63: Be Not Troubled
Stories in this episode: When her dreams for a picture-perfect senior year of High School get disrupted by Covid, Meg finds comfort and clarity at an imperfect football game; Sue learns an important lesson about what it means to truly trust God as she faces a mountain of boxes and an even bigger mountain of troubles.
The Apostle Paul foretold that we in the latter days would live in "perilous times" (2 Timothy 3:1). Yet the Savior instructed His followers in this dispensation to "doubt not, feat not" (D&C 6:36). How do we move forward in faith and focus on the good when rage, calamity, and commotion swirl around us?
We know from scripture and the words of modern-day prophets that these latter days are a time of great turmoil—but also a time of great miracles. In 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).
Welcome to This Is the Gospel, an LDS Living podcast where we feature real stories from real people who are practicing and living their faith every day. I'm your host KaRyn Lay.
Today, I've been thinking a lot about what it means to be troubled. I know what it means to be "In trouble." I mean, that's basically my entire early childhood. But I just don't think that we use the word "troubled" anymore the same way we used to. I think we regularly describe the times as "troubling" or "troubled," for sure, but it's pretty rare that I text my friend to tell her, "I feel troubled," unless I'm reenacting a scene from some 1950s movie set in the deep south.
It feels kind of antiquated, right? I think it's because we often associate feeling troubled with being afraid. And as we've grown in our understanding of mental and emotional health, we just have more focused language to describe exactly what we're feeling.
And while I think it's a blessing that we can more accurately pinpoint our feelings –because that makes it easier to figure out what the right kind of relief looks like – I'm sort of on a little mission to bring the word troubled back to describe our state of being.
Merriam Webster defines it as, "A state of being agitated mentally or spiritually." And I just don't know that there's a better word to describe spiritual agitation. I also think that while there are medicines for our anxieties and our panic, the only real medicine for our spiritual agitation is the peace of our Savior, Jesus Christ. And we need a word for that, especially right now, in the midst of these times.
So today, we have two stories about what it looks like to be troubled and agitated in our spirits, and how the gospel of Jesus Christ, the good news of the gospel, can bring us to a place of hope, and calmness.
Our first story comes from Meg, a high school senior here in the US who had high hopes for a picture perfect end to her final year of school, only to find herself troubled by the disruptions of a worldwide pandemic. Here's Meg.
I have always loved independence and like autonomy and stuff, and so thinking about senior year, I was so excited. And I remember junior year talking with my friends about all our plans, and in my head, I have like this daydream of our first football game together, because that's like the first activity that you do together.
We would win the game, obviously, and then we would run down on the field and congratulate the team, and then we would take like, this perfect picture that would just be a good memory.
And then COVID hit, and I'm seeing all of my senior friends lose the last third of their senior year, and then the summer goes by, and it just keeps getting worse. And I'm realizing, oh, I have no idea what its gonna look like. This picture is just slowly disappearing. And at first, I felt like, it's not even that big of a deal, like I've so much more in my life, but like, the summer was full of a lot of disappointments. And they were all kind of building up. And I just wanted something small and good to happen. Like, at least I just have this small time with my friends that we can go to the football game.
Fast forwarding to the first football game, it's a week before school starting. I'm walking up late, because I was debating on even going. And I'm just really sad because everyone is spread out and far away from each other. It was good to keep everyone safe, but it was also sad because there was no more room in the student section. And looking around to everyone, no one seems very happy.
The whole time I was just like, "Oh, why did I even come here? This is not a good idea." I was just really sad because this perfect picture I had in my head was – it was impossible for it to happen. I looked over at my friend I was like, "I'm gonna go to the bathroom and I'll come back." When in reality, I was just gonna go to my car and drive home.
And so I walked over to my car. And then I get a text message from one of my other friends and he was like, "Where are you?" He obviously knew something was up because I don't usually act like this. And he was just texting me, he was like, "Where are you? Are you like, are you okay?"
