Sunday, March 28, 2010

Sunday Inspirations March 28, 2010

This morning during my fast thoughts came racing to my mind regarding the suffering we go through in this life, the hard times we frequently find ourselves enduring. Images and connections seemed to come at lightening speed as I thought about Christ and the Atonement. I snatched up a pen an piece of scratch paper and began to write as fast as my imperfect hands would allow. I'd like to share these thoughts with you.

Let me paint you a picture. Christ has just arrived at the Garden of Gethsemane with His closet friends, the apostles. Inviting three to accompany Him, Jesus finds a spot a ways off wherein He resides Himself to "partake of the bitter cup." Leaving Peter, James and John - for this is something so sacred no mortal can behold the unfolding events - Christ enters the sacred place in a garden He dearly loves.

An unexpected heaviness weighs on Him, something He's never felt before. Even before He begins to pray a change in the very atmosphere affects Him. It is no stretch of the imagination to think of Him being a bit alarmed. In His prayer we witness a small crack in His composure. "Father," He may have prayed, "I'm not sure what's going on here. For the first time I'm feeling nervous, anxious, and heavy. I'm not certain if I can do this. If it's at all possible, Father please, please let this cup pass." Yet His plea does not end there. "Nevertheless, Thy will be done."

Let us think for a moment what it must have been like for our Father to hear this most extraordinary Son ask for the harshness to be taken away, and yet be willing to endure if that's what He felt was best. Don't you think His arms reached out in an instinctive motion to take his Son in a big hug and say, "Of course you don't have to endure this. No more, my perfect Son, no more." He did not, of course, because there were lessons to be learned, trials to be experienced, and mercy to be met - not for Christ. Not for the perfect one, but rather for the rest of us. Because both knew there would be times when we would feel just as dark, as scared, and hopeless.

At last the excruciating agony ended, but only for a time. Once more Christ knelt to experience the extreme pain of sins compounded upon even more sins. Perhaps this second time was even more difficult than the first. I cannot help but think the most extraordinary part of all is He came back a third time. The agony was so great He bled from every pore. Heavenly Father sent down an angel to support Him during this dark time. Things were so bad Christ prayed "more earnestly." Can you imagine that, the need for our Savior to pray more earnestly? Perhaps at that moment He finally knew what it felt like, that need to pray harder and longer when we are in the depths of darkness.

I believe the most frightening moment for Jesus was when the Father withdrew His Spirit. For the first time in His entire life Christ knew what it meant to be utterly cut off from the Father. There was no influence. No light. No angels. No support whatsoever. And because the Spirit was not there, Satan's influence was free to enter; to buffet Him from all sides, even to help Christ know more than any of us can realize what it means to be in complete darkness.

What do you think it felt like when the Spirit at last returned, for the light to come back? Do you think Christ appreciated it more than He had ever done before. Don't you think this connection to the Father became more precious than ever before?

We are sometimes given experiences to help us grow and learn in ways we could not do otherwise. Some of these things we even agreed to endure in the pre-existence, knowing they would help us in becoming the individual Heavenly Father knows we need to be to help further His work along.

One of my greatest trials in the last few years has been depression. It's an ugly thing, leaving one with no hope, no light, no way of feeling the Spirit. I can look at others around me and see them being influenced, and simply feel dead inside. At times I have wondered what was so wrong with me. I have heard others wonder why Heavenly Father hates them so much, though I have never thought that myself. Prayers appear to go unheeded. All that seems left to us is a sensation of falling deeper and deeper into intense and seemingly everlasting sadness.

Here is what I've learned. Sometimes when our prayers seem to go unanswered, it's because we're not praying the right prayers. What we want to have happen simply cannot be done, because there is a greater purpose to our suffering. We cannot see the bigger picture and struggle to understand why the life of one little soul here on earth could be so important in the grand scheme of things.

What we need to do is change our prayers. We cannot stop with telling our Father what we feel we need, but always add, "Thy will be done." And of course ask for support, help and love. That's when He sends us angels. They come in the form of family, friends, and others who give what little they can during our time of need. Christ was sent one angel. Just one. To the rest of us are given angels in abundance to support us during our difficult times. They are not perfect angels, and they cannot take the pain and heartache away from us, but they can be the shoulder we need to cry on, or the arm we need to lean on when things are too heavy to bear.

I want to pause for a moment to share one thought regarding something we will NEVER be asked to endure. The only way we could go through this is if we purposely turned away from the light of Christ, denying Him and the Father. We will never be asked to know what it means to have the Spirit and influence of God taken from us. There will never be an absence of light, of hope, so long as we choose to do precisely what Christ chose - to keep going on.

During your darkest time when friends and family offer words of hope, of love, and of testimony, imagine the arms of the Father being opened up to you, to embrace you as He cannot. He will not always take the hardships away, for that is not a part of His plan...of OUR plan. It is not the way to eternal happiness.

Many of us out there stand as a living testament to what a small amount of hope and faith can do for someone in need. I myself have endured pain and sadness so intense I felt as though I might drown in the darkness of it all. I would never want to repeat these experiences, yet I am grateful for each one, as they have taught me much in my short life. Each time the darkness is lifted, the light appears so much sweeter than before.

If you are suffering at this time, I ask you to hold on. Hold tight to your testimony, no matter how strong or weak it may be. Pray for strength, for angels, and for the support you need until the time He lifts the suffering from you. I cannot say when that time will come, but I can promise one day there will be an end. And oh how sweet will be the light when it is returned to you.