Turning to “a Man of Suffering, Acquainted With Grief” to Heal Us
Of all the things that can go wrong, or be frustrating in just an average day with schooling, work, family, and other responsibilities, it can be easy to get discouraged or overwhelmed. If life wasn’t hard enough, for many of us, that is only the beginning. Add in a persistent depressed mood, or anxiety, or mistreatment. Maybe you’ve lost your job, or don’t have enough working hours to pay your bills. Maybe you’ve lost someone you love or are watching someone you love fade away in physical, cognitive, or spiritual decline.
Perhaps you are lonely or seeking an as yet, unknown loving companion. Maybe the marriage you have is not as comfortable as it used to be or is fraught with contention or abuse. Maybe the relationship you had has crumbled to bitter pieces. Perhaps you suffer from chronic pain, or disability. Maybe you have a child who is struggling in school or in their faith. Maybe you are struggling in school, or with your faith. Maybe past or present trauma or abuse has left your life in seemingly tattered, terrible, and yet invisible pieces. Maybe you struggle under the weight of sin, in any of its many forms.
Any most likely, you have any number of the foregoing and are also treading against the tide among worldwide pandemic, economic uncertainty, political and racial contention, and general uncertainty about the future. The truth is that among life’s troubles all of us either have, do, or will feel, at best, like life is just not working out the way we hoped it would. Or at worst, like life is just not worth living at all. There is too much and not enough.
The holy scriptures are filled with stories and verses that teach about suffering and I will share an attempt at reviewing some of these at a later date. At present I will focus predominantly on teachings and statements provided by leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I think it is no small thing that despite the level of optimistic realism, miraculous faith, and surprising humility manifest by the First Presidency and Quorum of the 12 Apostles of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, many (if not all) of them have expressed what I consider to be a profound awareness of suffering and affliction, as well as indications of intense personal struggles.
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland has said, “When crises come in our lives- and they will-the philosophies of men interlaced with a few scriptures and poems just won’t do.” (Broken things to Mend p.62). We need the healing power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. Only by going to Him on our knees in fervent prayer may we be guided and comforted by the Divine. Elder Dallin H. Oaks teaches:
To each of us our Savior gives this loving invitation: Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28–30).
The scriptures contain many accounts of the Savior’s healing the heavy laden. … Often we read that the person healed of … physical ailments was “made whole” (see Matthew 14:36; 15:28; Mark 6:56; 10:52; Luke 17:19; John 5:9). Jesus healed many from physical diseases, but He did not withhold healing from those who sought to be “made whole” from other ailments. Matthew writes that He healed every sickness and every disease among the people (see Matthew 4:23; 9:35). Great multitudes followed Him, and He “healed them all” (Matthew 12:15). Surely these healings included those whose sicknesses were emotional, mental, or spiritual. He healed them all.”
(Dallin H. Oaks, “He Heals the Heavy Laden,” Ensign, Nov 2006, 6–9)
Sometimes we might think that something is wrong- either with us or with the “Plan of Happiness” (Alma 42:8,16) when we are facing pain, sorrow, fear, loneliness, or other tribulations. Surely something must be amiss, some flaw exists somewhere, otherwise this wouldn’t be happening.
I would like to share a bit about some of the potential purposes of suffering, and then outline some ways to effectively cope with or reduce suffering. The first of these is explained by Elder Holland. In this context he is speaking to missionaries about missionary work, but as you will read, it has application to all of us.
[you] will have occasion to ask, Why is this so hard? Why doesn’t it go better? Why can’t our success be more rapid? …. I am convinced that missionary work is not easy because salvation is not a cheap experience. Salvation never was easy. We are The Church of Jesus Christ, this is the truth, and He is our Great Eternal Head. How could we believe it would be easy for us when it was never, ever easy for Him? It seems to me that [we] have to spend at least a few moments in Gethsemane. [we] have to take at least a step or two toward the summit of Calvary.
Now, please don’t misunderstand. I’m not talking about anything anywhere near what Christ experienced. That would be presumptuous and sacrilegious. But I believe that.. to come to the truth, to come to salvation, to know something of this price that has been paid, [we] will have to pay a token of that same price.