I was like, "Oh no, like, I'm safe. I'm good. Don't worry about me. But I'm just gonna take a breather in my car and I'll be back." Throughout my whole life – my mom's always like, "What? Like, you had this huge cut on your foot!" And I was like, "Oh, I took care of myself. It's okay. I've got it. You don't need to worry about me." I don't like bothering people with that.
So I was like, "You should enjoy the football game. You don't have to come down." And he said, "I'm gonna come down and talk to you because you don't sound like yourself." He came down and it was kind of like, awkward at first because he's like, "What's wrong?" And I was like, "I don't know." He's like, "Well, you gotta say something."
And I was like, "I guess I just I can't be happy right now. It's just too hard. And I don't want to bother anyone with that right now though, because everyone else is sad. And so it doesn't really matter that I'm sad because everyone else is." And he was like, "Ehmm... no, it's important."
And then, slowly, as I realized he wasn't angry with me, and I wasn't burdening him in any way, I was able to just talk with him about what was going on and empathize with each other. And I realized that I needed to acknowledge that I was disappointed about not having this football game, because that meant that everything else is going be gone that I wanted.
And so I decided, okay. I think I should just stay through this. So we walked back up just in time for the game to end. And we won, just like in my little daydream. But we couldn't go on the football field, but we still got a picture.
And as we took that picture, I was like, "Wow, this is a lot better than I thought." Which sounds kind of weird, but I now know that my friends care enough about me to check on me. And I know that we're resilient, and we're a lot stronger than we think we are. And so I look back at that when I want to feel better about what's going on and know that like, God has like a masterpiece, and I have some stock photo from Google that I think looks perfect, but really, it's just so fake.
This perfect picture is something that I put in all of my life. I struggle asleep, insomnia, and having like horrible, horrible dreams, where I feel very awake. Night terrors and stuff like that. And they feel so real.
And some nights I'm like, "Okay, God, I can handle it." I always say – I say a prayer on my knees, and then I get in my bed and turn off the lights and I say another one to be able to sleep.
But there was one night when I just couldn't sleep at all. And I was just feeling so much fear. I usually go to my little sister's room and just meekly ask my sisters to come sleep by me. But it was a school night so I don't want to wake them up, so I just thought, "Okay, well, I can just grit my teeth and get through this."
And it's been like another hour. I'm like, "No, I can't handle this anymore. And I just want to go to sleep. But I don't want any bad dreams. I just want to sleep." So I said, Heavenly Father, like, I need you to hold my hand through this. I need you to be right next to me right now. Like, I can't do this alone. I really can't. I'm not strong enough. I don't ask for a lot. Just please give me this."
And I was drifting off to sleep and I look over and I see my sister sleeping next to me. And then she grabbed my hand. In that moment, I realized that I was dreaming, and I fell asleep. I wake up the next day I was like, "No, like, that felt really real." And my sister wasn't next to me. She was in her room. And I realized that the Savior used the dreams that usually scare me, as a gift to remind me that He's always there.
And He held my hand through the night, literally. Which is so beautiful, and so much better than my perfect picture of just going straight to bed, not being scared at all, and just making it through the night. It's so much better.
The Savior cares about the smallest things. He isn't asking for me to walk through life and just grit my teeth through everything like "Oh, it's fine. I'm here to grow and I'm here to learn and it's fine and I'm just gonna keep going." He wants me to talk to Him and learn through Him.
I think when the Savior says, "Be not troubled" He means, "It's okay to be afraid or it's okay to be sad. But you also don't need to worry about it because I've got you covered. And I've got you covered in the most individual way."
Because of these experiences, I look and pause to see the Savior there more, even if it's just three seconds, pausing and like closing my eyes and just imagining Him right there. And just knowing that one small picture of the football game or the dream of my sister right next to me, that didn't cure my depression, or anxieties about life.
It didn't fix anything, but it was like a pause in a marathon – like a glass of water. It was a good break, and a good realization to keep going and to be strong.
