Today

Today, ‘long about mid-afternoon, something emotionally devastating happened to me. The details of it are not important. The important thing is that I was a total and complete wreck in every way. I wanted to talk about it right then with someone who loved me unconditionally, someone I could rely on to take my side (at least until I was ready to hear criticism). I wanted to call my husband at work RIGHT THEN.

Of course, this was impossible. He is overscheduled with patients and can’t answer calls. Even if I were to catch him between patients, he wouldn’t have the time to hear the whole story, nor the privacy to say what he would want to say to calm me down. I couldn’t talk to him about it until later, after dinner, after the kids were down.

So I prayed. It wasn’t much of a conversation since I wasn’t ready to listen and I didn’t have time to spend on my knees anyway. It was just sort of a shout out to God: “I’m here, and I need you NOW!” I didn’t feel any immediate help or consolation, but I was able to make it through the day.

And, as often happens, by the time I was able to talk to my husband about it, most of the hurt was gone. I had reached some sort of peace and greater understanding about the problem with the passage of time, and the report I gave him then was much different than it would have been if I had been able to reach him earlier.

One of my favorite poems is from Carol Lynn Pearson, called “Drama in Two Acts.” I quote the first stanza all the time to myself, because it describes exactly how I feel in the midst of trials sometimes:

I dim
I dim
I do not doubt
If someone blew–
I would go out.

But it’s the second stanza that is staying with me today:

I did not.
I must be brighter than I thought.

At the end of the day today, I was surprised to find myself still burning. I hadn’t been blown out after all.

I wonder sometimes if I run to the Lord too quickly, too. If it might be better if I sort of “kept these things and pondered them in [my] heart” for a while before I went rushing to the Lord to ask for help. Now, I’m not talking about waiting to tell Him about things, but waiting to ask Him to bail me out. Are there things that I could handle if I gave myself time? When is it appropriate to ask Him to change things about my situation?

I imagine that there are sorts of things that it might be better for me to wait a few hours before I ask Him to step in. I wonder if that applies for longer stretches of time, too. Are there problems I have that I would speak to God differently about if I waited a few days? What about weeks or years?  I’m not sure.

I’ve always disliked that poem that so many people love, “Footprints.” You know the one—the dude spent some time during his life feeling wretchedly alone, but when he reviews his life with the Lord, the Lord tells him that during the times he had seemed to be alone (“only one set of footprints”), the Lord had actually been carrying him. Now, I have to say that I have literally felt the Lord carry me at times, so I don’t doubt this part of the poem. But I also have to say that there are times when I have felt very, very alone. And if I were to find out later that the Lord had been carrying me through that time, that knowledge would not change my memory of the level of pain that lonliness caused. What good does it do to know that the Lord is carrying me if I don’t feel Him near, or feel any solace at all?

But, so far at least, all of those times of feeling abandoned have eventually come to an end, and when I look back upon them I feel surprise that I was able to pull through it. It’s a strange feeling, almost as if I hear the Lord saying, “See, I knew you could handle that one on your own. Don’t be angry that I let you grow stronger that way.” I imagine Him saying this because it is what I do as a mother, letting my children go through some things, even painful things, on their own, because I know that they can handle it and that the process is important to their progress.

So I guess the role of faith in all this is not necessarily the assurance that I won’t feel alone, but the assurance that God knows what He’s doing with me, even if it hurts.

I’m still confused, though, about the role of pleading with the Lord to relieve my burdens or strengthen my back. I know it’s not wrong to ask these thing because Amulek tells us in the scriptures to “Cry over your flocks and your herds,” etc. (Alma 34). I’ve always assumed that this passage means that we shouldn’t hesitate to ask for good things to come to us, and bad things to go away. But now I’m wondering—could it be that Amulek is saying that we ought to talk things over with the Lord, tell him how we’re feeling, but not necessarily ask Him to change things—at least not until we’ve given it time and worked at it ourselves?

What do you think? At what point do we ask the Lord to step in for us?

BTW, the above quoted poem is from Beginnings and Beyond, by Carol Lynn Pearson, and is quoted with permission.

16 thoughts on “Today

  1. I think the key is including the plea for the Lord’s will to be done. If I’m not sure whether or not I SHOULD ask for something, I usually just express my desires and ask that they be granted IF it be his will. And then should my desire be wrong, for the Lord to please help me to know his will.

    I love that poem and I especially love this thought, “So I guess the role of faith in all this is not necessarily the assurance that I won’t feel alone, but the assurance that God knows what He’s doing with me, even if it hurts.”

    Great post Darlene!

