Deliverance is Nigh

Summary: The gospel of Jesus Christ has been described at the plan of happiness, but there are active members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints whose lives are not filled with joy and happiness, whose home life is far from being ideal, who feel they will never be able to live the commandments well enough to become saved into the celestial kingdom, and who don’t have a strong testimony that the church they belong to is really Christ’s true church. This article looks at the reasons for feelings such as these and offers ways to find hope and happiness

Alma asked the people of his church, “And now behold, I say unto you, my brethren, if ye have experienced a change of heart, and if ye have felt to sing the song of redeeming love, I would ask, can ye feel so now?” (Alma 5:26),

Since 1830 when the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was officially organized, untold millions of people have embraced the restored gospel and have seen their lives become filled with joy. Those who have converted from their former life can testify that they “have experienced a change of heart,” and even among those who’ve been raised in the church and have grown up in loving homes are able “to sing the song of redeeming love.”

Wherever the church is found throughout the world, we find lives that have been transformed into ones of Christ-like kindness and compassion for others and where members greet one another as beloved brothers and sisters. Truly, “there could not be a happier people” (4 Nephi 1:16). This is why Alma has described the gospel as “the great plan of happiness” (Alma 42:8).

However, this is not always true for all members of Christ’s restored church. There are those who are active in their church participation, but who struggle with personal problems, whose lives are not filled with joy and happiness, whose home life is far from being ideal, who feel they will never be able to live the commandments well enough to become saved into the celestial kingdom, and who don’t have a strong testimony that the church they belong to is really Christ’s true church. They hope it is, but they’re plagued with doubts.

These are people who see others in the church who seem happy, who seem to have the Spirit of God with them all the time, and who have an unshakable testimony that the church is being led by divinely appointed prophets and wonder why they can’t be like them. This then leads to the feeling that there must be something wrong with them and then they tell themselves that no matter how hard they try, they will never become as spiritual as they would like to be.

Here is a sampling of comments made by active members of the church expressing their feelings of inadequacy:

I feel like I’m just a part of the herd, that I’m just one person lost in a sea of people, and not needed. I wonder if I matter and whether anyone cares if I live or die. I feel so small, insignificant, and invisible. I wonder if God really knows what I’m going through because it seems like he doesn’t hear me when I pray. I feel like I’m failing God. I feel like I’m disappointing him I know intellectually God loves me but I don’t feel that love, especially when I go through hard, painful times, and am struggling just to make it through each day.

I feel like I’m not doing enough, I’m not reading my scriptures every day.; I’m not praying as much as I should. I’m not magnifying my calling as much as I can. There’s so much I should be doing that I’m not doing. I have so many faults and weaknesses. I feel like I’m not measuring us and I feel so far away from make it back to heaven.

I’ve been dancing to the tune of the gospel for years but I can’t hear the music. I do all the things I’m supposed to be doing – reading my scriptures, attending church, fulfilling my callings, going to the temple but I don’t feel that I’m progressing spiritually. I feel as though I’m just going through the motions, and not getting anywhere. I don’t feel the joy that everyone else says they feel. I don’t have wonderful spiritual experiences that others have. I don’t feel I’m receiving personal revelation and have to rely on what others tell me I should do.

I struggle with my testimony and have questions and doubts about the restored gospel. I struggle to understand the gospel let alone live it. I read the scriptures and don’t get much out of them. We’re told that if we read the scriptures every day that I’ll have peace and happiness in my home but that doesn’t happen for me. I yell at my children a lot, and my husband and I argue all the time. I don’t feel the Spirit in my life and I feel spiritually exhausted most of the time

I want to have an eternal family, but I don’t see that happening for me. I found out my husband is addicted to pornography. My husband has left me. My husband has left the church. I try to teach my children the gospel, but they don’t want to have anything to do with the church anymore. Have I done something wrong? Is this my fault? What will happen to me after I’m resurrected if my family doesn’t come with me?

The question people like these have is, if the gospel is the plan of happiness, then why do I feel so unhappy, especially when so many others seem to be filled with joy? If the church is true, then why do I have so many doubts about it? If I’ve been given the gift of the Holy Ghost to be my constant companion, then why don’t I feel the Spirit in my life? If I truly am a child of God, then why don’t I feel his love?

