Several years ago, my family and I spent a week on the beautiful Oregon coast. During our trip, we saw several lighthouses and were able to tour one known as Heceta Head. This lighthouse was capable of emitting a beam of light over twenty-five miles out to sea. It could emit its light through dense fog far enough to protect ships and boats from any potential hazards. We also discovered that each lighthouse emits a different pattern of intervals of light and darkness, which serves as a navigational point so that ships passing by at night or sailing in a thick fog can tell where they are in relation to the coastal region and avoid any dangerous rocks or shoals.
The crews of boats sailing along the coast rely upon these lighthouses for direction and safety. They are even more dependent upon the lighthouses during stormy, turbulent, and foggy conditions. Without the light, sailors easily lose their way, crash their boats against the jagged rocks, and are destroyed.
At times, we find ourselves caught in the turbulent storms of life. These storms come in the form of loneliness, depression, anxiety, abuse, or disability. During these times, it is even more important that we strive to follow the light of God. Although it may seem distant and dim, we are blessed and comforted as we continue to follow it.
Shortly after his death, Jesus appeared before the weeping Mary Magdalene. She saw him standing, but did not recognize him. "Jesus saith unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? whom seekest thou? She, supposing him to be the gardener, saith unto him, Sir, if thou have borne him hence, tell me where thou hast laid him, and I will take him away" (John 20: 14-15).
President James E. Faust taught, "The Savior was speaking not just to the sorrowing Mary. He was speaking to all of us-men, women, and children and all mankind ever born or yet to be born, for tears of sorrow, pain, or remorse are common to all mankind."
President Faust continued, "Many who think that life is unfair do not see things within the larger vision of what the Savior did for us through the Atonement and Resurrection. Each of us has at times agony, heartbreak, and despair when we must, like Job, reach deep down inside to the bedrock of our own faith." Then President Faust makes this insightful statement: "The depth of our belief in the Resurrection and the Atonement of the Savior will I believe, determine the measure of courage and purpose with which we meet life's challenges."2
During my teenage years and into adulthood, I battled with anxiety and depression. Trying to provide my parents with ongoing emotional support seemed to exacerbate these conditions. I became obsessive as I worked to create conditions that were predictable and safe. I mistakenly believed that if I committed myself to doing everything right then my parents would be happy, I would feel better, and God would love me.
It took a long time, but I finally learned that God loves us no matter what, and we don't have to earn his love. It's always there! And while the consequences of abuse are painful, I discovered that many of our struggles are not designed to punish us but that they can offer us opportunities to grow and develop spiritually.
I slowly began to understand that Heavenly Father loves us because we are his children. Our Savior, Jesus Christ, loves us so much that he willingly suffered for all of our sins, weaknesses, and abuses in order to fully understand and strengthen each of us.
Despite this knowledge, I continued to struggle with anxiety, depression, and obsessive thoughts for many years. Over the years, I prayed, studied the scriptures, attended the temple, and fasted regularly for help in overcoming these challenges. I was striving to do everything right by fulfilling church callings and trying to be a good husband and father. I would have been healed if my efforts alone were sufficient. However, the emotional pain persisted.
For most of my life, I erroneously believed that taking medication for anxiety and depression was a sign of weakness. I believed priesthood blessings, faithful service, prayer, and scripture study were all that was necessary to be healed. My wife would periodically suggest that if I had diabetes I wouldn't hesitate to take insulin. Like any other medical condition, a mental health concern requires treatment. Acting on her counsel and encouragement, I reluctantly scheduled a medical evaluation with my physician. He prescribed medication that made a noticeable difference. I no longer struggled as seriously with the effects of anxiety and depression. However, my emotional healing wasn't complete.
When I was set apart as a high councilor, I was promised in a priesthood blessing that I would be healed from my sickness. I eagerly waited for the rest of the healing to occur. After several years, I became impatient with God's timing. What else did he expect me to do? What lesson was I supposed to learn that I hadn't already learned? I began to lose hope.
At different times during our lives, we find ourselves asking, "How do I obtain relief from pain and sorrow?" We know that when the Savior fulfilled his mortal mission, he was ridiculed, betrayed, spat upon, and eventually crucified by those he dearly loved and diligently served. He experienced great pain and suffering when his quivering flesh was nailed to the cross, but the greatest of all suffering occurred in Gethsemane where he experienced the agonies of the Atonement. Elder Neal A. Maxwell explained, "Since not all human sorrow and pain is connected to sin, the full intensiveness of the Atonement involved bearing our pains, infirmities, and sicknesses, as well as our sins. Whatever our sufferings, we can safely cast our 'care upon Him; for He careth for [us]' (1 Peter 5:7)."3
Elder Maxwell has also said, "How many individuals, bereft of such an understanding of the plan of salvation, are angry with God instead of being grateful to Him and to Jesus for the glorious Atonement? Not only is the Atonement the grand expression of Heavenly Father and Jesus' love for us, but we can come to know of their personal love for us."4
I learned that I could do all the right things and say all the right words, but my efforts alone were not enough. Until I submitted my will to God, I simply couldn't be healed emotionally and progress spiritually. I needed to learn to love God, accept his love for me, and take advantage of the support he made available through others. In order to reap the full benefits of the Atonement, I needed to become spiritually submissive. I believe that seeking help from others is part of the process of becoming spiritually submissive.
Elder Orson F. Whitney wrote,
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.5
Elder Maxwell taught, "When we are unduly impatient with an omniscient God's timing, we really are suggesting that we know what is best. Strange isn't it-we who wear wristwatches seek to counsel Him who oversees cosmic clocks and calendars."6
As we humble ourselves and seek the Lord's help, we need to recognize that he may not always remove our trials, but he will always help us find the strength to endure them. This strength often comes through the support and service of others.
In Matthew 11:28-30 we read: "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light."
The Atonement of Jesus Christ brings hope and healing. The strength of our faith in the Resurrection and Atonement influences how well we endure the challenges we face as we sail the turbulent seas of life. We can take comfort in the fact there is a light that will guide us, even a light from the lighthouse of the Lord.