For that reason I don’t believe missionary work has ever been easy, nor that conversion is, … nor that continued faithfulness is. I believe it is supposed to require some effort, something from the depths of our soul.
If He could come forward in the night, kneel down, fall on His face, bleed from every pore, and cry, “Abba, Father (Papa), if this cup can pass, let it pass,” 16 then little wonder that salvation is not a whimsical or easy thing for us…. When you struggle, when you are rejected, when you are spit upon and cast out and made a hiss and a byword...You have reason to stand tall and be grateful that the Living Son of the Living God knows all about your sorrows and afflictions. The only way to salvation is through Gethsemane and on to Calvary. The only way to eternity is through Him — the Way, the Truth, and the Life.”
(Jeffrey R. Holland, “Missionary Work and the Atonement,” Ensign, Mar 2001, 8).
There is something about mortality, something about reaching for eternal glory that requires us to experience even in an infinitesimal way, how it feels to suffer along our own path through our own Gethsemane. We come to know him better and thus become just a little more like him. Another reason why we suffer builds upon the first. This is from Elder James E. Faust:
Here, then, is a great truth. In the pain, the agony, and the heroic endeavors of life, we pass through a refiner’s fire, …It is part of the purging toll exacted of some to become acquainted with God. In the agonies of life, we seem to listen better to the faint, godly whisperings of the Divine Shepherd.
Into every life there come the painful, despairing days of adversity and buffeting. There seems to be a full measure of anguish, sorrow, and often heartbreak for everyone, including those who earnestly seek to do right and be faithful. …
The thorns that prick, that stick in the flesh, that hurt, often change lives which seem robbed of significance and hope. This change comes about through a refining process which often seems cruel and hard. In this way the soul can become like soft clay in the hands of the Master in building lives of faith, usefulness, beauty, and strength. For some, the refiner’s fire causes a loss of belief and faith in God, but those with eternal perspective understand that such refining is part of the perfection process.
Elder Faust then quotes a fellow former apostle:
…Elder Orson F. Whitney (1855–1931) of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles asked and answered this question:
‘To whom do we look, in days of grief and disaster, for help and consolation? … They are men and women who have suffered, and out of their experience in suffering they bring forth the riches of their sympathy and condolences as a blessing to those now in need. Could they do this had they not suffered themselves?
‘… Is not this God’s purpose in causing his children to suffer? He wants them to become more like himself. God has suffered far more than man ever did or ever will, and is therefore the great[est] source of sympathy and consolation.’
Elder Faust continues…
Isaiah, before the Savior’s birth, referred to Him as ‘a man of sorrows’ (Isaiah 53:3). Speaking in the Doctrine and Covenants of Himself, the Savior said, ‘Which suffering caused myself, even God, the greatest of all, to tremble because of pain, and to bleed at every pore, and to suffer both body and spirit — and would that I might not drink the bitter cup, and shrink.’ (D&C 19:18)
…There is a divine purpose in the adversities we encounter every day. They prepare, they purge, they purify, and thus they bless…Out of the refiner’s fire can come a glorious deliverance. It can be a noble and lasting rebirth. The price to become acquainted with God will have been paid. There can come a sacred peace. There will be a reawakening of dormant, inner resources. A comfortable cloak of righteousness will be drawn around us to protect us and to keep us warm spiritually. Self-pity will vanish as our blessings are counted.
(James E. Faust, “Refined in Our Trials,” Ensign, Feb 2006, 2–7)
If we would view suffering as an opportunity to pay the price to become acquainted with God and to become more like him, with greater capacity to strengthen others in distress, I think we would bear our trials with a least a little more patience and greater faith.
I want to share some strategies for how we can use gospel principles to effectively cope with, or reduce suffering. There are literally dozens of things I could share here but I will only outline a few. The first has to do with what and how we think, as well as what we say. “As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he” (Proverbs 23:7) is a familiar saying, and it is true. Before I go any further, I believe it’s important to draw a distinction between our heart (our deeper self, our spirit) and our mind (our cognition, brain thoughts), although there is a correlation between the two. This distinction is an article by itself but just log that away as something to be aware of. At present I’m focusing on brain thoughts more than heart thoughts.
