Ever since about fourth grade, I’ve grappled with frequent severe migraines. These aren’t just headaches—my migraines involve all-consuming pain often accompanied by nausea, dizziness, temporary blind spots, numbness, exhaustion, occasional slurred speech, and hypersensitivity to noise, smells, and light.
These experiences are isolating, frustrating, and humbling. In the moment, the pain feels ever-present and eternal. This kind of suffering can make it easy to believe that relief will never come, even when previous experiences provide evidence otherwise.
The author J.K. Rowling skillfully described what this fear feels like in her explanation of dementors, magical creatures that symbolize despair in the Harry Potter series:
“ … they drain peace, hope, and happiness out of the air around them. … Get too near a dementor and every good feeling, every happy memory will be sucked out of you.”
The strategy for combating dementors in the wizarding world is a Patronus charm, a defensive spell conjured by summoning powerful memories of positive emotions. The Patronus often takes the form of an animal, which serves as a guardian against a dementor attack.
We also have a protector to call upon when deliverance seems out of reach. When pain or darkness “threaten our peace to destroy,” we can take courage in Jesus Christ, our Savior and Redeemer.
Here are three truths that remind me I can always find hope because of Him.
1. Light Overcomes Darkness
“There is no darkness so dense, so menacing, or so difficult that it cannot be overcome by light,” taught Elder Vern P. Stanfill. While migraines quite literally compel me to stay in darkness, I can find hope knowing there is a metaphorical light at the end of the tunnel.
Through Christ, we will ultimately overcome our physical, spiritual, and emotional limitations. As we read in the New Testament, “God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain” (Revelation 21:4).
In moments where I’ve needed to wait for waves of pain and nausea to pass, I’ve found peace, perspective, and light in the knowledge that Christ will help me overcome my mortal afflictions someday.
The gift of the gospel of Jesus Christ is that it can give purpose to our suffering. We can find comfort in our knowledge of a larger plan—we know how this story of good and evil ends, and light will overcome darkness.
When, like Paul, we ask the Lord to remove “a thorn in the flesh” and experience no relief (2 Corinthians 12:7–10), we can feel a keen sense of sadness and loss. But because of Christ, we don’t have to lose our hope. The philosopher Adam Miller said:
“The very practice of religion is not so much at the end of the day of finding a way to get God to give you what you want, which is mostly how I thought about it as a kid, but instead the very essence of it is to mourn. … to find a way to handle loss and to handle that loss together in a way that can redeem it.”
Christ redeems our pain and suffering. He can strengthen us in our infirmities and weaknesses and make it possible to overcome the consequences of sin and death.
Trusting in the Lord while we’re struggling is a choice—not something that comes automatically or will always be easy. But I know that when we turn to Him in our darkest and most difficult moments, He will strengthen us and help “consecrate [our] afflictions for [our] gain”—even when we don’t see the immediate effects or meaning of our trials (2 Nephi 2:2).
2. Life Comes in Seasons
We can take comfort in the fact that trials are temporary—a small season in the grander scheme of eternity. As we read in 2 Corinthians 4:17:
“For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.”
This very impermanence also gives greater meaning to seasons of joy and helps us appreciate the contrast between the bitter and the sweet.
Pain is inherently linked to our ability to ultimately feel joy. The Book of Mormon teaches that “men are, that they might have joy” (2 Nephi 2:25) while also exploring the necessity of “an opposition in all things” (2 Nephi 2:11).
This principle helps me understand that seasons of suffering make seasons of joy possible. We don’t need to worry that difficult trials will last forever or become anxious when embarking upon a new season. God has a plan for our lives, and we can trust that “[to] every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven” (Ecclesiastes 3:1).
Challenges can refine us and help us learn lessons that come no other way, often preparing us for better seasons ahead.
As many missionaries can attest, time feels incredibly compressed during a mission—with some transfers feeling like entire lifetimes and others passing by in the blink of an eye. Due to the pandemic, my mission turned out to be a shorter season than I anticipated, at only seven months. But the lessons I learned will stay with me for eternity.
My interactions with companions, mission leaders, members, and people that I taught have prepared me for personal, professional, and spiritual seasons alike, and I’m grateful for the experiences that shaped me—even the difficult ones.
3. There is Always One Who Understands
We are never alone in our pain and suffering because the Savior knows how to “succor [us] according to our infirmities” (Alma 7:12). In moments when no one else on Earth can understand what we are going through, we can rest in the truth that He can perfectly empathize with us and give us the strength we need to press on.
As Elder David A. Bednar has taught, “In a moment of weakness we may cry out, ‘No one knows what it is like. No one understands.’ But the Son of God perfectly knows and understands, for He has felt and borne our individual burdens.”
One of my favorite scriptures is Isaiah 43:2, in which the Savior describes His constancy in supporting us through trials:
“When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee; when thou walkest through the fires, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee. For I am the Lord thy God.”
Like dementors, I associate the image of overflowing waters with the experiences of pain, grief, and depression. Sometimes, we feel as though we are drowning and flailing, overcome by darkness and deafening silence, desperate for the relief of oxygen and a secure harbor.
These emotions can make it difficult to feel God’s love. In A Grief Observed, C.S. Lewis writes:
“The time when there is nothing at all in your soul except a cry for help may be just the time when God can’t give it: you are like the drowning man who can’t be helped because he clutches and grabs. Perhaps your own reiterated cries deafen you to the voice you hoped to hear.”
Even when we are drowning and can’t seem to reach God, Christ serves as an intermediary who can reach through the depths and pull us to safety.
Yongsung Kim created a beautiful painting called The Hand of God, which depicts Christ reaching out to the viewer through a surface of water. The colors in the left corner of the image beneath the water are dark but become progressively lighter as your eye travels to the focus of the painting: the Savior and His outstretched hand.
Christ can reach beyond our pain and help us overcome suffering we cannot endure alone. Elder Dale G. Renlund has taught, “The Savior loves to restore what you cannot restore; He loves to heal wounds you cannot heal; He loves to fix what has been irreparably broken; He compensates for any unfairness inflicted on you; and He loves to permanently mend even shattered hearts.”
I know Christ can reach through our pain and help us find hope. As we trust in Him, we can always trust that light will overcome darkness, seasons are temporary, and He will always be there for us—no matter the trial.