Sunday, June 30, 2013

Looking up

I am going to piggy back off of a talk that was shared in sacrament meeting today.  It was awesome, to say the least.  His focus was on gratitude.  The way he taught it, though, was by focusing on the idea of "looking up."  This hit me so hard because I realized that once again I had been so caught up in my own problems that I had neglected to express my gratitude to my Heavenly Father.  I wanted to sneak out right then and fix this.  What I learned from this talk is that we are always going to struggle with something in our lives, and if we look down, Satan will pull us down further.  He will blind us from the light that is always surrounding us.  But if we can exercise even a little bit of faith by looking up, looking to the Lord, looking to the light, we will be given the power and strength we need to get through anything.  This brother also said, however, that even if we are looking up, Satan will still try to pull us down with fear.  We have to cast out fear and let faith take over.  I came across an article from this month's Ensign that hit this idea perfectly.  This is by Elder Brent H. Nielson, and it is entitled: "Move Forward with Faith."

"The biggest challenge seems to be fear—fear of the future, fear of failure, fear of not knowing who {we} are or what {we} can become. I have learned a very important lesson. In the gospel of Jesus Christ, fear is the opposite of faith. If you have fear, faith diminishes, but if you have faith, fear diminishes."
This is me!  I constantly fear all of these things.  There was a time in my life when it was so easy to have faith.  I literally never doubted that things would work themselves out.  I am now far removed from that person, and it has been quite the battle to find that conviction again.  I keep thinking about this situation where I desperately needed guidance.  I felt like Heavenly Father wanted me to do something big, but it scared me.  Logically, I could not see how it would work out.  I feared what it would mean for the future.  I feared we would in no way be prepared and we would fail.  I just could not see it working out.  Well, I received one very strong witness that I should listen to what Heavenly Father was telling me.  Then Satan started working on me really hard.  He threw everything he could at me to scare me, and it worked for a while.  So Jeff and I fasted together about this, and we both immediately knew the answer.  When the answer came, all of the fear I had been feeling for the past months were immediately replaced by peace and joy and excitement.  However, it did not take Satan long to start messing with me again.  I prayed for strength to rise above this and see the light that is promised us.  I needed to know without a doubt that we were making the right decision.  My third confirmation came a few days later, when I felt filled with that beautiful light and hope.  This time it stayed!  I knew we needed to listen to what Heavenly Father was telling me, so I finally acted on this loving inspiration.  Now I have to exercise faith in His plan for us as we walk forward into the future.
"In The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we need have no fear. We need not fear death, because we have faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and His gift of the Resurrection. We need not fear what man can do to us, because we know that if God is with us and if we have faith in Jesus Christ, we can accomplish whatsoever thing is expedient to His work (seeMoroni 7:33). We need not fear the future, because we know that as we keep the commandments, the Lord will bless us.
Paul teaches, “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7). We move forward with faith in God the Father and in His Son, Jesus Christ."
When you read those quotes, don't you just feel like saying "How could I ever fear anything knowing what Heavenly Father has given me and promised me?"  That is how it makes me feel.  We must look up, to the promises and blessing surrounding us.  Life will be hard at times.  It will bring heartbreak and uncertainty.  Burdens will weigh us down at times.  We will probably lose sight of what is important and miss many glorious blessings while we are in that lost state.  However, we need to know that Heavenly Father will never abandon us.  He sacrificed His only begotten Son so that we could have hope in our future, so that we would never truly be alone in this life.  Because of what the Savior did for us, He is able to lift us up and carry us when we need it.  No matter the difficulty we are facing, we will eventually find our way back to the light if we can exercise the faith to look up.  That is what the Atonement is for.  That is why we have the gospel today so that we can have this knowledge, so we MUST use it.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Reaching for the light