That was Meg. We found Meg's story through our pitch line and really loved the opportunity to help a young storyteller develop her voice and her story about her faith.
I think it's so exciting to see the way these two moments in Meg's life have already weaved themselves throughout her testimony of Heavenly Father and His goodness.
This is something that I'm personally really, really passionate about, especially when it comes to our youth. As we make space for the exploration of their faith stories and help them to see and tell them often at the beginning of their adult life, it's going to make it so much easier for them to recall those moments in troubling times ahead.
The anchor of her story will be invaluable to Meg as she navigates coronavirus right now, and in whatever comes next for her. And I truly hope she keeps finding and telling her stories whenever she gets the chance.
Our next storyteller, Sue, learned that finding calm in the storm sometimes means letting someone else steer the boat. Here's Sue.
Order has been important to me my whole life. Even when I was a young girl, I would clean my mother's kitchen while she was away and surprise her when she came home.
I was a housekeeper for 25 years and I was able to go into people's homes and clean it and organize and I just loved it. I really love taking a mess and making it better.
So 2020 found me in a pickle because I was not organized. I wasn't organized because we had been living with my mother-in-law for the past five years caring for her. We had just lost her, and now had to sort through all of her belongings to get the house ready for sale. And it was a very daunting task for one person.
The lion's share of what had to be done fell in my lap. My husband, Mike, still have to work, and his two sisters lived on the West Coast. So I was left with the task.
So in addition to all of that, we were on a time schedule because my husband had to have major surgery on March 16, and everything had to be done before he had that surgery, because it was a very serious surgery. And to be honest, we weren't really sure if he was going to survive it.
The surgery that he was having was a pancreatic surgery, which involved a lot of organs and it was going to take many hours so it was very intense. And adding to my stress was the fact that my parents were in a nursing home in Pennsylvania and we were in South Carolina.
I did still visit them but not as often as I wanted because of the distance. There have been lots of times when I've had to manage a lot of things all at one time. Like raising seven children and running a full time housekeeping business. And there are very few times in my life when I have felt that I was not capable to handle a situation.
So that's what made Coronavirus entering the picture so hard and everything that came with it in my life so hard because I wasn't able to control it. It was controlling me, or it felt like it was controlling me. The first time I heard about Coronavirus I didn't think that it was going to be such a worldwide problem.
It seemed like maybe it was played down a little bit and we really didn't think that it was going to affect our lives in the way that it has. So the day that my husband went into the hospital, COVID It wasn't a big deal. There were no masks being worn and there were no people being kept out of the hospital. Business was, as usual.
The surgery took seven and a half hours. And I was invited to come back to see him afterwards, because he made it through the surgery, which I was so grateful for. And they told me though, that I could only be there for just a very short time, after sitting for seven and a half hours, I wanted to spend more time with him. But he had very high blood pressure. And they were trying to get his blood pressure down so that they could administer pain meds, and he was in a lot of pain. And so they asked me not to stay long.
It was very hard for me, in fact, I went to the car, and I wept. Because I had no control over it. And seldom do things cause me to weep.
So I texted my children and told them that their dad had gotten through the surgery, and that he needed their prayers, so that his blood pressure could go down, and he could get the much needed pain medicine. And then I got a phone call from my oldest daughter. And we had talked about how I was feeling and what she could do to help me. And then she reminded me that as covenant keeping women, we have the power to call down blessings from heaven, for ourselves and for those that we love.
So actually, when I heard that, and we hung up from the phone, I immediately said a prayer and called down those blessings from heaven.
And that was such a relief to me to be able to do that. My drive to home was about a 30 minute drive. And as soon as I got home, I called the nurse's station and checked on my husband. And miraculously in those 30 minutes, his blood pressure had reduced and they were able to give him pain medicine, and he was sleeping comfortably.
