What happens when a child misbehaves? As a daughter of God, I mess up and frequently fail. It happens every day. This process of falling down and transgressing doesn’t shock or surprise my Father. He knew I would not always get things right. It’s part of a process on the ideal path of learning that God established for all His children. He provided a Savior, and in doing so He ensured all His children the chance of success, regardless of our sins or transgressions. So why have so many of us forgotten His love? How did we go from rejoicing about the Father’s plan in that premortal family council meeting to thinking we were sent to earth to never make a mistake and that if we did, He would withhold His love? When did we start thinking that God would love us and accept us only if we were perfect?
I am sure the answer to those questions falls into the category of psychology, where all the imperfect earthly parents raise all those imperfect children and we start to inherit false beliefs. Maybe the breakdown in remembering occurred with the veil of forgetfulness when we were born. Because we forgot, we don’t always feel that free, unconditional love. And because we forgot a lot of other things, we might also forget that God is always there. Always.
So how can you remember? One way is remembering that truth clears distortions. And where can you find truth? In the scriptures. Scriptures are powerful tools for remembering, which leads to a deep knowledge of eternal principles that give life. One such principle is love. “Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God.” This verse teaches that we must know God to love one another. And to know God is to know love. And when we know God and love, we will live. I get that. I see that the secret to loving everyone (including myself) is knowing God. And that knowing God is knowing love, because God is love.
But what if you don’t know God? What if you don’t know God’s love?
I hear you saying, “Ganel-Lyn, knowing God’s love must be easy for you, but not so much for me. I deal with depression and anxiety. Everyone tells me God loves me and that they love me, but I just don’t feel it or believe them.”
I hear you.
In August 2017, we experienced a solar eclipse. I live in Utah, and many people here weren’t satisfied with an 89 percent eclipse. They wanted to experience totality, so they trekked to the closest mega-viewing area, which happened to be in nearby Idaho. We chose not to make the drive and opted to just enjoy social-media posts and watch videos of the totality phenomenon from our home. With no special lens or glasses, we saw our living room darken. As we went out onto the porch, we felt the summer heat dissipate and the temperature drop almost instantly. Even with only an 89 percent blocking of the sun, our environment and perspective were altered. Then, within minutes, the moon passed by, and the sun returned to its full glory.
I pondered the impact of this event. With a partial block of the sun, the light in our lives literally dimmed. For some of my more adventuresome neighbors—the ones who made the trek to Idaho—the light was blocked completely.
Much like the physical eclipse of the sun, we can experience spiritual or emotional eclipses of the Light of the World. Maybe it happens because of depression, self-doubt, or questions of faith, but when it does happen, the light and warmth of God’s love—His Spirit—is substantially dimmed. At its worst, that light and warmth is completely blocked. It’s a total eclipse of the heart (to borrow a Bonnie Tyler phrase).
Think carefully about that parallel. During an eclipse, the sun hasn’t disappeared; it has just been blocked. Even when we can’t see the sun, we know it isn’t gone—it has just been obstructed. But many people can’t seem to understand that that same parallel applies for spiritual and emotional eclipses. They fall into the trap of believing that when they cannot feel the Spirit, it is because the Spirit has gone away, not that He is there but is obstructed. In that circumstance, everyday situations feel overwhelming, and those experiencing this are paralyzed with anxiety. If this spiritual or emotional eclipse continues for an extended time, what happens? They start to believe they aren’t enough. They believe they can never be enough. It becomes almost impossible for them to remove the obstruction to feel the warmth and love of God.
Who among us can say that he or she has not felt fear? I know of no one who has been entirely spared. Some, of course, experience fear to a greater degree than do others. Some are able to rise above it quickly, but others are trapped and pulled down by it and even driven to defeat. We suffer from the fear of ridicule, the fear of failure, the fear of loneliness, the fear of ignorance. . . . Let us recognize that fear comes not of God, but rather that this gnawing, destructive element comes from the adversary of truth and righteousness. Fear is the antithesis of faith. It is corrosive in its effects, even deadly. “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 need not fear as long as we have in our lives the power that comes from . . . God our Eternal Father.