How many times have you heard from well-meaning but non-depressed people to: Just think happy thoughts! Don’t think about it! Be positive! Let it go!
The problem is that it’s not quick or easy to change what we think. So when we try to think positively or push negative or otherwise unhealthy thoughts away, more often than not, those “bad” thoughts come right back. And eventually we start to feel like there’s no way to escape them. We learn to cringe and bristle when people say similar things to us or others, and we dismiss the counsel outright. Things aren’t that simple we say. And we’re right. And wrong.
How does one become a skilled baker, a proficient teacher, a truly capable caregiver, a quality musician, an impressive athlete? There is a certain degree of deliberate repetition (practice) that is necessary before one becomes skilled at any craft or trade. One does not become a master at anything until many thousands of hours has been expended in consistent quality effort. In time what felt effortful, forced, memorized; becomes fluid, natural, inherent. We become something more. Something new. Should we expect the mind to be any different? Would we expect the reward to be any less?
If we are persistent and seek to not only to keep negative thoughts out, but to bring positive thoughts in, the quality of our thoughts will begin to change. Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the 12 Apostles gave wise advice regarding what we should say, and I believe it can be directly applied to what we think. He said,
“negative speaking so often flows from negative thinking, including negative thinking about ourselves. We see our own faults, we speak — or at least think — critically of ourselves, and before long that is how we see everyone and everything. No sunshine, no roses, no promise of hope or happiness. Before long we and everybody around us are miserable.
I love what Elder Orson F. Whitney once said: ‘The spirit of the gospel is optimistic; it trusts in God and looks on the bright side of things. The opposite or pessimistic spirit drags men down and away from God, looks on the dark side, murmurs, complains, and is slow to yield obedience.’6 We should honor the Savior’s declaration to “be of good cheer.” (Indeed, it seems to me we may be more guilty of breaking that commandment than almost any other!) Speak hopefully. Speak encouragingly, including about yourself.
“… Our words, like our deeds [and our thoughts], should be filled with faith and hope and charity, the three great Christian imperatives so desperately needed in the world today. With such words, spoken under the influence of the Spirit, tears can be dried, hearts can be healed, lives can be elevated, hope can return, confidence can prevail.
(Jeffrey R. Holland, “The Tongue of Angels,” Ensign, May 2007, 16–18)
As you undoubtedly have learned, the ability to consistently change our way of thinking is no trivial or quick task. How does one complete a marathon? Shear will power alone? Constantly engaging in antagonist or negative self-talk? A wise runner engages in a variety of habits, consistently, over an extended period of time. A wise runner seeks advice and direction, sets realist goals, is patient with set-backs and never gives up trying. A wise runner understands that training is a lifestyle one adopts in order to achieve a goal, and completion of that goal does not bring an end to all training. So it is with the mind.
Even though our “natural” mind or body (See Mosiah 3:19) may dispose us to a host of mortal ailments (including negative thinking), our spirit must strive to practice self-mastery, to keep our thoughts where we want them to be. The spirit and the body are often at odds with each other, and part of our purpose here in mortality is to overcome the flesh, or as President Lorenzo Snow said, engage in “warfare with the flesh.” The following quote from him contains themes of having a disciplined mind, and overcoming weaknesses of the flesh, which certainly could include dwelling too much on depressing things:
We may think that we cannot live up to the perfect law, that the work of perfecting ourselves is too difficult. …When we experience trying moments, then is the time for us to avail ourselves of that great privilege of calling upon the Lord for strength and understanding, intelligence and grace by which we can overcome the weakness of the flesh against which we have to make a continual warfare.
“Abraham could walk perfectly before God day after day …and he showed evidences of a superior and well-disciplined mind … under the blessing of God he was enabled to acquire [a disposition of faith and integrity], after going through a similar warfare with the flesh as we are, and doubtless being overcome at times and then overcoming until he was enabled to stand so severe a test [as offering is son Isaac].
“Let this mind be in you,” says the Apostle Paul, “which was also in Christ Jesus” [Philip. 2:5–6.]
