Tuesday, June 2, 2015

To Those Who Feel Forsaken




What is your biggest fear?


A family member asked me that not too long ago, and I immediately knew what my response would be. Coincidentally, our answers turned out to be identical. 

The fear of being left alone. 

Ok, I'm not talking about going to the bathroom without your besties or those car rides where you roll the windows down and belt it out with the radio just because there's no one around to hear you. Trust me....I need my alone time just like any other human being. 

No, I'm talking about the fear of being left completely alone..abandoned...forsaken

It's a fear of being loved, valued, supported, appreciated, protected....and then having that stripped from me. Some might chalk it up to my extroverted side (or my need to talk my entire life out to someone in order for it to make sense to me:)...but I think it goes deeper than that. Turns out, it's also one of the most common universal fears. 

Why?

I think...and again...this is just my personal opinion...that it's somehow related to our spiritual divinity--that real need for heavenly companionship through this often difficult life.

 For me, that fear of spiritual abandonment is as frightening--if not more--than the prospect of physical or emotional abandonment. Ok...why am I talking about this?? Because one of the most difficult experiences of my life involved, what I perceived to be a reality of this fear. 


I was serving as a full-time missionary--dedicating my life 24/7 to serving God and helping His children around me--and because of this choice in lifestyle and dedication to Him, I assumed that at least spiritually...I was set.

Side note: DON'T EVER ASSUME THAT:)

I was about to experience one of the most spiritually-difficult times of my life...that would ultimately change me forever. Just when I thought I'd figured life out, multiple challenges, unexpected changes, and unforeseen pressures began to mount in my life. 

At that time, I began to feel a keen sense of loneliness. Here I was, trying my best to do God's work and follow His will for me...and yet I felt so alone. I remember agonizing because I felt like heaven was silent during those long nights when I would cry myself to sleep and then cry more the next morning as I woke up to the reality of my challenges. 

I began to doubt. I began doubting whether or not my service was worth it. I began doubting whether or not it was all true--what I was dedicating my life to teaching. I began doubting whether or not He was even there listening to me. I began doubting like I've never doubted before. 

And with that doubting, I began to feel like I had been abandoned..

Through it all, I continued to pray and read the scripture though, with still that (perhaps desperate) hope that I would find relief. I remember one night, though, praying and through tears begging, "Where are you?? I need you...why do I feel so alone??"




It wasn't until a few days later that I came across the account of Christ's suffering on the cross found in Matthew 27. I had read this account before, and especially on that morning my studies were less than deep since my mind was caught up in my own doubts and frustrations. 

I was starting to feel like giving up. 

However, as I came across verse 46 I read, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" My mind immediately flashed back to a religion class I'd taken in college where our teacher had read this verse to us and then explained, "So many times we rush through that verse without realizing the significance of this moment in time. This isn't doctrine....it's just my personal opinion....but when I read that cry from the Savior, I hear 'My God, my God...why hast THOU forsaken me?'"

In a moment of desperation and frustration, I immediately burst into tears and turned to heaven with my own cry, "My God, my God....why hast THOU forsaken me?" Almost instantly the words came into my mind, "Anna....I know what it's like to truly be forsaken. And because I know what that feels like....you will never fully know what that feels like. Because I have been forsaken, you will never be forsaken."

It was true. 

I realized then that the one person--the ONE person--who knew exactly what I was going through and knew exactly how to help me....I was being tempted to forsake because of my weakness. Because of my doubts, I was about to walk out on the one person--the ONLY person--who truly was there for me, all of the time. Yet when those words came into my mind....that all changed, because I was shaken to the realization that I NEVER.....EVER....want to hear those words from my Savior...to me. 

"Anna, Anna, why didst THOU forsake me?"

After everything that He has done for me--the pain He's felt for me, the tears He's shed for me, the price He's paid for me--how could I ever turn my back on Him? 
All He was asking of me in that moment was to not forsake Him. 

My problems didn't immediately go away. My struggles didn't vanish completely. I still faced challenges and heartbreak. But what did change was ME....because I realized that Christ had to experience being completely forsaken...not because He had to know what it was like when God chooses to forsake us....but because WE choose to forsake God. 

We caused that pain that caused the Savior of the world to cry out in agony, "My God, My God, why hast THOU forsaken me?" And I realized in that moment, that I never want to cause Him that pain ever again. 




Shortly after that experience, I came across this quote from Jeffery R Holland, 

"Indeed, it is my personal belief that in all of Christ’s mortal ministry the Father may never have been closer to His Son than in these agonizing final moments of suffering. Nevertheless, that the supreme sacrifice of His Son might be as complete as it was voluntary and solitary, the Father briefly withdrew from Jesus the comfort of His Spirit, the support of His personal presence. It was required, indeed it was central to the significance of the Atonement, that this perfect Son who had never spoken ill nor done wrong nor touched an unclean thing had to know how the rest of humankind—us, all of us—would feel when we did commit such sins. For His Atonement to be infinite and eternal, He had to feel what it was like to die not only physically but spiritually, to sense what it was like to have the divine Spirit withdraw, leaving one feeling totally, abjectly, hopelessly alone.


But Jesus held on. He pressed on. The goodness in Him allowed faith to triumph even in a state of complete anguish. The trust He lived by told Him in spite of His feelings that divine compassion is never absent, that God is always faithful, that He never flees nor fails us.
("None Were With Him," Jeffery R Holland)


I had felt like heaven was silent, like I was alone, and that God was distant from me in one of the most difficult times of my life. But I realized from this experience that there's no need to yell when you're standing right beside someone....a whisper will do. 


I believe that sometimes the Lord is quiet because the teacher is always silent during a test. 


He wasn't atop the mountain, calling for me to catch up or just keep going. No....He was right there beside me as I climbed that mountain. He was supporting me, guiding me, and yet still allowing me to struggle so that I would come out on top stronger than I had ever been before. I truly came out of that experience knowing my Savior and His love for me in a way I had never known before. My relationship with Him has changed forever, and I can say now that I am grateful I went through that trial. It has changed who I am.

He had never left me. And He never will.


Because He was forsaken.....we will never be forsaken.


Reach out.

Continue to press on.

Go to Him in sincere prayer and scripture study.

 Ask the Lord to show you what lessons He's teaching you through your trials. 

"Doubt not...only be believing" (Mormon 9:27). 

Trust that He will never leave you. 

Look for His hand in your life. 

Hold on and have faith. 



And this post wouldn't be complete without the words to one of my favorite hymns:


"Fear not, I am with thee; oh, be not dismayed,
For I am thy God and will still give thee aid.
I'll strengthen thee, help thee, and cause thee to stand,
Upheld by my righteous, upheld by my righteous,
Upheld by my righteous, omnipotent hand.

When through the deep waters I call thee to go,
The rivers of sorrow shall not thee o'erflow,
For I will be with thee, thy troubles to bless,
And sanctify to thee, and sanctify to thee,
And sanctify to thee thy deepest distress.

The soul that on Jesus hath leaned for repose
I will not, I cannot, desert to his foes;
That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake,
I'll never, no never, I'll never, no never,
I'll never, no never, no never forsake!"





HE NEVER FORSAKES!