  2. All through the scriptures we are commanded to pray, not to avoid bothering the Lord, so I don’t hesitate to call on Him. I was thinking the other day about how my ability to deal with challenges has expanded over the past few years, not because of my independence, but because of His help. I remember that I used to go to the temple just distraught over some little thing that would hardly make me blink now, and often I would hear the same gentle, loivng, response: to lift my eyes higher, to take an eternal perspective, and things would not seem so hard. I do find that I pray more often for strength or related help than for the challenge I am facing to go away nowadays. And sometimes I get the answer to be patient, or that there is purpose in the pain or difficulty. But I’m glad I wasn’t trying to figure that out in self imposed isolation.

  3. Angie said, “I remember that I used to go to the temple just distraught over some little thing that would hardly make me blink now, and often I would hear the same gentle, loivng, response: to lift my eyes higher, to take an eternal perspective, and things would not seem so hard.”

    My question is, how long did it take you to FEEL that answer, Angie? Did it come right away, there in the temple? Or did you spend some time feeling nothing first? Can and do peace and reassurance come right away, always? What do we do while we’re waiting?

  4. So I guess the role of faith in all this is not necessarily the assurance that I won’t feel alone, but the assurance that God knows what He’s doing with me, even if it hurts.

    This is a very key sentence for me. Most of the time, I ask for comfort and/or guidance and/or understanding. I usually recceive one of the three, but rarely receive all. It’s been, at times, a hard and painful journey (as it is for everyone).

    And thank you for this post (and the poem by Carol Lynn Pearson). It was something I needed to hear today.

  5. Can and do peace and reassurance come right away, always? What do we do while we’re waiting?

    I have found that they don’t always come when I want them to, but they come faster if I am more submissive, humble and patient. The scriptures talk of waiting patiently on the Lord. When I am impatient with God, it prolongs my feelings of isolation.

    And I loved the line quoted in 4 about faith…that it’s the assurance that God knows what is up.

    I have also found that it is better for me to pray as a first resort, regardless of how I’m feeling, or regardless of how much I should be working things out on my own…not that prayer should be used as an excuse not to press forward in faith and to work hard, but because praying first helps keep me in that mode of turning to God always. It’s too easy for me to try to do too much on my own, or to think I have to do too much on my own. I’d rather err on the side of praying too much than not enough. I figure that if I stay connected, I will be more likely to know more clearly what I need to do. It also keeps me more in a humble and remembering mode (or to get me there faster) to pray first when I’m upset, scared, angry, hurt, etc.

  6. Yeah, those answers pretty much came at the time. But that’s not to say that the peace I felt in those moments was the final resolution. There was still fear, anxiety, and pain to work through later. I agree that you got it right when you said

    So I guess the role of faith in all this is not necessarily the assurance that I won’t feel alone, but the assurance that God knows what He’s doing with me, even if it hurts.

  7. The example I’m thinking of now is Don’s illness. When he first became really, really sick and no one could tell him what was wrong, it was really terrifying. I was given the impression that “I have him in the palm of my hand,” which was reassuring in a way, but not nearly as specific as I would have liked. Since then we have had a journey filed with prayers and pleadings and supplication, and we have seen many miracles in treatments we were directed to, help that was given at just the right time, extra strength that was given to him when he thought he couldn’t go on, etc. BUT. Three years later he is still sick. Sometimes I am still terrified. Many times I am discouraged. And despite all of that I see such amazing spiritual and personal growth that has come to him through this experience. Taking an eternal perspective I know that it has been a huge blessing to him, and a big part of that has been the way both of us have been forced to our knees. Since I’m not always eternally minded, though, I really wish he would just get better and we could be finished with all the waiting.

  8. Great post, Darlene. Great questions. Great comments.

    I’m adding my own in the form of a note to myself, to be read the next time I’m in despair.

    We absolutely can’t expect to be spared the agony of loneliness. It’s a vital aspect of our mortal descent, to feel separation from God. But that doesn’t mean God is separated from us, that he’s standing apart and aloof in some corner of the universe. Rather, it’s a function of the veil being dropped over our conscious awareness of him, temporarily.

    There’s a quote I’ve heard many a time that I abhor, about how God the Father hid his face during the apex of the atonement because he couldn’t bear seeing his son suffer. I utterly reject that notion. I believe the Father was there watching, feeling, suffering along with his son, and that this was his own ultimate sacrifice–his willingness to not intervene, to not comfort his son, in order to allow the atonement to be complete.

    I believe the same is true for each of us–the Lord is always with us, suffering along with us, but he sometimes lets us suffer without the sense of his presence intact to comfort us. And this is a sacrifice on his part, because it pains him so to see us struggling in the dark. For reasons I can’t claim to understand, we need to have these experiences from time to time.

    I believe the Lord CANNOT separate himself from us. He can’t spare himself our pain. It’s part of our being in him, and him being in us. Even if he wanted to step away and say, “You deal with this yourself,” he couldn’t. We might not feel him, but he always feels us.