Because these kinds of questions are negative in nature, it’s only natural for people to come to a negative conclusion, which is that the reason they can’t do what others are doing is because they don’t have what it takes to live in the celestial kingdom, and so they go through life feeling unworthy and unhappy.

The first thing wrong with this kind of thinking is that people tend to compare themselves to others who seem to be so spiritual without realizing that even the best member has their faults and are struggling to live the gospel. No one is immured from troubles, heartache, and sorrows. We all have doubts. We all have times when we get upset, angry, and do things we wished we didn’t, and no one is happy all the time.

The problem we create for ourselves is that we usually see people when they’re on their best behavior and then assume that’s the way they are all the time. But even though we too show our best side in public, we know that our private life isn’t what it is in public, so we shame ourselves for not measuring up to unrealistic expectations.

The second thing wrong with this kind of thinking is that we assume that everyone is the same. In other words, if someone is strong in the gospel then we should be too, but the truth is that we are all different. In the Book of Abraham we read, “Now the Lord had shown unto me, Abraham, the intelligences that were organized before the world was; and among all these there were many of the noble and great ones… and he said: These I will make my rulers” (Abraham 3:2-23).

In our pre-moral life, not all of us were noble and great. Some were greater than others and some had greater abilities than others. Not everyone can be a great ruler, and among the millions of people who’ve accepted the gospel, very few will ever become worthy enough to be the President of the Church. As great a prophet as John Taylor was, he wasn’t near as great as Joseph Smith, even though he was a close associate of him. Brigham Young was a remarkable prophet and yet, in comparison, he was inferior to Adam, Noah, Abraham and Moses, and they were all inferior to Jesus.

Not everyone is a great scholar of the scriptures, or a great teacher, or has a great testimony or great faith nor is everyone a great parent, just like not everyone is a great cook, or artist, lawyer or doctor. When we compare ourselves to others, it’s easy to feel inferior for not measuring up to them, but this a false comparison. Just because broccoli isn’t as tasty as eating a peach doesn’t mean it’s of no value.

In the same way, even though the role of a prophet is an important one, yet the role of the ward librarian or a nursery worker is just as important in its sphere. The gospel of Jesus Christ isn’t designed to save just the spiritually strong but is “adapted to the capacity of the weak and the weakest of all saints” (D&C 89:3).

But there’s another problem to comparing ourselves to others and that is we all have different experiences in life. Some people are born into a loving, nurturing family and raised by caring parents, while others grow up in an abusive family, in poverty, or under hard circumstances, and the environment we grow up in has a significant impact on how we face life.

For example, we revere Joseph Smith as a great prophet, but he was raised by loving parents who supported him. Had he been raised by an abusive father or an alcoholic mother, that experience would have caused him to have a very different outlook on life. The fact that he was born in early rural America instead of in a large modern-day metropolitan city would have also made him a different person.

Then again, there have been people who grew up in less-than-ideal circumstances but who were fortunate to have someone come along whose influence completely changed the direction of their life, while others who were born into that same situation weren’t as fortunate. As a result, their life took a very different path.

We’ve often heard successful men praise their wife for the influence she had on their career, but the opposite is just as true. There are women and men who have married someone who have made their life miserable and impeded their success. Since each of us have different experiences that shapes the kind of person we become, therefore it’s spiritually destructive to compare ourselves to those who we think as being so much better than us.

Then what can we do when we feel inferior, inadequate, or discouraged because our life doesn’t seem to be as spiritually fulfilling as we wish it was? The answer is to change the way we look at the circumstances of our life.

To illustrate this, there was a man who had a son who wore out his shoes rather quickly and the father often complained to him about this, even threatening to have his son buy his own shoes if he didn’t take better care of them. Then one day this father saw a man who had a crippled son who could only walk with great difficulty. It was then that he realized how fortunate he was that his son had two healthy legs. From that time on, this father never complained about having to buy shoes for his son.

