The endings to dreams, hopes, loss of connection, loneliness, abuse, loss of trust, and the missing of loved ones who have passed on; all can contribute to a sense of darkness this time of year. Yet these hurts can be consuming to the point of destroying any remaining magic that the life holds. How can each of us catch the glimmer of light from the depths of pain? These aren’t wounds that can be mended in an ER, nor can they be worked away through hours of hard labor or devoted service (though I fully endorse giving service to help get through rough points in life). Friends may reach out in the most sincere gestures possible, yet the reality of being broken is the only truth that is tangible in life at times.
In Luke 4:18 Christ reads to the masses a passage from Isaiah and states:
18 The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised,
Jesus was not born to perform a limited Atonement. It was not one that would just forgive, or conquer death. This was indeed to be an “infinite atonement” (2 Ne 9:7). One that would enable Him to succor each of us when we feel lost, and broken before our ennobled, glorious brother. He is best invited to come to our aid when we live our covenants and act as His people- the salt of the earth.
But what does salt and covenant keeping have to do with REAL pain?
Have you ever smelled the stench of burnt hair or flesh? It churns the stomach, and makes the mind reel. Yet one of my favorite smells on a walk is that of people cooking meat outside. What is the difference between tragedy and barbeque? It is one thing SALT. This pantry staple can change the most repugnant things in life, to something so desirable that our mouths water at the very thought.
The sacrifices in the temples of old were always salted because the savour- smell- was the result of the offering to the Lord. When we allow the Savior into our lives, even the most devastating circumstances, can become ones that we savour. The pain, and sacrifices are not changed, yet under the Lord’s perspective, the experience becomes sweet in the proximity it brings us to Him and the Father. In Doctrine and Covenants 88 the Lord asks us as His friends to come closer;
62 And again, verily I say unto you, my friends, I leave these sayings with you to ponder in your hearts, with this commandment which I give unto you, that ye shall call upon me while I am near—
63 Draw near unto me and I will draw near unto you; seek me diligently and ye shall find me; ask, and ye shall receive; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.
64 Whatsoever ye ask the Father in my name it shall be given unto you, that is expedient for you;
When we are striving to do our Father’s will, and consequently come closer to the Lord we are better able to communicate with the Lord. I am not just talking about praying at Heavenly Father, but dialogue that takes place when we are grasping for the Light of Christ from our darkness. As we continue in faith, the conversation becomes more intelligible, more fluent, and the process of healing commences. He has promised us to give us rest when we take His yoke upon us.(Matt. 11:28-30)
I too have known the remorse, guilt, and pain, of many years, filled with longing for what would not be.
When I was 18 I was told by a young doctor that I should not expect to have children. A part of my soul died. My childhood had been full of teachings of the plan of salvation, yet for me, it might just have to be a hypothesized state. Would any man even marry a barren woman?
A few years later love did come, to my even more broken soul as divorce had dismantled my family. Despite our love, I felt that with our vows I had sentenced him to never having children of his own, at least in this life. My heart ached, my arms reached, and my spirit yearned. Yet, year after year my arms were empty, and my heart was cankered by envy, for every new mother. No matter my attempts to keep my covenants I felt that the Lord deemed me unworthy of the gift of motherhood because of my actions. Through all those years I was slow to learn to trust my Heavenly Father’s timing.
In 2 Cor 12:7-10 we read of a vision of the apostle Paul in heaven.
7 And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure.
8 For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me.
9 And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.
I was truly feeling the buffeting of Satan. The thorns seemed to pierce my very core. The prayers offered that the spiritual, physical, and emotional, pain would stop at some point seemed in vain…until I submitted. He knew that once I learned to trust Him, that He might be able to show me what He could do with my life. Even in my weakness, my pain, my lack of forgiving, He found a way to make every little effort I made a more savoury. Finally, I received the peace of forgiveness. Through accepting the reality of Atonement of my Savior, I was able to understand that the blessings were not the issue, but keeping my covenants was. His promises are sure and true. 6 years into my marriage, I was finally free to love, to forgive myself, and to become a mother to the youth He had already put in my life.
He didn’t take away the thorns immediately, because they allowed me to seek Him. They allowed me to pray for help more often, to come to know Him as a Father, and learn how to be a friend to Him. Nonetheless, I was still in pain more than I like to admit. The childhood family I longed for still was a mess. I had not born children to my sweetheart. Then on a cold winter’s day in the temple, I made the decision that I actually did believe in the ideals of the Plan of Happiness.
Healing for me in that moment came by degrees, some monumental ( I now am the mother to two amazing kids of my own). Some so subtle that I only saw them upon getting together with the women who helped bare my burdens through my dark nights.
Pray that those thorns you brave now will remind you of the thorns He bore then. That they will enable you to come to know Him as your Savior. The raw feelings that threaten to burst at any moment are contrite (conterere in Anglo-french means bruised or raw). Allow our Lord and Master into the wounds of your heart, for that is what He asks for, those broken pieces. From those fragments He has promised in Ether 12 :27 that His grace is enough to make us strong. It reads:
27 And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.
If you are having a hard time, I am sorry. You are not alone. It is my prayer that the light of Christ will allow you to see the light through the dark of winter.
Rachel finds that she has belonged in many places, but doesn’t actually fit anywhere. Raised in Utah, educated in Florida, and transplanted from state to state down to Texas. She received her first degree in Dental hygiene and her second in Behavioral Science and Health. She loves being a wife of 13 years and a mother of 2. Her 4 and 5 year olds keep her on her toes without fail. Rachel enjoys studying, exercising, dancing, and cooking. Her experiences have given her a unique perspective and love for God, people, and truth.