I was standing in my kitchen, on the phone. And as soon as I hung up, I knelt down on the kitchen floor and I said a prayer of gratitude to Heavenly Father that He was able to give that relief to my husband. And I felt His love for me.
It would have been nice to think that that was the end of the troubles for us. But then the next day when I went to visit him at the hospital, I showed up at the door. And they said, "Where are you going?" And I said, "To visit my husband who just had surgery yesterday." And they said, there are no visitors allowed at the hospital.
And I said, "But I was just there yesterday, he just had surgery. Please, I need to go see him and make sure he's okay." And they said, "No, I'm so sorry. We can't let you in because of COVID."
So I was really very unprepared to have them tell me that I could not go in and see my husband. And at first I was just angry. When things like that happen, your first response is the anger response. And I know it wasn't their fault that I couldn't go in. And this was really the first experience with COVID that I knew this wasn't just some little thing that was gonna pass by quickly.
And so I handed them his phone and his plug and I said, "Please get these to him so that I can at least talk to him." And from that point on the only contact we had with each other was our cell phones and thank goodness that we had FaceTime because that at least allowed me to look at him while I talked to him.
My husband's surgery was March the 16th, and he was in the hospital for three weeks. He was having many complications, infections and other things that kept him from being able to eat and being able to come home. And during that time, they would not even allow clergy to come in to give him a blessing, and that just filled my heart with sorrow and just made me worry even more. But there was one tender mercy through this whole three weeks, and that was that my son's ministering brother learned that my husband was in the hospital. He happened to work at the hospital and he offered to go to his room and offer him a priesthood blessing, and he finally got that blessing and he was able to start to improve.
I do have a strong testimony of the power of the priesthood and what it can do for us in our lives. I know that Father in Heaven is aware of us personally, and that He provided that way when there was no other way for him to receive that blessing.
So on March the 30th, it was my father's birthday. And the celebration was very different this year because no one was able to go into the nursing home to spend his birthday with him. And so my brothers and sisters who live in Pennsylvania gathered around his window and celebrated his birthday with him. But at the end of that evening, my mother's heart started to fail. And so she was taken to the emergency room where she, it was determined that she needed to have a pacemaker. But she was too weak and too frail, and they decided that they would send her home with hospice care.
So I heard about my mother and what was going on from my sister who called me and was crying. And of course, then I started to cry. And even though we had been praying that my mother could be released from the trial of Alzheimers that she had been suffering for many years, and even though it was something that we had been praying for, here it was suddenly. I was very torn because my husband was still in the hospital, and still trying to recover, and my mother was dying. And I couldn't be there with her to say goodbye to her, to thank her for being such a good mother.
That was very hard because, once again, I'm not in control. And I was alone in my mother-in-law's very large house by myself. And it was mostly bad at night when I'm left alone with just my thoughts. You know, it's dark, and you hear noises that you think maybe somebody is trying to get in.
My sons and daughter who lived in the area were coming over to be with me. But they had to wear their masks and we tried to keep social distance from each other. My dear friends in the Church who would have been there for me could only text me or call me, they couldn't come and give me a hug. Though some of them stopped by and put flowers on my front porch, and then rushed away in their cars, I knew they were thinking about me. But it just seemed very difficult.
My biggest concern during that time was not for my mother because I felt happy that she was no longer suffering. But it was for my dad because they've been married for so long and I knew it was going to be hard for him. He was in the nursing home, not because he needed to be there, but because my mom needed to be there and he didn't want to be separated from her. And now she was gone. And I couldn't be there to comfort him.
We weren't really allowed to have a funeral for my mother, and that just felt so wrong. And it did make me somewhat angry that we couldn't do it. The only provisions they made for people whose family members died during COVID was that you could have a gathering at the grave site, but they limited it to about anywhere from 12 to 15 people. And I am from a very large family. My parents had eight children, and all of the extended family all live in Pennsylvania. I'm the only one who lives distant from them. And it was very hard because not everybody could be at the grave site even. But I had a nephew who was able to stream the services so that those of us who couldn't be there could at least participate in that way.
