Tag Archives: Life

Gratitude for Trials

As hard as it is to talk about ourselves or give personal details, sometimes we need to tell the stories of our lives to show “how great things the Lord has done” for us.

This past year, I went through some difficult trials. It was hard to have hope during these times because things were not improving. Every time life started to get a little easier and manageable, another trial would come. But I held on to faith and hope and love. I clung to them because they seemed to be all I had left. Although the trials have not ended completely, and I am still navigating the aftermath of some trials and struggling with other trials that will likely never end in this life, I have been able to see some reasons for what I went through.

I began 2016 with the scheduling of an endoscopy and CT scan because I had been in severe pain for months. I was not finding relief, even though I had tried to eat healthy and limit my intake of acidic and fatty foods. There were no answers from either procedure, and I had little direction about what I should or should not eat. After a few months, I was finally referred to an allergist. She told me that I had no allergies but probably just had trouble processing certain foods, and gave me dietary guidelines to follow.

Meanwhile, my doctor had put me on medication for anxiety because he said that anxiety contributed to acid production and it might help with my stomach issues. The medicine did help with anxiety, but it also made me more depressed. In fact, it made me so depressed that all I saw was darkness for months. I couldn’t seem to smile, and getting out of bed every day was exhausting to the point of being painful. I did not realize that it was the medicine that caused these feelings, and calling to schedule an appointment with my doctor was more difficult than I could handle. So, this went on for about 6 months. When I finally was able to call the doctor and get off the medicine, I felt that a great weight had been lifted off of me. I started taking another medicine soon after that helped relieve my anxious thoughts, and I felt like all was right with the world again.

A week later, I was going to pick up my friend from the airport when a car made a left turn in front of me. The crash totaled my car and deployed the airbag, which broke my thumb. I got a rental car and within a week, I had a flat tire. At this point, I just laughed. It seemed only appropriate that after all I had been through, I would have the luck to get a flat tire on my rental car.

The point of all of this is that about two years ago, I said a very important prayer. In that prayer, I told God that I was incredibly happy and that I was so grateful for the happiness and joy I had found, but that I was willing to give it up to become better. I was willing to give up my happiness and the easiness of my life to draw closer to God and to become a better person. I did not expect all of the trials that followed, but when they came, I knew in my mind that as bad as things were, my prayer was being answered.

Last week, my brother backed into my car while pulling out of the driveway. A year or two ago, I would have been upset. I might have even yelled or cried or said something inconsiderate. But I had become a new person. I looked at the car, made sure that the doors could still open, and told my brother not to worry about it. I didn’t even feel upset because it was just a car, after all. The car wasn’t important. The way my brother felt was important. I was more worried about how upset he was with himself than I was about the dent in my car.

That’s how things have been lately. I don’t get upset like I used to. I don’t yell at people. I just understand. I understand what it is like to have a bad day or a bad week or month or year. So I can forgive people for their bad days and for their mistakes. I have been able to help and serve others with dietary restrictions because I understand their needs. I still struggle with depression at times, and I still have pain from my car crash, but I have hope. I could write an entire other post about all the ways that God has blessed me and helped me through these trials. This post though is just about seeing the good that comes from our trials.

I am looking for a new job closer to home that will allow me more time to go to school and spend time with family and friends and take care of myself. I am not sure if I would have made the decision to move on from my current job if I had not gotten in that car crash. I know that I have not seen all of the blessings from the trials I faced in the last two years, but I am grateful for the ones I have seen so far. As bad as things were, they will probably end up being the greatest blessings of my life and influence the type of person, and wife, and mother that I will one day become.

Do not despair. Do not give up. It is okay to cry. It is okay to feel broken. It is okay to not be okay. But cling to hope, cling to faith, cling to love. One day you will see that all the brokenness led you to greater joy than you could ever have imagined.

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.”

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.

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.

Continue in Prayer

Sometimes we feel our prayers aren’t answered even though we’re praying for good things. Sometimes this means we need to change our prayers, and sometimes it means we need to pray for other things while we wait for God’s timing.

Two examples in my life illustrate these points.

The first was praying for a friend. I prayed for 15 years for a friend who would spend time with me. I had people who were friendly towards me, but no one who would consistently spend time with me. I wasn’t invited to birthday parties. I wasn’t invited to sleepovers. I wasn’t invited to come over after school. And I didn’t feel welcome when someone took pity on me and did invite me to something.

So I prayed over and over for just someone that I could feel like wanted me around. And it took 15 years. It took 15 years for that prayer to be answered. But it has been answered over and over again over the last 5-6 years. And every time I think about it, I’m not bitter that it took so long. I’m just grateful for how miraculously it was answered and for how grateful I feel now because of how long it took.

