Some time ago I was traveling for business. My hotel was just a couple of miles from the local temple. One morning, I committed to go to the temple after work. However, work was very, very long that day. I saw dozens of clients in a stressful, fast-paced environment that left me emotionally and physically drained. I headed back to my hotel that night, looking forward to some time to decompress. I walked into my hotel room and saw my temple bag sitting on the bed. What should I do? I knew the Lord would forgive my weakness if I didn’t go, but also knew I’d be blessed for going. After a short deliberation, I changed my clothes, grabbed the bag and headed to the temple.
As I walked in the temple doors, I felt the familiar peace that I’d felt before, but the peace wasn’t complete. I felt stressed. I felt tired. I had many worries on my mind. Things had been changing in my business and I was unsure of how to move forward. These concerns had been present for a few weeks prior, but they were especially intense that night. I tried to put them aside as I prepared for temple worship, but they continued. After the endowment concluded, I sat in the celestial room for a time, pondering my situation. I didn’t get any revelation about what to do, despite my many prayerful requests during the session. I was still tired but was grateful for having served in the Lord’s house.
When I walked out of the temple, I was greeted by a beautiful summer evening. It was dusk and the sunset was gorgeous. I stopped and looked at the horizon, and suddenly I was filled with an incredible measure of peace. I felt calm and serene. My worries about the future disappeared and I felt like everything was going to work out. The strange thing was, I still didn’t know what to do. I still had no direction about how to move forward. But I felt peace. For the moment, my anxiety was gone, and my confidence was high.
Some weeks later I was in sacrament meeting. As we prepared for the administration of the sacrament, we sang the hymn Come Unto Him (Hymns, 114). The lyrics struck me as never before with three distinct truths. The first came as I sang,
I kneel upon the grass and pray, an answer comes without a voice;
It takes my burden all away and makes my aching heart rejoice.
I reflected on my experience in the temple. I thought about how even though my practical situation had not changed from when I entered the temple to when I exited, my outlook had. The same life events were present, but I somehow saw them differently. Whereas before I saw them with fear and trepidation, after I saw them with peace and self-assurance. I was reminded of the people of Alma when they were in bondage to the Lamanites (see Mosiah 24) and were forced to carry excessive burdens under the threat of death. As they pleaded with God for deliverance, He provided a unique solution. He did not immediately deliver them from bondage but strengthened them so their burdens were light, even to the point that they couldn’t even feel them. They still had to live in servitude, subjected to the cruel treatment of their taskmasters, but their burdens were lifted. I reflected on this important truth: Sometimes Christ does not always take away our burdens, but He will always help us carry them.
My wonder increased as the hymn continued:
And when the tempest rages high I feel no arm around me thrust; But every storm goes rolling by when I repose in Him my trust.
Have you ever felt like that? Like the storms have gathered, the rain is pounding, and God is nowhere to be found? Amidst His promises to always be with us, why does it sometimes feel like He is leaving us on our own? I think of Abraham making the trek to Mount Moriah with Isaac. After decades of childlessness, Abraham and Sarah were blessed with a beautiful baby boy, which not only fulfilled their dreams of becoming parents, it provided a way for the Abrahamic covenant to be fulfilled. All of the nations of the world would be blessed through Abraham’s lineage, so lineage was necessary to make this happen. After all that, after all the waiting and praying and worrying, they had a single son. Then the Lord commanded Abraham to sacrifice him. I can only imagine Abraham’s thoughts on the days-long journey to reach the place of sacrifice where, as we know, at the last minute, an angel stopped the slaying. If the intention was for Isaac to live a full life, then why have Abraham go through the charade of having to think he would kill his only son? Because it wasn’t a charade. It was a test of faith. I have heard it said that the Lord already knew the extent of Abraham’s faithful heart, but Abraham needed to learn that for himself. We need to learn about ourselves as well, and trials become a very effective classroom for self-discovery. With careful calculation, the Lord prepares challenges and trials that will not only increase our faith but will help us develop greater insight into our own capacities. The second truth seemed clear to me as I sang those lines: The storms of life will eventually pass, but not before we have been put to the test.
My gratitude for the Savior deepened as I sang the following words:
It matters not what may befall, what threatening hand hangs over me; He is my rampart through it all, my refuge from my enemy.
A rampart is a defensive wall, like something that would be built around a castle or fortress. I pictured the Savior covering me with His power, inserting Himself between me and my difficulties. We know He suffered for all sins, thus opening the way for repentance. Alma also taught that Jesus Christ atoned not only for our sinful behavior, but suffered our mortal trials and weaknesses as well: “And he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities” (Alma 7:12). Did you know that one of the reasons Jesus understands you so well is because He has already been through everything you will experience? He paid the price of sin so you could be cleansed and return to live with Him and His Father. He felt your mortal pains so He could better understand your suffering, being perfectly positioned to provide comfort and solace during your times of grief. He knows what it is like to be a stressed-out psychologist, an overwhelmed mother, a grieving widow, or an unemployed father. He can help us through these trials as one who has literally walked the road of our distress, being able to show us the way of deliverance. I stand in wonder knowing that He was willing to amplify His suffering for the exclusive purpose to be a better friend and confidant. That is simply amazing to me. My anxious heart was reassured with this third truth: The Savior knows how to support me better than anyone else.
My heart was full as we sang the final words of the hymn:
Come unto him all ye depressed, ye erring souls whose eyes are dim; Ye weary ones who long for rest; come unto him, come unto him!
After a quarter-century in the mental health field, I can assuredly conclude that everyone suffers. There is not one person out there who is free from difficulty or pain. Yes, some suffer more than others, some have developed good strategies to manage their suffering, and others feel completely at the mercy of their distress. As a society, we have created countless distractions to try to relieve our emotional burdens, yet nothing satisfies like the Savior’s healing. I have often said we each have a “gospel-sized” hole in our hearts. It leaves us with a sense of desire and yearning for something greater. We cram everything imaginable in that hole, trying to fill the void. Nothing seems to fit, and our search continues, but when we finally fill that hole with the principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ, we find the peace we have long desired. I am aware that many types of suffering need professional attention. You won’t mend a broken arm through nothing but fasting and you won’t resolve serious mental illness through nothing but prayer. But if the Savior is not your first line of defense for your emotional challenges, you are missing out on significant healing power. As I said, I’ve been studying human behavior for 25 years. I am fully aware of the various man-made tools for relief, and I know many of them are inspired of God. After all of this, I am still convinced that the Savior’s healing eclipses them all, and He should be our primary source of strength and support. Add other helpful elements as you will, but never remove Him from your quest to find peace.
Our Redeemer asks us to come unto Him. This requires discipline. It requires sacrifice. It demands changes to long-standing patterns of behavior that may be highly resistant to change. But regardless of the cost we pay to be with Him, both in this life and in the next, it is nothing compared to the joy and relief to be clasped in the arms of His love. If you haven’t already, come unto Him; come unto Him!