So finally after three weeks of being in the hospital, my husband was able to come home. And I was so happy to have him there. Even if it meant that I had to change his feeding tube and, and things like that. He was home, and he was alive. But he only was able to stay home for two days because he got an infection and had to go back to the hospital.
Of course, I'm a big worrier, so all of the thoughts that he may not survive this had come back and many of my friends were concerned that that might truly be the case also. And we would have conversations about it. I had to try and get myself to a place where if that was what happened, that I would be able to get through it because that's, that's the way I live my life. I try to think of ways to make bad things be okay. I was thinking about, "Is everything in line? Do I have it all together? Am I prepared if the worst happens?" and the thought came to me that I had no idea where our life insurance policy was. And so I went down to the basement, where all of our belongings were packed away and ready for us to move to our own home. And I had a stack of boxes that was there was probably a good five feet tall. And so my task that day was to try and locate it.
So I lifted so many boxes, and none of them were the right one. I have a heart condition myself and I'm really not supposed to be lifting too many heavy things, but I just kept pressing forward. And I was so stressed and worried, and I felt that the task was too much for me. And as I was sitting there, thinking about how I couldn't do any more, I realized just how much I've been through the past three months—January, February, March. And I, it all just came crashing down on me. I just had felt overloaded and unable to go forward anymore. And it was interesting, because at that very moment, I got a phone call from my daughter. She had prayed that morning to be able to help someone, that the Lord would guide her to help someone. And she was on her way to work and, and she felt that she should call me.
She reminded me of the last conversation that she and I had had, that I had power to call down help from heaven in my emptiness and my loneliness. And so after we hung up, I once again prayed for God's help that he would send angels to help me lift these boxes. After that prayer, I could feel heavenly help as I did this overwhelming task. And I was reminded of that, that painting of the woman in prayer and the angels surrounding her. And that's exactly how I felt, that they were there assisting me. I was even able to put those boxes back in the pile when I was finished. They weren't as heavy as they were the first time.
And inspiration came to me to look in a specific box and that is where I found the life insurance policy. And interestingly enough, it would have been so much easier if I'd checked that box first because it was very close to the front of the boxes. And maybe prayer should have been the first thing that I did before I started digging through there.
In my stress, I tend to feel that I have the strength to do, do things and get them done. And what the real truth is, is that even though I do have strength, my strength is much greater when I ask the Lord for help. And I find that many times in my life, I have to be reminded of this, I wish I could just get it in my head and not keep making the same mistakes over and over again. But I also know that through the Atonement, many times we will have to be reminded and will have to repent and try again and that His arms are always open and that He's willing to do that for us as the human part of us takes over and we try to remember to be heavenly creatures here on this earth.
COVID is still around and still making things difficult. And even my dad in the nursing home got COVID. We made a trip up there to visit him and say our goodbyes through the window. Surprisingly, my father was able to get over the COVID. And out of the four men who were in that unit in the nursing home, he's the only one who survived.
My husband came home from the hospital after another weekend there, and he still has more complications and COVID-19 has made his recovery more difficult than it would have been without it.
Even though this has been the hardest experience of my life, and I've had moments of anger, and moments of worry, I've also had moments of peace and calm and assurance that everything is going to be okay. And it's helped me to learn that even though I can't control everything, that if I turn things over to Him, what He has planned for me is what is best, that it all will work out in the end. And I know that that came from Father in Heaven and our Savior, Jesus Christ. And I am so grateful for the knowledge that I have that they are there and that they love us.
That was Sue.
And I guess now would be the right time to tell you that Sue is my mom and I'm the lucky kid that gets to talk to her on the phone regularly. And even though I haven't been able to see her in person in over a year because we're really trying to protect my dad's health, I am blessed by my mother. And now you all know where I get my constant tears from.