(Lorenzo Snow, “Blessings of the Gospel Only Obtained by Compliance to the Law,” Ensign, Oct 1971, 16)
The power and application of hymns is another excellent tool to combat tribulation and sorrow. Before I started looking/noticing, I never realized how rich the Hymns are with references to sorrow or pain, and more importantly the healing that comes from the Savior. Often in times of great distress, when we feel alone, a sacred Hymn, “a prayer unto [the Lord]” (D&C 25:12) can serve as immense source of comfort. Here are just two of many possible examples in the hymnbook of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, although these are not exclusive to that church:
Master, with anguish of spirit
I bow in my grief today.
The depths of my sad heart are troubled.
Oh, waken and save, I pray!
Torrents of sin and of anguish
Sweep o’er my sinking soul,
And I perish! I perish! dear Master.
Oh, hasten and take control!
“Master the Tempest is Raging” Hymns, no. 105
When through the deep waters I call thee to go,
The rivers of sorrow shall not thee o’erflow,
For I will be with thee, thy troubles to bless, …
And sanctify to thee thy deepest distress.
When through fiery trials thy pathway shall lie,
My grace, all sufficient, shall be thy supply.
The flame shall not hurt thee; I only design …
Thy dross to consume and thy gold to refine. …
“How Firm a Foundation,” Hymns, no. 85
Take the time to read Hymns as well as sing them. Ponder on them as messages from you to God and from God to you and they will become powerful supports during your times of distress and darkness.
The next thing we can do is to serve others. This is from David S. Baxter of the Quorum of the Seventy.
President Benson taught, ‘To press on in noble endeavors, even while surrounded by a cloud of depression, will eventually bring you out on top into the sunshine.’
There is something about service that brings about a marvelous change in how we think and feel about ourselves. As we stretch our souls in service, we begin to forget our own challenges, and we are blessed with good feelings — even joy.
President Spencer W. Kimball (1895–1985) taught this concept most powerfully: “The more we serve our fellowmen in appropriate ways, the more substance there is to our souls. We become more significant individuals. … Indeed, it is easier to ‘find’ ourselves because there is so much more of us to find!”7 So it can be for us as we lose ourselves in the service of others.”
David S. Baxter, “Overcoming Feelings of Inadequacy,” Ensign, Aug 2007, 10–14
Christ’s greatest act was not for himself, or for his own glory, or benefit. The Atonement was for others- for us, a willing and voluntary sacrifice made for all the children of God. As hard as it might be, turn your cognitive eyes away from your own suffering, and look about you. Find very small and simple ways of showing kindness, love, or service to others. Even if it’s only a smile, or a brief text message you will find that your burden is just a little lighter than before. Then keep doing it.
Christ’s life was filled with service to others even when he was suffering. It is only fitting that he would expect that we, even in our times of distress and depression, seek to do the same. He will bless those we serve, and he will bless us in our efforts to look beyond our own pain and alleviate the suffering of those around us. This is one of the many paradoxes of the Gospel:
“For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.” Matt. 16: 25
In 2009 Dr. Martin Seligman, a very prominent researcher on positive psychology spoke at a forum at Brigham Young University. One of the things he encouraged students to do everyday was write down three things that went well for you and why. Research has shown that by doing that consistently, your mood and your outlook changes for the better.
In general Conference President Henry B. Eyring shared how he was inspired to keep a journal, or a record of events in his life. Quoting from his talk:
...just as I got to the door, I heard in my mind — not in my own voice — these words: “I’m not giving you these experiences for yourself. Write them down.”
I went inside. I didn’t go to bed. Although I was tired, I took out some paper and began to write. And as I did, I understood the message I had heard in my mind. I was supposed to record for my children to read, someday in the future, how I had seen the hand of God blessing our family…
I wrote down a few lines every day for years. I never missed a day no matter how tired I was or how early I would have to start the next day. Before I would write, I would ponder this question: “Have I seen the hand of God reaching out to touch us or our children or our family today?” As I kept at it, something began to happen. As I would cast my mind over the day, I would see evidence of what God had done for one of us that I had not recognized in the busy moments of the day. As that happened, and it happened often, I realized that trying to remember had allowed God to show me what He had done.
