Words that saved me

A bad year


2013 was not really my year. This is sad because I've always liked the number 13, despite its association with bad luck. I guess I got what I deserved! Don't get me wrong, 2013 brought with it much good into my life. Professionally, socially, internet-ally, and otherwise. But we all have experiences and circumstances hidden from public view that deeply affect our spiritual and emotional well being, as well as our sense of happiness and peace. Last year I noticed a pattern in my life of difficult circumstances, bad decisions, consequences, change of heart, and healing. What follows is a description of my journey through that pattern, along with words that saved me as I let them influence my mind and heart.

Difficult circumstances


Each of us has a burden we wish we didn't. All of us nurse some kind of hidden hurt or confusion. Most of the time it doesn't bother us enough to cause issues, but sometimes our weakness wins and we lose control. For a moment or a month or a decade, we let it get the better of us. For me, it was for about a year, beginning in late 2012.
However bewildering this all may be, these afflictions are some of the realities of mortal life, and there should be no more shame in acknowledging them than in acknowledging a battle with high blood pressure or the sudden appearance of a malignant tumor.

In striving for some peace and understanding in these difficult matters, it is crucial to remember that we are living—and chose to live—in a fallen world where for divine purposes our pursuit of godliness will be tested and tried again and again. Of greatest assurance in God’s plan is that a Savior was promised, a Redeemer, who through our faith in Him would lift us triumphantly over those tests and trials, even though the cost to do so would be unfathomable for both the Father who sent Him and the Son who came. It is only an appreciation of this divine love that will make our own lesser suffering first bearable, then understandable, and finally redemptive.

It is easy to forget that I chose this life. It is easy to forget that we live in a fallen world and are all subject to broken bodies and minds. It is easy to forget that we can bear and understand our burdens if we have faith and press forward. It is easy to forget. And when I did forget, my behavior changed.

Bad decisions


We all make them, to varying degrees. Some are silly, like buying an enormous box of candy. Others are more serious. They damage our mind. They bruise our heart. They deaden our spirit. They leave us changed.
The joyful news for anyone who desires to be rid of the consequences of past poor choices is that the Lord sees weaknesses differently than He does rebellion. Whereas the Lord warns that unrepented rebellion will bring punishment, when the Lord speaks of weaknesses, it is always with mercy ...

... Each of us has had times in our lives when we have made poor choices. We are all in desperate need of the redemptive power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ.

Consequences


It is a fundamental truth that through the Atonement of Jesus Christ we can be cleansed. We can become virtuous and pure. However, sometimes our poor choices leave us with long-term consequences. One of the vital steps to complete repentance is to bear the short- and long-term consequences of our past sins.

The consequences of our poor choices can easily turn into reasons to make more poor choices. Soon, if we are not careful, we deceive ourselves into thinking that such consequences are actually part of the original circumstances that weakened our resolve in the first place. Only when I dug deep and became truly honest with myself could I accept personal responsibility for what was occurring in my life. Once I owned the consequences for my actions, my perspective changed. I saw God in his true place, helping me endure and overcome, urging me to choose to follow him, not sending badness into my life. No, that badness was my own doing.

Change of heart


As we seek our Heavenly Father through fervent, sincere prayer and earnest, dedicated scripture study, our testimonies will become strong and deeply rooted. We will know of God’s love for us. We will understand that we do not ever walk alone. I promise you that you will one day stand aside and look at your difficult times, and you will realize that He was always there beside you.

What does "fervent, sincere prayer" mean to you? For me, it is the kind of prayer that changes me. Softens my heart. Shows me where I have gone wrong. Reveals my true relationship with God. It takes work. And far too often, I must be compelled to pray that way. When I do, I cannot deny the truth of God's love for me and his concern for my well being. It is true communion, and it is the number one way for me to experience a change of heart. As I engaged in this kind of prayer several times a day, I was filled with light.

Healing


Sometimes we may ask God for success, and He gives us physical and mental stamina. We might plead for prosperity, and we receive enlarged perspective and increased patience, or we petition for growth and are blessed with the gift of grace. He may bestow upon us conviction and confidence as we strive to achieve worthy goals. And when we plead for relief from physical, mental, and spiritual difficulties, He may increase our resolve and resilience.

The gospel teaches us to be happy, to have faith rather than fear, to find hope and overcome despair, to leave darkness and turn toward the light of the everlasting gospel.

Paul and others warned about the trials of our time and the days yet to come. But peace can be settled in the heart of each who turns to the scriptures and unlocks the promises of protection and redemption that are taught therein.

I am not grateful for the difficulties I face in this life. I am not grateful that I make mistakes and sometimes behave badly. I am grateful for redemption. For grace. For repentance. For forgiveness. I am grateful for the strength, resilience, courage, faith, peace, and deep joy God generously gives me as I struggle to respond faithfully to the challenges I experience as a mortal man in a fallen world.

What are these words?


What do they all have in common? They heal. They teach. They inspire. They are the words of Christ. The title of this post is "Words that saved me." I mean that quite seriously. The quotes I have shared impacted me in very personal ways over the last six months. I listened to the addresses from which I extracted them in my car as I drove to work. I read these words on the train. I pondered them in my heart. They often drew me to tears as their truth revealed the error of my ways. They saved me from sorrow. They saved me from despair. They saved me from continuing down a path of wrong choices. They invited me to come to my Savior.

Come, and see


Your circumstances are different from mine. So are your hopes, dreams, fears, and challenges. Whatever they may be, I invite you to meet the people who said these words to me and who will say something soon to touch on your circumstances.

Sources

Personal Strength through the Atonement of Jesus Christ

The Windows of Heaven

Like a Broken Vessel

The Key to Spiritual Protection

We Never Walk Alone

Image credit: images.lds.org

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