad things happen to good people; I simply know that they do. But I have never had something bad happen to me that I wasn’t grateful for eventually. The darkness is sometimes a very lonely place, but I know that if I can just hold on long enough, I will not be left comfortless.

This week and the week before have been incredibly difficult. I have felt like I am trudging through waist-deep mud simply getting up in the morning and doing the day to day necessities of life. Tonight though, I felt okay enough to go to my class. I don’t think that was a coincidence. I don’t think that comment or my comment in response were coincidences.

It may have been a small thing, but reasons like that give me hope in the darkness. Tomorrow, life may feel hard again. I may feel depressed and alone, but if that means I can help someone else see the light, I would go through the darkness over and over.

Hold on.

He will not leave you comfortless.

Suicide and the Atonement

Today in church, we watched a video of Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane. Before they enter the garden, he says, “My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even unto death.” When I heard that, I thought, “I know how that feels.” That’s what I felt like with suicide. The longer I watched, the more it seemed to apply.

Christ’s experience in the garden was much like my experience with suicide attempts. He asks his disciples, his friends, to tarry and watch with him. Even though they want to, even though they would do anything for their beloved leader and friend, they fall asleep. They cannot be there for him like he wants and needs them to be. The same was true of my friends. They wanted to be there for me in my darkness, but they couldn’t.

Christ goes back to them looking for emotional support and asks, “Could ye not watch with me one hour?” I have felt like that many times in my darkness. Could my friends not be there for me in that moment I desperately needed them? Could they not just stay with me for a little while until the pain had passed?

The part that affected me most though, was when the angel comes to strengthen Christ. During one of my suicide attempts, Christ was my angel. He came and strengthened me and gave me the hope to stop trying to die, at least for that night.

That’s what I want you to know about the atonement and suicide. Christ understands. He has walked the long and lonely road so that he could know how we feel. He won’t leave us alone because he knows what it’s like to face the pain alone. He knows the heaviness and weariness. He knows what it’s like to fall to your knees and beg for any other way.

“Because the Savior walked such a long and lonely path utterly alone, we do not have to.” He will succor us. He will be there for us. As someone who has contemplated suicide multiple times and attempted suicide more than once, I can honestly say that Christ understands and will be there for you. That’s what Easter means to me. It means, I need never be alone because there is one who will always understand.

This is the Christ

There are some spiritual experiences that cannot be recorded. We feel them. We hold them. We treasure them. Then they leave us, sliding like water through our fingers. But we remember a glimpse of that feeling. We remember bits and pieces of the precious moments we spend with the Savior. We remember a portion of the burning of our hearts, a part of the love or joy or comfort we have felt.

Tonight, I cannot express the least part of what I feel. But what I have felt, I know I must share. Tonight as I experienced Christ’s life in a new way, in a sensory, emotional experience, I was filled with renewed love and understanding of my Savior.

I saw him as a father, holding out his arms to greet his little children. I saw him laughing and hugging the little ones that scrambled for his attention, just to be close to him and feel his presence.

I saw him as a friend, reaching out to comfort someone in need, giving counsel as necessary and love at all times.

I saw him as a person, a human in his pain and suffering. I saw him struggle to bear his burden, to fulfill his purpose. I saw him plead for any other way. I saw him ache for comfort, for relief. I saw him trying to take his mind off of the pain as they beat him over and over again.

I saw him stumble under the weight of his cross, so exhausted that he could not hold his own weight, let alone the weight of his cross. I heard him gasp as the nails pierced his hands, wrists, and feet. And I cried as he forgave the Roman soldiers that took part in his crucifixion.

And then, as I felt the power of the stone being rolled away, as I rejoiced with the angels at his resurrection, I felt that he was not holding out his arms to reach out to me, but rather running with arms outstretched to welcome me home. This was not a passive moment. This was not Christ allowing me to come to him, but rather him running to me, as he has always done. This was Christ running to greet me, to love me, to comfort me, as he has done every second of every moment of my life when I have needed him, or wanted him, or asked for him. No, Christ would not wait to hug me when I see him again. He would run to me. And I would run to him because I cannot bear to be away from my best friend.

This is the Christ. This is the Christ I know. He is not a passive being. He is not one to wait. He is one who seeks. And as he seeks me, I will seek him because there is no one who makes me happier than Jesus, the Christ, my savior and redeemer, my hope and my salvation.

christ-second-coming-anderson-art_1299260_inl

The Sabbath is a Delight

I have always enjoyed Sundays. Other than having to wear a skirt, it was a day that I looked forward to for learning and relaxation. I did good things on Sunday like spending time with family, listening to music or talks, and watching church produced movies and bible videos.

The problem was that there was always an element missing from my Sundays, me. Sundays were about tuning out more than tuning in. They were about getting out of the world, taking a break from cares of the week, allowing myself to breathe. They also included service and learning and spiritual growth, but those were side effects rather than results.

I have not been well for a long time. I have fluctuated between health issues and depression for as long as I can remember. If I wasn’t suffering from one, I was struggling with the other. Sundays were a break from the week, but also a reminder that I was not okay. The quietness of a Sunday afternoon accentuated the loudness of my mind and body. I had time to realize just how bad I really felt and to get it out before having to face my week again.