I remember how she sounded on the phone that day in the garage with all those boxes. I've never, ever heard my mother so deeply troubled, truly agitated, in her mind and her spirit. And I also remember hanging up the phone and knowing that she wasn't actually alone in that house in a good way.
What I didn't know until we recorded this story was just how deeply and profoundly heartbreaking it was for my mom to not be able to fix things for those she loved. But isn't that exactly how God invites us to the adventure of our growth? A little bit of heartbreak, some really troubled days, and then that gentle call to stop holding on so tightly so He can pick up where we are weakest, and send in those angels who are waiting and at the ready. Oh, it is so hard to let go and let God, but I know one other thing, that when we do, that's when we get to see the heavens open.
The phrase "Be Not Troubled" obviously comes from the scriptures—the New Testament to be exact, but we were inspired to use it for the theme of this episode because of Elder Rasband's new book with the same name. It's filled with beautiful reminders of what we can do right now to begin to feel the calm of the Savior's promise even in our troubled times.
Elder Rasband wrote this, quote, "When Jesus Christ says, 'Be still, and know that I am God,' in Psalms 46:10, His words reflect the promise, 'Be not troubled.' He who calms the seas will calm our hearts, shelter us in His arms, comfort us on our very bad days and heal our wounds. Mormon's words to his son Moroni are important for us all, 'May Christ lift thee up, and may his sufferings and death and the showing his body unto our fathers and the hope of His glory and of eternal life rest in your mind forever, and abide with you forever.' With the Atonement of Jesus Christ, His Church, His gospel, and our connection to Him in the heavens, we may always have hope for better days," end quote.
Elder Rasband reiterates what these stories have taught me today. First, that Christ's command to "be not troubled" is also a promise. He can tell us to let go of our spiritual and mental agitation. To hand Him our anxieties and our heartache because He's already paid the price of that turmoil. In Gethsemane, He took our troubles upon Him, He held them in His body, in His heart, and His mind, until they were transformed into eternal peace, love and hope. And because of that act of integrity, we can lay it all down at His feet and trust that He can handle all of it, every single bit of it.
And then, as we access the power of our covenants through prayer, through fasting, through blessings, and calling upon the power of the priesthood, through all the tools that God has placed on this earth and the restoration of the fullness of troubled times, we'll find joy, and we will find stillness. We'll recognize that the football game in the time of COVID can offer up just as many sweet memories as it would have in the before times, and we will sleep easily. We'll see that there are mercies and grace present as we lift the mountain of boxes heavy with sorrow, our regret, and fear. We will not be left alone upon the tumultuous waters of this earth life, and its attendant troubles because we will know that He was with us all along.
That's it for this episode of This Is the Gospel. Thank you to our storytellers, Meg and Sue, for sharing their stories and their hope for a brighter future. We'll have more information about the storytellers, including pictures and a link to Elder Rasband new book, "Be Not Troubled," in our shownotes at ldsliving.com/thisisthe gospel. You can also get more good stuff by following us on Instagram or Facebook at thisisthe gospel_podcast.
I mentioned this before, but if you have just a minute to help us out, we love to hear what you're learning as you listen to these stories. You can leave a review of the podcast on Apple, Stitcher, or whatever platform you listen to. Reviews are so helpful in pushing us up in the recommended section of a lot of platforms so that more people can find us and can hear these stories.
All of the stories in this episode are true and accurate as affirmed by our storytellers and we find a lot of our stories through our pitch line. So if you have a story to share about a time in your life when maybe you learned something new as you were practicing the gospel of Jesus Christ, we want to hear from you. The best pitches are going to be short and sweet and have a clear sense of the focus of your story. You'll have three minutes to pitch your story so come prepared when you call 515-519-6179. This episode was produced by me, KaRyn Lay, with story production and editing from Erika Free. It was scored, mixed and mastered by Mix at 6 Studios, our executive producer is Erin Hallstrom, and you can find past episodes of this podcast and other LDS Living podcasts at ldsliving.com/podcasts.