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Have you been asking, ‘Heavenly Father, are you really there?’ This counsel from Elder Rasband could help

Not long ago, I met with a dear friend that I have known and loved for many years. When we met, my friend confided that he had been struggling. He felt he was experiencing, to use his words, a “crisis of faith” and sought my counsel. I felt grateful that he would share his feelings and concerns with me.

He expressed a great longing for what he had once felt spiritually and what he now thought he was losing. As he spoke, I listened carefully and prayed earnestly to know what the Lord would have me say.

My friend asked the question so poignantly phrased in the Primary song: “Heavenly Father, are you really there?” (“A Child’s Prayer,” Children’s Songbook, 12). If you have been asking this same question, I would like to share with you the counsel I offered to my friend and hope that you may find your faith strengthened and your resolve renewed to be a committed disciple of Jesus Christ.

I begin by reminding you that you are a son or daughter of a loving Father in Heaven and that His love remains constant. I know that such reassuring feelings of love are difficult to recall when you are in the midst of personal battles.

Jesus Christ knows about fierce struggles and trials. He gave His life for us. His final hours were brutal, beyond anything we can even comprehend, but His sacrifice for each one of us was the ultimate expression of His pure love.

No mistake, sin, or choice will change God’s love for us. That does not mean sinful conduct is condoned, nor does it remove our obligation to repent when sins are committed. But do not forget, Heavenly Father knows and loves each of you, and He is always ready to help.

As I pondered my friend’s situation, my mind reflected on the great wisdom found in the Book of Mormon: “And now, my sons, remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall” (Helaman 5:12).

I testify that “the gulf of misery and endless wo” is a place no one wants to be. And my friend was feeling that he was on the edge.

In counseling individuals such as my friend, I have explored their decisions made over the years that led them to forget sacred experiences, to weaken their resolve to be righteous, and to doubt. I encouraged them, as I encourage you, to recall, especially in times of crisis, when you have felt the Spirit and your testimony was strong; remember the spiritual foundations you have built. I promise that if you will do this, avoiding things that do not build and strengthen your testimony or that mock your beliefs, those precious times when your testimony prospered will return again to your memory through humble prayer and fasting. I assure you that you will once again feel the safety and warmth of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Each of us must first strengthen ourselves spiritually and then strengthen those around us. Ponder the scriptures regularly and remember the thoughts and feelings you experience as you read them. Seek other sources of truth as well, but heed this caution from the scriptures: “But to be learned is good if they hearken unto the counsels of God” (2 Nephi 9:29; emphasis added).

Ask your questions—you have them; we all do. Ask them of your parents, quorum leaders, Relief Society sisters, and others who have more experience, knowledge, and spiritual strength. Ask them in your mind and heart while you read the scriptures and wait to be taught by the Spirit. Ask the Lord in prayer and be patient for the answer.

Receive counsel from the leaders of the Church and follow them. They are wise, divinely guided servants of the Lord and able to see farther ahead; trust them. Attend Church meetings, especially sacrament meeting, and partake of the sacrament with a repentant and forgiving heart as you renew covenants, including the promise to always remember the Savior, that His Spirit may ever be with you.

Seek the power of the Atonement to strip away your follies so that you can sustain your strength. Encourage those close to you to do the same. We are less troubled when we are helping others rather than sliding into our own despair.

Ammon, in the book of Alma, reflected on his ministry wandering “in a strange land” (Alma 26:36). He wrote, “Now when our hearts were depressed, and we were about to turn back, behold, the Lord comforted us, and said: Go amongst thy brethren, . . . and bear with patience thine afflictions, and I will give unto you success” (v. 27).

Success comes in lifting others, teaching them truths, serving as an example of the power of the Atonement to heal and bless.

In addition, “bear with patience thine afflictions” acknowledges that times will be hard but that as we turn to the Lord, success—as He values success—will be ours. That success is making a difference in the lives of others, and in the process, we rescue both them and ourselves.

It is important to remember the powerful counsel found in Deuteronomy: “Keep thy soul diligently, lest thou forget the things which thine eyes have seen, and lest they depart from thy heart all the days of thy life: but teach them thy sons, and thy sons’ sons” (Deuteronomy 4:9; emphasis added).

Never forget, question, or ignore personal, sacred spiritual experiences. The adversary’s evil intent is to distract us from spiritual witnesses, while the Lord’s desire is to encourage, enlighten, and engage us in His work.

To my friend, and to all who wish to bolster their faith, I give you this promise: as you faithfully live the gospel of Jesus Christ and abide by its teachings, your testimony will be protected, and it will grow. Keep the covenants you have made, regardless of the actions of those around you. Be diligent parents, brothers and sisters, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and friends who strengthen loved ones with personal testimony and who share spiritual experiences. Remain faithful and steadfast, even if storms of doubt invade your lives through the actions of others. Seek that which will edify and fortify you spiritually. Avoid counterfeit offerings of so-called “truths” that are so pervasive, and remember to record your feelings of “love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, [and] temperance” (Galatians 5:22–23).

In the midst of life’s greatest storms, do not forget your divine heritage as a son or daughter of God or your eternal destiny to one day return to live with Him, which will surpass anything the world has to offer.

Lead image: Shutterstock

Image titleIn this timely book, Elder Ronald A. Rasband shares a beautiful message of hope and light, reminding us what we can do to fortify ourselves and receive heavenly guidance. As Elder Rasband teaches, "By divine design, we have been called to the Lord's service leading up to His Second Coming." His apostolic counsel helps us recognize the ways the Lord guides us through the troubled times in our lives to build a greater sense of hope and peace with our foundation fixed on Christ, that ultimately we might accept the Savior's invitation: "Be not troubled" (D&C 45:35). Available now at DeseretBook.com.

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