The Four Thoughts That Brightened My Darkness

I’d like to preface the sensitive nature of this post with something my daughter said this morning…

Sophia: Mommy, do you like this dress? (pointing to a picture in a catalog)
Me: Yeah, it’s pretty cute.
Sophia (said completely casually as she continued to peruse in her sophisticated-seven year-old fashion): I’ll buy it for you.
Me (smiling and saying in my head): It’s the thought that counts.

She has no idea how much that dress costs, how many hours of chores she would have to suffer through to earn the money- the whole nature of what it would take is beyond her.  But knowing she would like to buy it for me warmed my heart.

I have had many friends this year express sadness at severe loss and challenges.  For many it’s been related to infertility or miscarriages.  I cannot say I know exactly how this feels.  I do not know the precise kind of excruciating pain many of you have endured this year.  I hope that if my words don’t quite measure up to the comfort you are looking for, that you will perhaps think “It’s the thought that counts.”  And I hope you know that I am thinking of you.

Though I haven’t lost a child, I have felt sadness down to my core.  I felt inadequate as a woman when I could no longer breastfeed because I had to take stronger anti-depressants.  I felt frustrated and angry with the Lord, “Why would he let me be so mentally sick that I couldn’t breastfeed my own baby and enjoy that blessing of bonding with them?  I want to feel happier.  So why can’t I?”  I have felt like I didn’t want or deserve my body.  I felt like something was wrong with me because I didn’t naturally love being a mother like all the women around me seemed to feel.  I have felt left out.  I had a child on either side of me but I often felt alone.  Then I felt more guilt for feeling this way.

I will say I have felt a heavy sadness and longing for more children now that I am over a lot of my depression.  I wish so badly I could see the face of what another daughter or son might look like, but I am left wanting.  My husband and I have prayed about it again and again and the answer is no.

I have broken free from much of this mourning by remembering 4 truths that I want to share with anyone who will listen.  They are my gems and rubies and perhaps this is why I haven’t shared them sooner (though I should have since many of you have asked for ideas that could help.)  I felt inadequate to shoulder that burden with you.  But like Spencer J. Condie said, “Discouragement and its fellow travelers of depression, despair and hopelessness are much like the proverbial rocking chair; they keep us busily occupied, but do not take us anywhere.”  I would not want anyone in that rocking chair if there was a chance I could help them out.  I am not a therapist or counselor.  I am just what has brought light into my midnights and joy within my pain.  Perhaps they can bring you hope too…

1) You are God’s child.  He loves you and iS with you.  (If you are too angry or bitter to hear about this right now skip to #2)
You are never alone.  I know this.  Unlike Jesus who did suffer without the strength of His Father for a time, we do not have to endure that level of pain.  It might feel like it sometimes.  You might feel your heart hurt so badly you wonder if it will explode.  I know I have cried and wailed in shame at my own weaknesses and misfortunes.  But even in that moment of sadness He loved me and He loves you.  He loves the mess you are.  You are his child.  Just as we see the sadness of a child who might want something but can’t have it right away but we still love them and the desires they have, He sees us for all the desires we have too.  And IT IS the thought that counts.

In a speech entitled “And a Little Child Shall Lead Them” President Packer told the following true stories…”Long ago a woman tearfully told me that as a college student she had made a serious mistake with her boyfriend. He had arranged for an abortion. In due time they graduated and were married and had several other children. She told me how tormented she now was to look at her family, her beautiful children, and see in her mind the place, empty now, where that one child was missing.

If this couple understands and applies the Atonement, they will know that those experiences and the pain connected with them can be erased. No pain will last forever. It is not easy, but life was never meant to be either easy or fair. Repentance and the lasting hope that forgiveness brings will always be worth the effort.

Another young couple tearfully told me they had just come from a doctor where they were told they would be unable to have children of their own. They were brokenhearted with the news. They were surprised when I told them that they were actually quite fortunate. They wondered why I would say such a thing. I told them their state was infinitely better than that of other couples who were capable of being parents but who rejected and selfishly avoided that responsibility.

I told them, “At least you want children, and that desire will weigh heavily in your favor in your earthly lives and beyond because it will provide spiritual and emotional stability. Ultimately, you will be much better off because you wanted children and could not have them, as compared to those who could but would not have children.”

Still others remain unmarried and therefore childless. Some, due to circumstances beyond their control, are raising children as single mothers or single fathers. These are temporary states. In the eternal scheme of things—not always in mortality—righteous yearning and longing will be fulfilled.

Even if you are alone in your home and feel like no one understands what you are feeling, God does. Sometimes just remembering that helps.

2) God has a plan for your Salvation.
You are divine.  You are not trash.  You are not some fast food meal.  God is making you into something exquisite, heavenly, incredible and perfect and that takes time.  It takes challenges.  “Even Joseph Smith could not have been perfected without persecution.”  Your trials were chosen to develop you for Salvation.  That is not going to be easy.  But because God loves you so much He will not let you suffer for a moment longer than what is necessary for your growth. (If you are not in the mood to hear more about this go to #3.)

Elder Richard G. Scott gives one of the most tender, moving speeches on loss titled “Trust In the Lord.”  I HIGHLY recommend watching it.  He says…

It is so hard when sincere prayer about something we desire very much is not answered the way we want. It is especially difficult when the Lord answers no to that which is worthy and would give us great joy and happiness…It is hard to understand why our exercise of deep and sincere faith from an obedient life does not bring the desired result.

When you face adversity, you can be led to ask many questions. Some serve a useful purpose; others do not. To ask, Why does this have to happen to me? Why do I have to suffer this, now? What have I done to cause this? will lead you into blind alleys. It really does no good to ask questions that reflect opposition to the will of God. Rather ask, What am I to do? What am I to learn from this experience? What am I to change? Whom am I to help? How can I remember my many blessings in times of trial? Willing sacrifice of deeply held personal desires in favor of the will of God is very hard to do. Yet, when you pray with real conviction, “Please let me know Thy will” and “May Thy will be done,” you are in the strongest position to receive the maximum help from your loving Father…

To exercise faith is to trust that the Lord knows what He is doing with you and that He can accomplish it for your eternal good even though you cannot understand how He can possibly do it. We are like infants in our understanding of eternal matters and their impact on us here in mortality. Yet at times we act as if we knew it all. When you pass through trials for His purposes, as you trust Him, exercise faith in Him, He will help you. That support will generally come step by step, a portion at a time. While you are passing through each phase, the pain and difficulty that comes from being enlarged will continue. If all matters were immediately resolved at your first petition, you could not grow. Your Father in Heaven and His Beloved Son love you perfectly. They would not require you to experience a moment more of difficulty than is absolutely needed for your personal benefit or for that of those you love.

3) Life IS Eternal
If you are so hurt and bitter that you do not feel God loves you and you do not care He has a plan for you, this truth might still help.  This is where my turning point has always come.  There have been times I have not wanted to trust any longer in whatever plan God had for me because I was emotionally exhausted, crushingly disappointed, and empty of faith.  I was done.  And if it weren’t for knowing this truth I probably would have taken my life.

I have always been blessed by loving family and friends, but the battle for light and happiness ultimately occurs in one’s one mind.  It is up to each of us to cast out the darkness of fear by replacing it with the light of truth.  And even if sometimes it’s hard to believe in my individual worth as a child of God, or in the winding path He has for me, I do believe there is life after this one.

Life is eternal.  The end of a heartbeat here is the start of that life elsewhere.  Life cannot be stilled or silenced permanently.  For the depressed person, this reality is at first cruel.  Ending the pain won’t really end it?!!  I will still feel this sadness and have to deal with it even if I prematurely go to the next world?!  However, small children do not choose to do this.  A miscarriage is either the Lord’s careful choice or simply the effect of having a mortal body.  There are many challenges that come because of mortality, even the mental illness people suffer, but that will not be the case in the next life.

Regarding infertility specifically, the prophet Brigham Young said…

Many of the sisters grieve because they are not blessed with offspring.  You will see the time when you will have millions of children around you.  If you are faithful to your covenants, you will be mothers of nations…And when you have assisted in peopling one earth, there are millions of earths still in the course of creation.  And when they have endured a thousand million times longer than this earth, it is only as it were the beginning of your creations.  Be faithful, and if you are not blest with children in this time, you will be hereafter.

If you know life is eternal, suddenly some of the biggest challenges don’t seem quite as daunting because they are temporary.  This life is just a tiny knot on the ever unwinding string of time as the kite it is tethered to flies higher and higher into the heavens.  This moment, though painful and real, is so small in comparison to the vastness of the eternities.

Personally, believing life is eternal has let me remember that my children will get to know my Dad and how he really is, funny, hands-on, always learning and joking.  Knowing this has meant that even though I don’t have the time now to compose symphonies or dance and share my testimony through movement, I will get to perform more in the next life (I can’t imagine what kind of stage and lighting effects they will have there!)  Keeping an eternal perspective means I will be the mother of more children someday, and I will see their faces and know all about them and we will grow as a family in the eternities together (and this helps me enjoy my days here a little bit more.)  Knowing that life is eternal gives me hope to endure with faith until that day when I am no longer bound by this body’s limitations.

And if that isn’t humbling enough, remembering God loves you and is always with you, that He has a plan for your salvation, and that your existence and life is eternal, remember this…

4) “The Son of Man hath descended below them all.  Art thou greater than he?”

This quote comes from verse 8 of section 122 of the Doctrine and Covenants.  For those of you who do not know, the Doctrine and Covenants is a book of revelations from God given during the 1800s to the first few latter-day prophets.  As a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latterday-Saints, we believe God still speaks through prophets to all of His children, including these tender words…

 If thou art called to pass through tribulation; if thou art in perils among false brethren; if thou art in perils among robbers; if thou art in perils by land or by sea;
 If thou art accused with all manner of false accusations; if thine enemies fall upon thee; if they tear thee from the society of thy father and mother and brethren and sisters; and if with a drawn sword thine enemies tear thee from the bosom of thy wife, and of thine offspring, and thine elder son, although but six years of age, shall cling to thy garments, and shall say, My father, my father, why can’t you stay with us? O, my father, what are the men going to do with you? and if then he shall be thrust from thee by the sword, and thou be dragged to prison and thine enemies prowl around thee like wolves for the blood of the lamb;

 And if thou shouldst be cast into the pit, or into the hands of murderers, and the sentence of death passed upon thee; if thou be cast into the deep; if the billowing surge conspire against thee; if fierce winds become thine enemy; if the heavens gather blackness, and all the elements combine to hedge up the way; and above all, if the very jaws of hell shall gape open the mouth wide after thee, know thou, my son, that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good.
 The Son of Man hath descended below them all. Art thou greater than he?
 Therefore, hold on thy way, and the priesthood shall remain with thee; for their bounds are set, they cannot pass. Thy days are known, and thy years shall not be numbered less; therefore, fear not what man can do, for God shall be with you forever and ever.

I will never be asked to suffer as much as the Savior did.  That kind of pain is untouchable.  And if he, the Son of God, told the Father, “Thy will be done,” how can I question God?  How can I begin to think I know better?

In Elder Holland’s inspiring talk “Lessons From Liberty Jail” he uplifts us by saying…

Everyone, including, and perhaps especially, the righteous, will be called upon to face trying times. When that happens we can sometimes fear that God has abandoned us, and we might be left, at least for a time, to wonder when our troubles will ever end. As individuals, as families, as communities, and as nations, probably everyone has had or will have an occasion to feel as Joseph Smith felt when he cried from the depth and discouragement of his confinement: “O God, where art thou? … How long shall thy hand be stayed … ? Yea, O Lord, how long shall [thy people] suffer … before … thy bowels be moved with compassion toward them?” (D&C 121:1–3).
Whenever these moments of our extremity come, we must not succumb to the fear that God has abandoned us or that He does not hear our prayers. He does hear us. He does see us. He does love us. When we are in dire circumstances and want to cry, “Where art Thou?” it is imperative that we remember He is right there with us—where He has always been! We must continue to believe, continue to have faith, continue to pray and plead with heaven, even if we feel for a time our prayers are not heard and that God has somehow gone away. He is there. Our prayers are heard. And when we weep He and the angels of heaven weep with us.

Fear and faith cannot coexist.  Light and darkness cannot share the same space.  One must out power the other.  We, our own thoughts, must out power the other.  It is allowing the Spiritual man to overcome the Natural man.  It is not always easy.  There are days I start asking “Why?” but then I remember what He said…”…know thou,my son, that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good. The Son of Man hath descended below them all. Art thou greater than he?”

All 4 truths are recapped in those sentences.  1) God calls us His son (or daughter.)  2) He tells us these challenges are part of His plan for us, to give us experience and lead to our salvation.  3) Because life is eternal, all these things can be for our good and lead to our exaltation. 4)  Art thou greater than he?

I still remember singing Robert Gardner’s “My Kindess Shall Not Depart From Thee” with a choir when I was 18, whose lyrics are taken largely from the previous scriptures.  (I will include the lyrics at the end of my post for you to read, but the video is below.)  These words are overwhelmingly powerful anyway, but to music…there are no words to describe the feelings I get hearing this song.  On my hardest days all I have to do is remember one or two lines and its empowering melody and I am strengthened.  I hope it strengthens you and reminds you that the Lord is with you, that not even a sparrow can fall to the ground without Him knowing.  And He knows you deeper than you know your best friend, because He created you, raised you in pre-mortal life, and knows all of your thoughts, pains and desires now…please let His words comfort you.

I wrote this post because I owe it to myself to write and remember what I’ve learned during the challenging recent years I’ve faced.  I hope it’s a record for my posterity.  And I hope remembering these 4 thoughts helps them have more light and faith in their life.  If anyone else finds hope in these truths it will have made the pain I’ve endured all the more worth it.

I would like to end with a quote from an October 1959 Conference report…

One of the most urgent present-day needs is to house clean our thinking.  Because two opposites cannot co-exist in the mind at the same moment, the best way is to get rid of the undesirable thoughts is by antedoting them with good.  The best way to get darkness out of a room is to fill it with light.  The best way to kill the negative is to cultivate the positive, and the best way to improve our lives iS to improve our thoughts.

Clearly, it really is the thought that counts.

‘Till Tomorrow!  Luv, Eva

My Kindness Shall Not Depart From Thee

Text and Music by Rob Gardner

For a little while 
Have I forsaken thee; 
But with great mercies will I gather thee. 
In a little wrath I hid my face from thee 
For a moment. 

But with everlasting kindness will I gather thee, 
And with mercy will I take thee ‘neath my wings, 
For the mountains shall depart, 
And the hills shall be removed, 
And the valleys shall be lost beneath the sea, 
But know, my child, 
My kindness shall not depart from thee! 

Though thine afflictions seem 
At times too great to bear, 
I know thine every thought and every care. 
And though the very jaws 
Of hell gape after thee I am with thee. 

And with everlasting mercy will I succor thee, 
And with healing will I take thee ‘neath my wings. 
Though the mountains shall depart, 
And the hills shall be removed, 
And the valleys shall be lost beneath the sea, 
Know, my child, 
My kindness shall not depart from thee! 

How long can rolling waters 
Remain impure? 
What pow’r shall stay the hand of God? 
The Son of Man hath descended below all things. 
Art thou greater than He? 

So hold on thy way, 
For I shall be with thee. 
And mine angels shall encircle thee. 
Doubt not what thou knowest, 
Fear not man, for he 
Cannot hurt thee. 

And with everlasting kindness will I succor thee, 
And with mercy will I take thee ‘neath my wings. 
For the mountains shall depart, 
And the hills shall be removed, 
And the valleys shall be lost beneath the sea, 
But know, my child, 
My kindness shall not depart from thee!

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