    Does that make our pain any less, on a practical level? I can’t say it has, for me. At times I’ve found myself having to hang on to the belief that God hasn’t abandoned me. With my fingernails. In time, the trial comes to an end, and my awareness of his presence is restored.

    How long should we wait before calling upon God for help?

    We shouldn’t wait. Ever. At all.

    Will he come when we call him?

    In a discernible sense? Not necessarily.

    In an indiscernible sense? It’s a moot question, because he’s already there.

    What good is an indiscernible God, in the moment?

    Not much good as far as our conscious experience goes. But there’s so much more to our being than what we’re aware of. Remember that, self.

  9. Thought provoking post.

    I feel that the fact that I call out in prayer at the time of my pain/confusion/unhappiness – “a shout out to God: “I’m here, and I need you NOW!””, isn’t about expecting or demanding the fix-it or comfort, but to know that He is THERE, with me, because I asked him to be. Just because He doesn’t respond with an answer or feeling, doesn’t mean he’s not there and listening. Just like Darlene’s husband wasn’t right beside her in person or on the phone doesn’t mean he didn’t care.

    Have you heard the 2 variations on the “Footprints” poem? One is called “Buttprints in the sand” (see http://www.greaterthings.com/Humor/buttprints.htm) and the general message is we have to grow through our experiences, else what is the point? Whenever I’ve felt that He hasn’t responded, it’s actually because I’m sulking at not getting exactly what I wanted, and not going forward with faith or determination.

    The second “Footprints” style one is when the footprints merge, and then suddenly go all over the place (see http://www.3dff.com/php/viewtopic.php?p=2829&sid=12128873ee2a87c9e0247d7aafa348cc). “That was when we danced.” I try to never forget that all I need to do is follow His lead. I don’t know where I’m going, but I know it’s the best place for me.

    Thanks for the opportunity to nut it out in my own head.

  10. And despite all of that I see such amazing spiritual and personal growth that has come to him through this experience.

    As someone who has some health issues herself, I have come to believe that faith is not necessarily to change our circumstances, but to tap into God’s grace and power to change ME.

  11. Interesting questions, great post. “So I guess the role of faith in all this is not necessarily the assurance that I won’t feel alone, but the assurance that God knows what He’s doing with me, even if it hurts.” I like that.

    As to waiting before I ask, I don’t wait. I figure that if the Lord wants to let me muddle through on my own, then I will have to do it, but I want to be right there and ready when the answers are there.

    Mostly what I seek these days when I have a hard time is Clarity of Vision. By “clarity of vision” I mean a lot of things: I mean charity, which is the clarity that helps me see others as the brilliant beings the Lord sees. I also mean remembering the past and anticipating the future with clearness, not distortions (see Elder Bednar’s excellent article in the September Ensign).

    Clarity of vision is a blessing discussed in the temple… our eyes need to see clearly. I think that there are some things the Lord is always willing to give us more of, if we really want them. More clear-sightedness is one of them. Also more charity. Also, to the degree that we submit to His will, more strength.

    I don’t read any place in the scriptures where the Lord tells people to stay away from Him in their trials, that they will be blessed or grow stronger. Instead I read things like “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy-laden.”

    So far, my prayers have not changed the external things that bother me… but they have often helped me to see trials more clearly, and strengthened me to deal with them better.

  12. You know, I think people who really, really, really know the Lord loves us and wants only the best for us don’t have those crushing experiences so much. I once read an account (not reliable probably) of how Elder Holland reacted to the gay kid committing suicide on the steps of the stake center before stake conference (I guess E. Holland was down there in CA) and he was just really calm and sure that the timing of his being there was purposeful and looking forward, comforting others, etc. I think if we could hold in remembrance the way we feel after he works with us through our crises, we would react to them differently.

  13. Salma, That is a really good point. Angie, I also have a trial that has just been going on for YEARS. I want a new one so badly. But it seems like month after month my tolerance for it wears so thin that I am willing to learn whatever I need to to overcome it through Christ. I certainly hope I can learn it soon. I really hope your husband gets better.

  14. I love that buttprints poem, Kel. Still makes me laugh.

    Emily, increased clarity of vision and increased charity are amazing blessings that I covet. I am going to concentrate on asking for them. Asking for charity is fascinating to me–maybe you could write a post about it. Because I have asked for it, but I have never really FELT it. Can you FEEL yourself getting more charitable, or do you just trust that God is working on you? (Because maybe it would make you proud if you could feel it.)

    I love that image of being held in the hollow of God’s hand. I try to picture myself being carried by Him, in His hand or in a little padded basket. Really! I meditate on that image sometimes.

    Thanks for a great discussion, guys.

  15. Good blog idea, Darlene… yes, I think I can feel myself getting more charitable. I will talk about it in a blog sometime.

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