In the church there’s a lot of emphasis placed on keeping the commandments which tends to make us think that we’re expected to be perfect in keeping all of them all of the time, but what is often overlooked is that our church leaders have also emphasized that all God expects is for us to keep trying to do the best we can.

The scriptures tell us to “see that all these things are done in wisdom and order; for it is not requisite that a man should run faster than he has strength. And again, it is expedient that he should be diligent, that thereby he might win the prize, therefore, all things must be done in order” (Mosiah 4:27).

We are all at different levels of spirituality and ability and even that can change from time to time when we find ourselves in different circumstances, therefore we need to use wisdom in what we expect of ourselves. Just like we’ve been told not to eat more than we can chew, so also, we do what we can and not become overly concerned about what we can’t do.

There’s an old saying that Rome wasn’t built in a day. In that vein, what we should keep in mind is that perfection doesn’t happen in a day. In fact, we have all of eternity to reach perfection. In the meantime, all “the Lord requireth [is our] heart and a willing mind” (D&C 64:34), and to “be diligent” and remember that “all things must be done in order.” God judges us on our heart more than he does our results, and it’s our efforts that brings forth the smiles of heaven, not how perfectly we’re able to do something. Even a tortoise will cross the finish line as long as he keeps moving forward. It’s persistence that brings about perfection.

Life is full of disappointments, heartbreaks, sorrow, and pain, and when they come, our patience and spiritual well-being can be severely strained and stretched to the limit. Sometimes life can feel like we’re on a raging river riding in a small raft that’s being tossed about and buffeted with no ability on our part to control what’s happening. At times like that, we can feel helpless, along with a growing sense of fear brought on by uncertainty.

Sometimes, despite our best efforts to draw close to the Lord, we don’t feel very spiritual, and doubts begin to erode our faith. There are times when we may feel all alone and when we pray for help it may seem as though God is a million miles away and doesn’t care about us. But that’s not an unusual feeling. Even apostles have felt like that at times. In fact, even Jesus felt that way during one of the worst moments of his life as he hung on cross (Matthew 27:46). When we find ourselves in situations like this, what can we do to find peace, comfort, and hope?

There are several things. The first is to know that God is well aware of who you are and what you are going through. We were not dropped off here on earth and then left to survive on our own. Our Father in heaven knows each one of us personally and intimately, and there is no place we can go, no matter how dark, or deep, or far that God is not there watching over us, and there is no hurt, or sorrow, or pain we can go through, no matter how small or large, that God isn’t aware of. There isn’t a single person on this earth who is ever truly alone because there are countless angels – our spirit brothers and sisters – who are always there beside us.

But if that is true, then why don’t they help relieve our suffering?

We need to remember that one of the crucial reasons we came to earth was to experience pain and suffering, both physical and mental, because it’s a necessary part of what it takes to become like God, and is a tool that’s meant to help us develop faith. Even Jesus came to earth to have these same kinds of experiences.

When we talk about pain and suffering, what Jesus experienced in the garden of Gethsemane was even hard for him to bear, yet no matter how exquisite the pain, he had to endure it on his own because if the pain was lessened then it would have lessened the scope of the atonement. Even while he hung on the cross, it was necessary for him to experience the loss of his Father’s spirit.

As members of Christ’s restored church, most of us are familiar with how Joseph Smith suffered in Liberty jail during one long, bitterly cold winter, but that was just the physical part. There was also the emotional stress he endured because during his stay there, the saints, including his wife and children, were being forcibly driven out of the state while Joseph was unable to do anything to help or even give them guidance and direction. And while his wife and family, along with thousands of other saints trudged nearly 300 miles across the frozen Missouri land, with hardly any of their possessions, not knowing where they were going and not sure what fate awaited them, Joseph was left to worry about them, without any way to know if they were going to live or die.

Under circumstances like these, even Joseph cried out in despair to the Lord, wondering where he was hiding, why he wasn’t answering his prayers, and why he was allowing all of this to happen to him and to his beloved saints. And then the Lord responded by saying he was well aware of what was happening and explained “that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good” (D&C 122:7). But then he added these sobering words, “The Son of Man hath descended below them all. Art thou greater than he?” (D&C 122:8).