More than gratitude began to grow in my heart. Testimony grew. I became ever more certain that our Heavenly Father hears and answers prayers. I felt more gratitude for the softening and refining that come because of the Atonement of the Savior Jesus Christ. And I grew more confident that the Holy Ghost can bring all things to our remembrance — even things we did not notice or pay attention to when they happened.”
(Henry B. Eyring, “O Remember, Remember,” Ensign, Nov 2007, 66–69)
By doing this simple daily task of writing down something that went well for you, or evidence of the hand of the Lord in your life, gratitude and faith will increase, dispelling feelings of despair or negativity. “Count your many blessings” is a hymn that encourages this very thing.
When upon life’s billows you are tempest-tossed,
When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost,
Count your many blessings; name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord has done.
Are you ever burdened with a load of care?
Does the cross seem heavy you are called to bear?
Count your many blessings; ev’ry doubt will fly,
And you will be singing as the days go by.
Now I don’t have enough faith to have experienced the “every doubt will fly” part, but the principle is still sound. When we bring to our full attention the good things in our lives, and feel gratitude for what we have, we are better off.
As a recovering pessimist (or rather, aspiring optimist) I can hear you now:
“I’m depressed and broke-counting my blessings is not going to change anything.”
“I’m disabled and intensely shy, I can’t serve others.”
“Obviously God doesn’t care because it seems like all I do is suffer.”
“I’ve tried thinking positive- it doesn’t help.”
“What good can these silly practices actually do to address real problems?”
These reactions and any number of their variations are common.
I understand those sentiments.
I’m not saying that by themselves, following the above counsel will solve all your problems. But I can tell that just as we nurture a thriving garden, career, or relationship; just as we build a home, write a book, or hone a skill; good things take ongoing wise effort.
Do we give up chasing our passion because the market is too competitive? Do we give up the dream of a family because things aren’t working out? Do we stop trying because we’ve been diagnosed with a chronic illness? If we do, it’s not because we wanted to quit, but because our negative mindset has taken hold. We listened to the wrong voices for too long.
Thinking and writing positively, finding solace in sacred music, and turning to the Lord are key components to the unfolding puzzle of physical and social health. And so it is we arrive at my concluding point: God WANTS to walk with you on your journey and he has already gifted you power and healing beyond comprehension.
Regardless of the depth and breadth of medicinal, emotional, behavioral, or religious practices you may employ to overcome adversity, we will find our truest healing and deepest peace through the Atonement of Jesus Christ. His Atonement is for sinners and for aspiring saints. For all those who are broken or breaking or healing in any way.
We generally think or assume that the broader the scope, or wider the influence, the more impersonal the application. That is not the case with things of God. The Atonement of Jesus Christ is eternally universal in its power and its influence, yet it is miraculously personal, individual, and intimate. Remember the Savior and his suffering when you suffer. And don’t forget that progress takes time.
“Let me suggest that hands are made clean through the process of putting off the natural man and by overcoming sin and the evil influences in our lives through the Savior’s Atonement. Hearts are purified as we receive His strengthening power to do good and become better. All of our worthy desires and good works, as necessary as they are, can never produce clean hands and a pure heart. It is the Atonement of Jesus Christ that provides both a cleansing and redeeming power that helps us to overcome sin and a sanctifying and strengthening power that helps us to become better than we ever could by relying only upon our own strength. The infinite Atonement is for both the sinner and for the saint in each of us.
… We will not attain a state of perfection in this life, but we can and should press forward with faith in Christ along the strait and narrow path and make steady progress toward our eternal destiny. The Lord’s pattern for spiritual development is “line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little” (2 Nephi 28:30). Small, steady, incremental spiritual improvements are the steps the Lord would have us take. Preparing to walk guiltless before God is one of the primary purposes of mortality and the pursuit of a lifetime; it does not result from sporadic spurts of intense spiritual activity. I witness that the Savior will strengthen and assist us to make sustained, paced progress.”