Feeling the mental clarity I am now experiencing was an anomaly if not an impossibility. I needed Sunday to recharge. I needed Sunday to process what I was going through and handle life. I needed Sunday to be my escape. Sunday was a day of rest, but it was not yet “a delight”.

However, now that I am feeling better, I have discovered a whole new level to Sundays that I was unaware of before. I have discovered why Sunday can be called “a delight”. I have learned how to be present in my Sunday rather than a casual observer or catatonic absorber.

Sundays are not simply days of relaxation. They are days of action. There is much to be done. I have a million goals for my life, books I want to read, people I want to get to know, things I want to experience. Sunday has become a day to work towards those good things, to become better, and to form more meaningful relationships with God and others.

Sunday is not simply meant to give us a break from the world. Instead, Sunday should give us a new way to experience the world. Sunday should help us see the beauty in the little things, the brightness of someone’s countenance, the need behind someone’s distance.

Sunday isn’t just a day to rest; it is a day to experience THE rest. It is a day to feel what we don’t feel during the week because we don’t have time to notice or we just don’t think about it. Sunday is a day to experience the rest of the world apart from school or work or other demands. It is a day to be. It is a day to live.

I have read lists of ideas on what to do on Sunday, but I think the key is really what to be on Sunday. Are we being present? Are we experiencing our families in a different light? Are we engaging in a spiritual dialogue with our Savior and using that dialogue to make connections and gain personal insights? Are we being seekers of truth, doers of the word, lights unto the world?

I believe that making Sunday a delight consists of being rather than doing. It is a frame of mind, an attitude and perspective, rather than an adherence to a set of rules and regulations. Sunday is a delight, not because of what the day is, but because of what I am in that day. Insert yourself in your Sunday, engage in everything you do, and be fully present. Then I think you will find that Sunday is indeed a delight.

Spending Time with Christ

We had a lesson in church about Christ-like attributes. The teacher said that we become like the people we spend the most time with, so to imagine what we would be like if the person we spend the most time with is Christ. I have been thinking about that a lot since then.

Naturally, I am not very Christ-like. I believe in justice more than mercy. I do not love very easily or forgive very quickly. I am often selfish and afraid. But, especially recently, I spend a lot of time with Christ. I pray all the time. I listen to music and talks and books about Christ. I read and write about Christ. I try to do what he asks and act as he would. I try to consistently give him all that I am. And slowly, but surely, I have noticed myself becoming more Christ-like.

I want you to know that becoming more like Christ really is as simple as spending time with him. Praying is my favorite thing in the world. Talking to someone I know loves me and wants me to be better and understands everything, is the best feeling I know. God is listening. He is there for you. He loves you. Spend time with him, and I promise you will find yourself becoming more like him.

Becoming Amazing

I went to a retirement party last week for one of my friends from work. It was interesting to me how no one really talked about what she did at work or about her work ethic. Instead, they talked about her Christ-like service and love and the way she kept the spirit with her. I couldn’t help thinking, “I want to be like that someday.”

There are amazing people in my life, and there have been amazing people in my life. I always wondered what it took to be like them. I wondered if I could ever be like them and how I could work towards that goal. What I have realized is that it is the choices people make that make them amazing.

It is my belief that there is nothing inherit about a person that makes them amazing, at least no more so than the rest of us. The fact that we are alive and breathing is in itself an amazing thing, but what is it that makes us look up to and admire others? It is their choices.

The people I admire most have chosen to follow God. They consistently make or have made choices to serve God and those around them. When I see that service and I see their love for those around them, I just think, “I want to be like that.”

The truly amazing thing is that I can be. By consistently choosing to follow Christ, by being observant and responding to people’s needs, by relying on the strengthening and enabling power of the atonement, I can be like the people I most admire. And more importantly, I can become like the person I admire most, Jesus Christ. And you can too.

Praying Always

Prayer is a relationship. Our prayers are not singular events or single moments of getting on our knees. Prayers can and should be a continuation of our daily conversation with God.

I believe that praying always is more of an attitude than an event. Praying always doesn’t mean opening a prayer to God the Father and closing it in the name of Jesus Christ. Praying always is living your life worthy to have Christ’s spirit with you. It is having a friendship so close with God that when we say our prayer at the end of the day, it’s like we never stopped talking.

Praying always means that you have a continuous conversation with God- consistently aligning your will with His. It is following promptings you receive and asking God throughout the day what else you can do. It is being observant of others and their needs and acting as Christ would.

Praying always is creating a two-way relationship with God, showing God that you will stop to listen when He tells you something or gives you an answer you have been searching for. We cannot expect God to be there for us when we need Him if we haven’t put in the time to get to know Him.

God is our father. He is your father. I think He must have become emotional as He gave His final counsel before sending us to Earth. I imagine the conversation to have gone a little like this:

“My dear child, I am sending you to Earth because there are things you need to learn there that you cannot experience here. But the world can be hard and I am afraid you will forget me. Please don’t forget me. Please seek me. Please pray to me, because I will miss you.”

Don’t make God miss you. He loves you and wants to hear from you. He wants to develop a relationship with you. He loves you. Please pray to Him. I promise He will listen.