When we understand that even the prophets of God were required to endure great suffering, it can help us to realize that we’re not alone in our sorrows. Although that doesn’t take away our pain, it can help us endure them a little easier knowing that we’re in good company and that it’s helping us to become a little more like God, even if we don’t fully understand how.

However, even though it may be necessary for us to go through rough times, God doesn’t leave us to suffer alone. As Jesus endure unimaginable pain in the garden of Gethsemane, and even though he had to endure the full burden of his suffering alone, yet God sent “an angel unto him from heaven, strengthening him” (Luke 22:43), In the same way, as we are suffering, God sends angels, not to take away our pain, but to help strengthen us to endure it.

But when we expect God to step in and make things better, and that doesn’t happen then we assume God doesn’t care about us. However, many times, God sends us little blessings that helps lessen our pain and gives us the strength to keep going, except we tend to dismiss them because that’s not what we’re looking for. When we’re struggling and in pain it’s only natural for us to focus on what’s going wrong, but when we take the time to count our many blessings, we’ll see how much God has done for us and that’s when we’ll realize how blessed we really are and how much God really does care about us.

To help keep us from losing that focus we need to develop the attitude of gratitude. We should make it a habit to continually look for the blessings in our life, both large and small, and give thanks to God for them. When we do that, we will be amazed at how many things we have to be thankful for.

And we should also be thankful for even the so-called “bad” things that happen because many times they turn out to be blessings in disguise. It’s been said that problems are really blessing dressed up in work clothes, so as we focus on the positive things in our life and less on the negative, we will find ourselves dealing with our problems with less anguish and a little more optimism.

Another thing we can do is to understand that Satan is always waiting and watching for opportunities to destroy our faith, and one of his greatest tools is doubt, which he uses to instill a feeling of hopelessness, discouragement, depression, fear, or perhaps even anger. His goal is to separate us from God, and because these feelings come so naturally when we’re going through difficult times, it becomes easy to give into them. And as we do, they grow stronger, which then makes it harder to break free from them

Therefore, one of the things we can do to help us resist the urge to give into our doubts and fears is to remember that the worth of each soul in great in the eyes of God (D&C 18:10). That means YOU are extremely important to God and that he cares deeply about you, personally.

And the reason why is because each of us earned the right to come to earth to live in mortality because of our commitment to the Father’s plan in our pre-mortal life, and that makes each one of us a special person to God. And when we accept the gospel in this life and make a covenant with Christ through baptism, and remain faithful to it, that makes us even more special to him.

In the 2016 April general conference, President Uchtfdorf taught, “Our Savior, the Good Shepherd, knows and loves us… He knows when you are lost, and He knows where you are. He knows your grief. Your silent pleadings. Your fears. Your tears. It matters not how you became lost—whether because of your own poor choices or because of circumstances beyond your control. What matters is that you are His child. And He loves you.”

Whenever we feel like our life is meaningless, or that God has forgotten us, or that our problems are too hard to bear, always remember, and never doubt that God knows what we’re going through and he’s there helping us more than we realize. Our problems are never as bad as they would be if it wasn’t for his angels – both seen and unseen – strengthening us.

And there is yet another thing that can help, which is to remember that no matter how bad things may seem, life is short, and then, if we have endured to the end in being faithful to God, there is a glorious life of unimaginable peace and joy waiting for us. When it seems there is nothing but darkness all around us, that’s when we need to focus on the light at the end of the tunnel and keep moving towards it.

That light is the promise of eternal life. It’s our lifeboat that keeps us from falling into the turbulent waters of despair and hopelessness, and the stronger the winds of adversity blow, the tighter we need to cling to that lifeboat. However, as we’re being tossed about, our natural reaction is to leave the safety of the boat because we imagine that it won’t do us any good, but, in reality, abandoning the vision of eternal life will only make things much worse.

Remember, when dark clouds of trouble hang over us and threaten our peace to destroy, there is always hope shining before us if we never forget that deliverance is nigh.

 

 

Related articles can be found at The Nature of Spiritual Growth

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