The second example illustrates the need for changing my prayers. I have struggled with depression and suicidal thoughts for as long as I can remember. I have prayed for depression to be taken away. I prayed for life to not be so hard. But I was answered that depression would not go away for me. Instead, I was prompted to pray for things like strength to not listen to my suicidal thoughts, peace despite the whirlwinds of anxiety, patience in my trials, and perseverance to handle it all.

No, not all of our prayers will be answered with miraculous healing or changing of our situation. Sometimes our prayers are answered by us changing instead, and perhaps those are the most miraculous answers of all.

Courage

Lately, I have been reading several stories from President Monson. Something that has really impacted me is what he says about promptings. Many of his stories related times when responding immediately to promptings saved someone’s life. And he said that he learned to never postpone a prompting and that he wants God to know that if he needs something done, he can count on him to do it.

I have thought about that a lot over the last few months. It’s really hard to commit to following all the promptings God gives you right away. It’s hard partly because it’s super scary and partly because I don’t know for sure when thoughts are promptings or just me. It says in the scriptures though that anything that persuades people to do good is from God. So to be safe, I just assume all of my good thoughts are promptings. That leaves the second part, that promptings are super scary.

I have never felt scared more often than I do now. Every time I get a prompting, I just think, “oh, man… What do I do now?” It’s scary doing good things for people. It’s scary talking to people or making comments. Every time I do, it causes extreme anxiety and discomfort. I worry about what I’m doing from the time I get the prompting until long after I’ve done whatever I was prompted to do. But courage isn’t the absence of fear; it’s the decision to act despite being afraid.

Yes, I feel more scared than ever before. But I am listening to those fears less than I ever have before. It’s still scary. I still worry about having a panic attack or things going horribly wrong. But I would rather be anxious and afraid by doing good than comfortable in my complacency by failing to act to improve someone’s life. Following promptings doesn’t usually mean saving people’s lives, but I just think that maybe it will make someone less sad just a little faster, and that is worth all the anxiety I go through to do it.

But if Not

Live freely. Live joyfully. Live like you know the plan God has for you.
But… Don’t be afraid to hurt. Don’t be afraid to break. Don’t be afraid to be lonely.

One of my favorite passages of scripture is where Shadrack, Meshack, and Abednigo say that the Lord is able to deliver them, but if not, they will still only worship God.

I think about that over and over with my trials. Sometimes, the answer is a pure and simple no. Sometimes God says something like, “No, you need this more than you need me to take it away.”

I know it’s hard to believe. I get it. How can something this hard or this painful possibly mean that God loves you? But I believe it. Yes, God could take away all my problems, but the fact that He doesn’t is not an indication that He doesn’t care or that He isn’t there.

I have asked for God to take away my autism, depression, gender identity issues, and health problems. So far, the answer has been no. I can’t explain how grateful I am for that though. I don’t know who I would be without all of these problems, or the good that I could do if I didn’t struggle with these things. However, I do have a glimpse of the good I have done because of my problems.

I know I have saved lives, changed people, given hope, been an example, and made a difference- all because I suffered. So, when I get a no answer, or when I ask for a yes, I’ll continue to say, “but if not, I’ll still believe,” because I know that God has a much bigger plan for me.

Life isn’t always easy. It gets hard and you forget how to breathe sometimes. But there is a God who loves you, and He can carry you through and lift your burdens so you can hardly feel them, but if not, know this… it will be for the good. Maybe not necessarily your good, at least not at first… but someone’s good.

Perfect Love Casteth Out Fear

There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.
1 John 4:18

This is one of my favorite scriptures. I have a lot of fear in my head. I fear people. I fear what they can do. I fear being rejected or hurt or yelled at or ignored by others. When I want to do good, my mind tells me that I should not because I fear being hurt.

I love this scripture so much though because it is the reason I keep doing good anyway. Even though my mind tells me all of the reasons I am not good enough and all of the reasons I have to fear, my heart tells me to love anyway. I keep doing good because I know “perfect love casteth out fear.”

I do not love perfectly. I do not love even close to perfectly. And I pray constantly and consistently to love more and to love better. Today in church we talked about this chapter and one of my favorite people commented about how she can understand God because she understands love. I thought about how I don’t understand love. I understand a glimpse of love. I understand the surface of love, but I struggle to understand what it means to love and be loved.

However, I have also been learning about compassion. “In the scriptures, compassion means literally to suffer with. I understand suffering. I understand what it feels like to suffer with someone. I am not sure if that is the same thing as love, but I know that I feel love when I show compassion. And because I feel love when I show compassion, I tell my fears to be quiet for the moment while I do something good.

I am still afraid of doing good. I still fear the consequences of being kind. But I remember to love anyway and that love casts out fear, even if just for a minute while I do something good. I cannot love perfectly right now, but I can love right now. I can do good right now despite the fear, and I can let that love cast out fear for a moment until the day where the fear will be dispelled with perfect love.