David A. Bednar, “Clean Hands and a Pure Heart,” Ensign, Nov 2007, 80–83
Just as we cannot expect meaningful or lasting change when we have random and solitary cram sessions in order to learn a new language, we cannot expect to bring about cognitive or spiritual change through sporadic bursts of effort by ourselves.
Here’s another two quotes from Elder Holland. They’re a little long but definitely worth the time.
Now I speak very carefully, even reverently, of what may have been the most difficult moment in all of this solitary journey to Atonement. I speak of those final moments for which Jesus must have been prepared intellectually and physically but which He may not have fully anticipated emotionally and spiritually — that concluding descent into the paralyzing despair of divine withdrawal when He cries in ultimate loneliness, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”16
The loss of mortal support He had anticipated, but apparently He had not comprehended this. Had He not said to His disciples, “Behold, the hour . . . is now come, that ye shall be scattered, every man to his own, and shall leave me alone: and yet I am not alone, because the Father is with me” and “The Father hath not left me alone; for I do always those things that please him”?17
With all the conviction of my soul I testify that He did please His Father perfectly and that a perfect Father did not forsake His Son in that hour. Indeed, it is my personal belief that in all of Christ’s mortal ministry the Father may never have been closer to His Son than in these agonizing final moments of suffering. Nevertheless, that the supreme sacrifice of His Son might be as complete as it was voluntary and solitary, the Father briefly withdrew from Jesus the comfort of His Spirit, the support of His personal presence. It was required; indeed it was central to the significance of the Atonement, that this perfect Son who had never spoken ill nor done wrong nor touched an unclean thing had to know how the rest of humankind — us, all of us — would feel when we did commit such sins. For His Atonement to be infinite and eternal, He had to feel what it was like to die not only physically but spiritually, to sense what it was like to have the divine Spirit withdraw, leaving one feeling totally, abjectly, hopelessly alone.
But Jesus held on. He pressed on. The goodness in Him allowed faith to triumph even in a state of complete anguish. The trust He lived by told Him in spite of His feelings that divine compassion is never absent, that God is always faithful, that He never flees nor fails us. When the uttermost farthing had then been paid, when Christ’s determination to be faithful was as obvious as it was utterly invincible, finally and mercifully, it was “finished.”18 Against all odds and with none to help or uphold Him, Jesus of Nazareth, the living Son of the living God, restored physical life where death had held sway and brought joyful, spiritual redemption out of sin, hellish darkness and despair. With faith in the God He knew was there, He could say in triumph, “Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit.”19
Brothers and sisters, one of the great consolations of this Easter season is that because Jesus walked such a long, lonely path utterly alone, we do not have to do so. His solitary journey brought great company for our little version of that path — the merciful care of our Father in Heaven, the unfailing companionship of this Beloved Son, the consummate gift of the Holy Ghost, angels in heaven, family members on both sides of the veil, prophets and apostles, teachers, leaders, friends. All of these and more have been given as companions for our mortal journey because of the Atonement of Jesus Christ and the Restoration of His gospel. Trumpeted from the summit of Calvary is the truth that we will never be left alone nor unaided, even if sometimes we may feel that we are. Truly the Redeemer of us all said, “I will not leave you comfortless. [My Father and] I will come to you [and abide with you].”20
( Jeffrey R. Holland, None were with him April, 2009 lds.org)
But when such difficult moments come to us, I testify that there is one thing which will never, ever fail us. One thing alone will stand the test of all time, of all tribulation, all trouble, and all transgression. One thing only never faileth — and that is the pure love of Christ.
Only the pure love of Christ will see us through. It is Christ’s love which suffereth long, and is kind. It is Christ’s love which is not puffed up nor easily provoked. Only his pure love enables him — and us — to bear all things, believe all things, hope all things, and endure all things. (See Moro. 7:45.)
Jeffrey R. Holland, “‘He Loved Them unto the End’,” Ensign, Nov 1989, 25
God the Father and His faithful Son Jesus Christ will always be there for us. And it is through Christ’s Atonement that we can gain comfort and strength in our trials.
