Thursday, January 03, 2013

Acknowledging my Pain

This post was originally written for Mormon Mommy Blogs:
A month after my daughter passed away, I found myself in church listening to a lesson about trials.
I was hoping to find some guidance and peace but instead found the opposite was happening:  I heard comment after comment about the need to rejoice in our trials and tribulations.
My husband could tell that I was getting agitated. I saw him ever so slightly shaking his head as if to say, “Just don’t say anything.”  My husband knows me well.  He knows that I have a hard time keeping my mouth shut sometimes.  When someone said the phrase,“buck up” in relation to our trials, I couldn’t hold back anymore.  I rose my hand and said,“Um, sorry but I’m not rejoicing that Laila is dead.”  There was an awkward silence.  Pretty much, I’m the queen of awkward.  I was mad and hurt–I felt that I was being told that since I was suffering and sad about the trial dealt to me that I was not a good saint.  I felt discouraged that in the midst of my deepest sorrow I was being told to “buck up.” 
The poor teacher didn’t really know what to say in response to my abrupt confession, so after a long pause he said, “Well, of course in situations such as yours…” and then he just went on with the remainder of the lesson testifying of the importance of being happy in the midst of our trails. 
If there is anything I’ve learned in the last year, it’s about the nature of suffering.  The teacher was absolutely right.  The gospel of Jesus Christ is one of happiness and joy.  Because of our beliefs and our knowledge, we have reason to rejoice.  As we come to understand the gospel, we develop an eternal perspective that allows us to gracefully achieve peace and hope in our trials.  But I believe the class missed something essential in that lesson:  The reality of life and mortality.  The reality is that life is hard, and sometimes it just downright stinks. 

The scriptures tell us that Christ was “amazed” and that his soul felt “exceedingly sorrowful” when he suffered in the Garden of Gethsemane.  In the Doctrine and Covenants Christ further describes his feelings about the process of completing the Atonement when he says he “tremble[d] because of pain” and suffered both body and spirit.  He admits that He had hoped He wouldn’t have had to complete the task.  If anyone understands pain and suffering, it is Christ.
Elder Holland reassures us when he says, “Only one who has taken the full brunt of such adversity could ever be justified in telling us in such times to ‘be of good cheer.’  Such counsel is not a jaunty pep talk about the power of positive thinking, though positive thinking is much needed in the world. No, Christ knows better than all others that the trials of life can be very deep and we are not shallow people if we struggle with them. But even as the Lord avoids sugary rhetoric, He rebukes faithlessness and He deplores pessimism. He expects us to believe!”
I have often found myself on my knees, tears streaming, as I pour my sorrow out to the Lord.  I have told Him, “This suffering is too much for me.  I don’t want this trial.  I don’t want to keep feeling this.  How can I go on?”
The first response isn’t one of rebuke for my lack of rejoicing.
It is a gentle, loving reassurance. 
The first words that fill my mind and my heart say, “I know.  It’s ok.  I love you.” 
Those words acknowledge my pain and tell me that He understands and that I am not doing something wrong for feeling the deep sorrow I feel.
It is only later, when I’m off my knees going about my day that I hear another, also quiet and loving response.  It may come while I wash the dishes “Take better care of your body;” or as I run errands, “Serve your neighbor;” perhaps when I give my children lunch, “Spend more time with your boys.”
I might be told to read my scriptures more or do my visiting teaching.
The direction is so personal and so loving and meant to help me feel more joy and peace in the midst of my trials.  But mostly, I remember that the first response was one of love and understanding.  That acknowledgment of my pain allows me to get up off of my knees and open my heart to the other response that will allow me to keep moving forward in faith.
And I know that it’s OK that I feel sad and I know that I’m not failing if I am not able to feel joy in the midst of my trails.  He acknowledges it and then gently helps me know how to rise above the sorrow.

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