If this eclipse of the heart has happened or is happening for you, please let me reassure you that neither the sun nor the Son has abandoned you. The depression or anxiety or whatever else you’re experiencing is just blocking the light that is ever-present. And I promise that whatever is blocking the Light will move; the darkness will disappear, and the Light will eventually return. Until then, you may just have to wait and stay steadfast. In your waiting, trust that healing will come and that the love you may not be feeling is still there. Turn to those who know and who remember. Allow their testimonies to transmute your test. And then look forward with a perfect brightness of hope that better days are to come.
A therapist once shared with me that hope is not a feeling—it is a choice. A choice to keep choosing a plan B when plan A doesn’t work out. So if plan A hasn’t worked like you hoped, keep choosing another plan B. Maintain and protect the hope and love you still have, and seek out sources that will expand that light. Reading the scriptures, saying your prayers, and attending the temple and church meetings aren’t just the Primary answers— they are the primary right answers to how we can keep acting instead of being acted upon. They are the answers as to how we can look to God and live.
Knowing God’s love means we come to know that God is there. We come to know His love is there even when we feel the dark seeping in around us. Over time, childlike trust can grow into a belief and then into a knowing, especially if we have people in our lives helping us nurture those feelings of love and faith. My grandmother was key in my development of learning, believing, and then knowing. For some reason, God blessed me enough to send me a grandma who would teach me what pure love felt and looked like. Morine wasn’t my grandma by blood but instead by marriage and heart. She married my grandfather before I was born. And I have been told that she loved me from the very beginning. Grandma would leave her job as a teller for the Bank of America and come over on her lunch breaks just to hold me. As I grew older, my bond with her grew.
She taught me the art of writing thank-you notes and decorating a table for the holidays. She loved shoes, jewelry, and purses—pretty much anything pretty. She kept a journal and gave me my first journal. She did yoga way before it was cool and ate organic fruits and veggies before it was hip. When she fought breast cancer seven different times, she taught me what true strength and beauty looked like. She got her nails done when there wasn’t any more hair to style. Grandma took pride in living the gospel and looking beautiful—both of which she pulled off perfectly.
I loved her. And she loved me. I cry even now as I write this, just reliving the memories of her. She has been gone for more than 12 years, but during our last conversation in mortality, I held her beautiful, aged hand and stared intently, trying to memorize every wrinkle and age spot. I wanted to always be able to recall how soft her skin was and, more importantly, how it felt to just sit and be loved by her. She thought I walked on water. Really. People would often comment when we were together that I looked just like my mom, thinking she was my mom. It always made us both smile because we weren’t even related by blood and she never had children of her own. She loved and embraced being a stepmother and grandmother and eventually even a great-grandmother.
We talked every day. And every time I was with her, she made me feel like I could do anything. She believed in my potential, and she recognized my inherent greatness. I don’t know what I did to warrant that kind of confidence, but I will forever be grateful to God that He saw fit to teach me about such complete love through the life and eyes of my nana. When she finally graduated and passed on, I was holding her in bed.
I still feel her ministering to me, comforting and encouraging me from the other side of the veil. I feel her joy and pride when my children advance in their lives. I know she would have (and probably did) burst with pride, seeing my son, Cameron, leave to serve a full-time mission in Zimbabwe. On the days that God’s love has been eclipsed and the temperature has dropped in my soul, I remember my nana. And then I once again know and remember the feeling of love and light. So if you don’t have a nana, you can share mine. She would love you—completely. She would cheer you on and cheer you up. Believe it.
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland confirms my thoughts about God’s love:
My declaration is that this is precisely what the gospel of Jesus Christ offers us, especially in times of need. There is help. There is happiness. There really is light at the end of the tunnel. It is the Light of the World, the Bright and Morning Star, the “light that is endless, that can never be darkened.” It is the very Son of God Himself . . . It is the return of hope, and Jesus is the Sun. To any who may be struggling to see that light and find that hope, I say:
Hold on. Keep trying. God loves you. Things will improve. Christ comes to you in His “more excellent ministry” with a future of “better promises.” He is your “high priest of good things to come.”
Lead image from Shutterstock
For more inspiring counsel and stories from Ganel-Lyn Condie, check out her latest book, You Are More Than Enough: You Are Magnificent. Available at Deseret Book stores and on deseretbook.com.