If we are overwhelmed, pessimistic, anxious, depressed, or facing any other degree of suffering and not seeking the healing and sustaining power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ, we are in fact placing ourselves in a position that will postpone healing. Eventually, if we reject his outstretched hands, we will only find deeper despair and crippled faith.
Please note, that I am not saying that if you are experiencing trials and tribulations of various sorts, that you are somehow lacking in faith or spirituality, but rather that if we fail to include the Atonement at the top of our list of healing sources, (which list could certainly include professional earthly help) we are missing a fundamental principle of redemption and exaltation. And that principle is that without reliance on, and faith in, the redeeming, healing, sustaining, comforting power of Jesus the Christ, we cannot find peace in this life nor in the life to come.
I can promise you that regardless of your past or present (or future) trials, as harrowing or maddening as they may be, Jesus Christ knows them, and knows you. And he knows exactly how to heal you.
No matter what your trial, no matter how deep or intense or hidden your sorrows, pains, or fears. Whether your suffering be big or small, brought about by sin or not, I promise you that Jesus the Christ has the power to help and to heal and to save.
He knows your individual personal pain in a very real and literal way. He loves you. And he so desperately wants you to return home to Him and your heavenly parents.
I testify in humility and conviction that Jesus Christ is the Holy One of Israel, the Lamb and the Son of God. I am absolutely certain that he knows who you are. He knows your name, he knows your story. He knows exactly how you feel- you- your pain. And mine. I testify that the cleansing and healing power of His Atonement is real- it works- and it is wonderful. Christ knows who you are and will not leave you comfortless.
May I suggest one last thing we can do to help us along our path toward overcoming suffering, and reaching eternal peace. No matter how much you think you might understand about Christ’s Atonement and its implications, His prophets make it very clear that there is much we can learn and far more that we simply cannot comprehend. By studying the Atonement, our minds will be drawn to the Savior and his loving, infinite mercy and justice. The more we reflect upon the Son of God, and integrate principles and doctrines of the Atonement into our lives, the happier we will be. As the book True to the Faith states regarding partaking of the sacrament in remembrance of His Atonement, “the more we ponder its significance, the more sacred it becomes to us.” (p.147)
If you’ve made it this far, I’m impressed. Thanks for sticking it out. I would like to conclude with quotes from Elder James E. Faust from a 1999 Ensign Article and the Special Witnesses of Christ video produced in April 2000. While giving him the credit, I share this as if it were my own testimony, and do so as final means of illustrating that despite sorrow, there is also spiritual strength:
In the many trials of life, when we feel abandoned and when sorrow, sin, disappointment, failure, and weakness make us less than we should ever be, there can come the healing salve of the unreserved love in the grace of God. It is a love that forgives and forgets, a love that lifts and blesses. It is a love that sustains a new beginning on a higher level and thereby continues “from grace to grace” (D&C 93:13).
During the years of my life, I have gone to my knees with a humble spirit to the only place I could for help. I often went in agony of spirit, earnestly pleading with God to sustain me in the work I have come to appreciate more than life itself. I have, on occasion, felt the terrible aloneness of the wounds of the heart, of the sweet agony, the buffetings of Satan, and the encircling warm comfort of the Spirit of the Master.
I have also felt the crushing burden, the self-doubts of inadequacy and unworthiness, the fleeting feeling of being forsaken, then of being reinforced an hundredfold. I have climbed a spiritual Mount Sinai dozens of times seeking to communicate and to receive instructions. It has been as though I have struggled up an almost real Mount of Transfiguration and upon occasion felt great strength and power in the presence of the Divine. A special, sacred feeling has been a sustaining influence and often a close companion.”
Elder James E. Faust That we might know thee Ensign, Jan 1999
…I recognize that I am a very ordinary man. Yet I gratefully acknowledge one special gift. I have a certain knowledge that Jesus of Nazareth is our Divine Savior. I know that He lives. I know that through the unspeakable agony of the Atonement, men and women, if they repent, can be forgiven of their sins. Because of the miracle of the Resurrection, all will rise from the dead. I feel His love and marvel at the price He paid for each of us. I wonder how many drops of blood were spilled for me. This is the testimony I give of Him, even in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
Special Witnesses of Christ, Ensign, April 2001