These past few months have been a constant battle of ups and downs.  I hope it is ok to bare my soul a little bit here.  I have battled depression before, but this time around has been so different.  I would go back and forth between feeling peace and happiness, and then feeling so completely sad that I didn't seem to care about anything anymore.  I felt darkness.  I felt extreme anxiety, guilt, and sadness.  Every little mistake I made felt like I had committed some horrible sin.  I tried everything I could think of  to live my life righteously, knowing that if I kept holding onto that, surely I could receive heavenly help to pull out of this funk.  Finally, I realized that I was fighting Satan.  I was having a hard time opening my heart during my prayers.  I often wondered if they ever made it passed the ceiling.  I literally could not feel the spirit anymore.  At church, I felt this wall blocking it out, keeping me from feeling the spirit there.  When I read the scriptures, I felt guilt, instead of their power.  I stopped seeing the blessings I know were surrounding me daily.  It was so hard to fight this.  So hard.  I have never felt this way before.
Finally, I realized what I needed to do.  I poured my heart out to Heavenly Father.  I told him that I was not strong enough to fight this.  I could not carry out my responsibilities as a wife and mother constantly feeling this way.  I needed His help to remove this burden from my heart, that I would not feel it anymore.  I acknowledged that only Satan could make me feel this way, and I needed Heavenly Father's love and support to rise above.  He did answer my prayer almost immediately.  I felt at peace for the first time in months.  I was able to be happy and see clearly.  I was able to enjoy the blessings that were all around me.  I had put off re-reading this conference talk by Elder Uchtdorf, "The Hope of God's Light."  For some reason, I had felt afraid.  But I finally read it when some of this darkness cleared, and I can't help but feel it was meant for me.  I am going to include some of it here:

There may be some among you who feel darkness encroaching upon you. You may feel burdened by worry, fear, or doubt. To you and to all of us, I repeat a wonderful and certain truth: God’s light is real. It is available to all! It gives life to all things.1 It has the power to soften the sting of the deepest wound. It can be a healing balm for the loneliness and sickness of our souls. In the furrows of despair, it can plant the seeds of a brighter hope. It can enlighten the deepest valleys of sorrow. It can illuminate the path before us and lead us through the darkest night into the promise of a new dawn.
This is “the Spirit of Jesus Christ,” which gives “light to every man that cometh into the world.”2

First, start where you are.
Isn’t it wonderful to know that we don’t have to be perfect to experience the blessings and gifts of our Heavenly Father? We don’t have to wait to cross the finish line to receive God’s blessings. In fact, the heavens begin to part and the blessings of heaven begin to distill upon us with the very first steps we take toward the light.
The perfect place to begin is exactly where you are right now. It doesn’t matter how unqualified you may think you are or how far behind others you may feel. The very moment you begin to seek your Heavenly Father, in that moment, the hope of His light will begin to awaken, enliven, and ennoble your soul.5 The darkness may not dissipate all at once, but as surely as night always gives way to dawn, the light will come.
Second, turn your heart toward the Lord.
Lift up your soul in prayer and explain to your Heavenly Father what you are feeling. Acknowledge your shortcomings. Pour out your heart and express your gratitude. Let Him know of the trials you are facing. Plead with Him in Christ’s name for strength and support. Ask that your ears may be opened, that you may hear His voice. Ask that your eyes may be opened, that you may see His light.
Third, walk in the light.
Your Heavenly Father knows that you will make mistakes. He knows that you will stumble—perhaps many times. This saddens Him, but He loves you. He does not wish to break your spirit. On the contrary, He desires that you rise up and become the person you were designed to be.
To that end, He sent His Son to this earth to illuminate the way and show us how to safely cross the stumbling blocks placed in our path. He has given us the gospel, which teaches the way of the disciple. It teaches us the things we must know, do, and be to walk in His light, following in the footsteps of His Beloved Son, our Savior."

This talk made me feel like I wasn't alone.  Surely there were others out there struggling with this.  And the answer to my problem is so simple.  Turn to the Savior.  He is the true Light of the world.  I can't believe I had forgotten it, and how the Savior had carried me so many times before.  Why would this time be any different?  And as soon as I asked for Him to remove this burden, He took it.  He carried it for me.  We are so blessed to have the knowledge of the Gospel.  I can't imagine facing my trials without this knowledge.  I would be lost without it.  I am so grateful to my Heavenly Father for not giving up on me while I struggled to find my way.  I am so grateful to my Savior for lifting me when I couldn't stand on my own.  I hope that this can help someone else who may feel this way at times too.  And of course, here is my token song to go along with my post.  Click on the link below: