Tuesday, November 27, 2012


Letting myself be happy has turned out to be harder than I thought.

I’ve been thinking about the atonement for the past few days, after we had our Teachings for Our Times lesson on Sunday about President Uchtdorf’s message (which ironically was the General Conference Book Club talk for last week).

For some reason my testimony of the atonement and my understanding and conviction that it is the key to happiness and can help me bear pain and disappointment doesn’t seem to translate into something doable. I can’t figure out how to use the atonement to help assuage the pain.

Something I thought about on Sunday was how I healed (am healing) from the loss of my brother. For a while I didn’t heal – I was too busy to deal with the grief – but once I faced the grief head on, and allowed the atonement to work in me, I felt the healing. I still feel it every day (for that trial). The loss of my brother will always be a hole in my heart, but it is much less painful now than it was two years ago.  I feel like I was able to heal because nothing was ongoing. Once the initial shock was gone, there was not much left to do other than heal. There are always little moments when it’s harder – like when we’re taking family pictures, or on his birthday, or on the anniversary of his death, or when I watch someone else deal with the loss of a loved one. But in general, the pain is past. The trial is, for the most part, over.

This trial is different.

It may never be over. It may never end. Things may never, in this life, get better – at least not the way I want them to.

And I think accepting that is hard for me. Learning how to live with the situation how it is feels like giving up. It feels like being okay with things the way they are is failure. Accepting that I don’t have any power over this situation is like accepting defeat.

I guess I just don’t want to endure pain for the rest of my life. This is a spiritual and emotional pain, rather than a physical one – but I think the concept is the same. I can’t imagine living in chronic pain. I know there are people who do it. A good sister in my ward is in constant pain and confined to a wheelchair. There are actually two sisters in our ward in that condition. How do they stand it? How do they find happiness? It wasn’t their choice to be in that situation.

I think deep down I feel a little bit like this trial is my fault. I feel as if there is something I could have done. If only I had made this decision, or that decision, I wouldn’t be in this position.

Sometime in the past year I remember thinking to myself that Heavenly Father wanted me to be in this position. He knew before I did the pain I would be in. He knew it a long time ago, before I even saw it coming. He knew when He told me to make the decision I made that would lead me to this place. He knew this was the only way I would learn the things I needed to learn.

I read this quote from Orson F. Whitney earlier today in a General Conference talk by Elder Robert D. Hales,

No pain that we suffer, no trial that we experience is wasted. It ministers to our education, to the development of such qualities as patience, faith, fortitude and humility. All that we suffer and all that we endure, especially when we endure it patiently, builds up our characters, purifies our hearts, expands our souls, and makes us more tender and charitable, more worthy to be called the children of God, … and it is through sorrow and suffering, toil and tribulation, that we gain the education that we come here to acquire.

I loved what Bonnie said about tanning leather on my most recent post at Real Intent:

You would think that the strongest leather comes from hides with lots of flesh left on them, nice and thick, that haven't been treated too badly. In fact, the strongest leather comes from well-scraped hides that have been acid-soaked and worked and left in the sun, then acid-soaked and worked and left in the sun, and acid-soaked and worked and left in the sun. Unworked leather cracks under pressure. Well-worked leather is soft and supple, water-proof and flexible. We don't grow strong by being left alone.

Tender. How do you tenderize something? Usually by beating it repeatedly. Ever seen a meat tenderizer? They come in different varieties, but almost always they have some kind of prongs or texturized surface. Ours is a very scary looking hammer. If you want to cook some really tender meat, you beat the meat repeatedly with the scary hammer. How do we become tender? By being beating, spiritually, emotionally, sometimes physically. By undergoing trials and adversity.

I once wrote about the three sources of trials and adversity in this life. Suffering is usually caused either by our own sins, the sins of others, or just by the natural conditions of this world. The suffering I experienced when my brother passed away was part of the natural conditions of this world. No one made him get cancer. His cancer wasn’t a result of some sin he committed. It just happened. It was tragic and painful, but it just happened. This trial is hard for me because I can’t help feeling like I am suffering it because of a sin I committed. I keep wanting to simply repent and make it better – but I can’t because it isn’t my sin to repent of.

Elder Hales said, “In this mortal life, each of us is going to experience pain in one form or another… It often comes as a result of our disobedience to the commandments of God, but it also comes to those who are doing all they can to keep their lives in line with the example of the Savior.” I have been spending all this time thinking that this kind of pain shouldn’t come to me because of the way I was living my life. I made good choices, so I shouldn’t have to experience this trial. But life doesn’t work that way. All the good choices I could ever make can’t stop others from making bad choices.

I really liked the last part of Elder Hales’ talk where he talked about how important caregivers are as we are experiencing pain. “There are times when, no matter how independent we may be, we must entrust others with our care. We must surrender ourselves to them. Our caregivers are those who assist in the healing process.”

If you know anything about me, you know that I am fiercely independent, strong willed, and incredibly head strong. In fact, earlier this year when my husband was gone on frequent business trips a member of our Relief Society presidency called me and asked if I needed anything. She commented that she wasn’t too worried about me because she could tell how independent I am, but she wanted me to know that they were there if I needed anything. I told her that she’s right, I can take care of everything, but it was nice to know they were thinking about me (and it was – it always helps me take care of myself when I know people are thinking of me).

So “surrendering” to outside help is something I would not consider doing. Last fall when I was having some emotional issues my husband made me see a therapist a few times. I would never have made the appointments on my own. A few months ago I finally broke down and talked to the bishop. It felt good to talk to him and get counsel, but I didn’t go back, thinking I could take care of it from there.

This week I am going to work on finding some caregivers. A person in chronic pain probably sees a doctor regularly. I think I should probably learn to surrender to some caregivers.

Surrendering to the ultimate Caregiver is probably going to be the hardest thing for me. Elder Hales said,

The Lord is our ultimate caregiver. We must surrender ourselves to the Lord. In doing so, we give up whatever is causing our pain and turn everything over to Him. “Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and he shall sustain thee”. “And then may God grand unto you that your burdens may be light, through the joy of his Son”. Through faith and trust in the Lord and obedience to His counsel, we make ourselves eligible to be partakers of the Atonement of Jesus Christ so that one day we may return to live with Him.

Giving up the thing that is causing me pain is going to feel like defeat. I don’t know how not to feel like it is. I don’t know how not to feel like I have somehow failed. I don’t know how to do it, and I am pretty sure that is the thing causing me the most pain.


  1. Have you ever been to the 12 meeting the church does? You may or may not know someone with addiction, but i have found that the steps they go through are the tools to accessing the atonement in a way i never knew or could have imagined. My life is forever changed. the peace and joy that have filled my life because of them are priceless.

  2. Not sure when I first got you on my blog roll, but I like your thoughts here, I've been here too (sometimes still am) I highly recommend the book "One Thousand Gifts" - it's beautiful and she shares how to live fully, RIGHT WHERE YOU ARE and RIGHT NOW. I loved it. http://seekingzion.blogspot.com/2012/11/humbly-receive.html

    also, I wanted to start seeing a therapist a few years ago when I was being beaten up mostly by my own emotions and I felt like I might be slightly unstable ~ a friend told me how much she loved going to her therapist ~ but then I read the book "Triple Whammy Cure" where he says women don't need a therapist, just a good friend to talk to. It'll give you what you need and save you the $. (http://thewridefamily.blogspot.com/2012/01/triple-whammy.html)

  3. Wow, I love the image of the leather and the meat tenderizer. I think that is so true, as much as we hate it it is when we struggle that we grow the most. I am proud of you for reaching out for help. That is brave :)

  4. I think that admitting that we can't do it all on our own and surrendering, giving yourself over to the process of healing is such a huge step. You are very brave to be sharing this. I can tell you that I've probably been there, I've had a lot of experience with pain and frustration, loss, it does get better eventually. It really is helpful to be able to talk about it with whomever you feel comfortable talking with be that a group setting, or just with an individual. My Husband suffers from a Neurological disease that was caused by the military's careless use of experimental vaccines. He lives with chronic physical pain. It is so frustrating for me to not be able to help him, I can't alleviate it, nothing can. I can just stand by and be as supportive as possible, he didn't do anything wrong to cause this, it was decisions made by other people. It affects every aspect of our lives, it affects our children he has limitations that a healthy person doesn't. We've also had an ongoing issue with one of his family members that is just toxic. For whatever reason this person is abusive and mean, it is passive aggressive abuse to and it is confusing and there isn't any explanation for it. No matter how much is done to try to make things better with the person things just get worse. So there's no reason to it, no explanation, and no fixing anything. If it was just a friendship or an acquaintance then it wouldn't matter but it is a family member. I keep telling myself that the Lord is trying to teach us all something here and I continue to pray for the other person, that is really all that is left. Tiffanie's comment above has some great advice, talk to a friend they may not have all the answers, maybe not any but having someone just listen and be there, be on your team is like gold. I pray for you Becca I really do, I hope things improve and that you feel better. Thanks for sharing...

    1. Thanks Missy! I had a thought about your toxic relative. I think I have a similar one. Mine lives in another state, so I do not have to see him very often. For about 20 years, other than an occasional phone call or stop by, I just pretty much avoided him, because every time we interacted, my feelings got hurt, and I was upset for days. Recently, I have recognized that my relative really is functioning at the emotional level of a three-year-old. When a three-year-old throws a tantrum or says something ugly or nasty to you, you don't get angry. And you don't allow your feelings to be hurt by what they say. You simply send them to their room, or in the case of a relative, you remove yourself. You tell them you will be happy to interact with them when their behavior is better but for now you need to leave. The trick, for me, is not allowing my feelings to be hurt by their tantrum. The last time we interacted, a couple of nasty things were said to which I simply replied, well, you made it really difficult to (insert do what they want you to). Then at the end, he tried to make me feel guilty for not calling more often (I am the ONLY one who makes the call), to which I said, feel free to pick up the phone and call me anytime. It was the first time we had interacted without my feelings getting hurt because I just kept reminding myself that he was three, even though he is 20 years older than me. Maybe that will work for you? I don't know.

    2. Thanks for sharing that Carin. I will try that approach, I feel like I've tried every other approach. This family member does live in another state so we aren't around each other much. I've been told by other family members that these issues go back MANY years and that they were saddled with issues from their parents. Its all very hard to understand. It is one of my Husband's siblings, I am very close with all of mine so its difficult for me. None of my husbands siblings really communicate at all, most are quite active in the church so its kind of a contradiction. When I've tried to reach out the end result from this person is always a big negative drama. The last time it was something like "you haven't kept up to date with me often enough..."? Its hard to keep up to date with someone who won't communicate? I've sent baby gifts, birthday cards and gifts for her kids and never any reply. They used to live in a state different from where they are now and they wouldn't even share their address at that point, her husband gave me a "business address" so I sent the gifts there and I have no clue if they ever even got those. It has devolved into a situation where I can't do anything really anymore, except pray and I will continue to do that. I will try to apply the technique that you just shared maybe it will help? Ironically this person speaks at church historical sites and LDS themed workshops, it is hard when you feel like someone is such a fraud to be out representing the church. I remind myself that we all have many sides, different aspects to our personalities, strengths and weaknesses, that none of us are perfect. I remind myself that the gospel is for everyone. Its hard to explain, and I am probably not doing a very good job. I pray for her that's all I can do right now, I sincerely from the bottom of my heart hope that things improve someday...Thanks for sharing that with me though. <3

  5. I just found your blog and I love it. This is the first post I have read, and it is very poignant. I'm having a hard time finding other bloggers who keep blogs on their spiritual insights, like this one...I mostly write about my experiences with adversity and how I relate them to the scriptures. Any pointers? Would love to follow more bloggers like you!

    Ashley Bliss

  6. Well...I believe therapy is mostly about uncovering hidden emotions and reconciling them with our beliefs, behaviors, or words. Usually, when we have disagreements between our beliefs, behaviors, or our words, our soul is in conflict, and we are unhappy, depressed, or unsatisfied. We seek unity and so we try to change our beliefs, behaviors, or words to bring about harmony instead of the in-congruence we are experiencing.

    The trick is that we often mask some of our feelings/behaviors/beliefs because they are painful to change or we do not want to believe those things about ourselves. So it is extremely important that we are being as honest as possible with ourselves. Sometimes we even think we are, when we are not. (I'll send you an email with a personal example.) During this process, I have sometimes had to pray and ask Heavenly Father to help me to see where I am not in harmony.

    YOU and Heavenly Father and the Savior, are the only ones who know what is going on inside of you and why your feelings are not at peace. The therapist does not know. His/her job is to help bring those things to your conscious self. The answers are inside you. So here are some questions to consider, seriously, hard questions:
    Do you feel like the choice you made (the one you refer to in this blog) is in harmony with what the Lord wanted?
    If not, did you make a mistake and does it require repentance? (It would appear from your statements, this is not the case.)
    If it is in line with the Lord's will, are you angry at God because the choice has some negative consequences (feelings/thoughts/behaviors) associated with it? Are you upset that you did what God asked and instead of having peace, you have conflict? This is significant to reconcile. Your feelings would be normal. We usually expect that if we do what God asks, then we will be happy. Sometimes we don't realize that in order to get to the happiness, we first must go through the pain, or the ugliness to correct whatever in our beliefs/actions/thoughts/feelings/words is out of harmony and needs change. Sometimes we really are upset that we did what He asked, and we do not have what WE thought should be the consequence/blessing for following His will. Here we simply do not have all of the information and if we did, we would understand why doing what God asks is what we should do even with the pain involved.

    There are a thousand more questions, but if you reflectively ask yourself, through prayer and scripture study these beginning ones, the Spirit will direct you along the rest of the path to finding what it is that is bothering you. Remember to put into place the doctrines that we will not be given certain answers until we can handle the information and are ready to act on it. Otherwise the knowledge would not be a blessing but would cause us more conflict. And that the Lord loves us and wants our peace/happiness. He knows how to get there. He knows how long the road is and what it looks like. We have to trust that.

    Last thought: I am also fiercely independent. I learned early on that I could not rely on others to meet my needs/desires/hopes. So I no longer expect that and I struggle to work in that direction. My husband keeps trying to tell me that part of the point of life is learning to be interdependent. The Lord keeps putting me into situations where I must practice and apply this and learn it. It is not fun! I do not like it! But I do recognize that it is something I need to work on. It is not defeat to learn to rely on the Lord and to allow Him to do what He says He will. It is trust on our part, which is something that those of us who are fiercely independent are not usually good at.

    1. You put this so eloquently. Thanks for sharing this. I love what you said about how it is not defeat to learn to rely on the Lord and to allow him to do what he says he will. That is exactly what I was trying to communicate when I referred to giving in to the process, sometimes that is half the battle. It may feel like defeat but really it isn't rather an essential step...

    2. Carin, thanks for all your thoughtful questions. They were really helpful for me. I'm going to come back to them again and again as I go through all this.

      "It is not defeat to learn to rely on the Lord and to allow Him to do what He says He will. It is trust on our part, which is something that those of us who are fiercely independent are not usually good at."

      So true.


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