Monday, June 24, 2013

Pain and the Atonement

Today, I read “The Atonement Covers All Pain” by Kent F. Richards from the April 2011 General Conference. This post stems from that talk and my thoughts and I studied and read related scriptures.

All quotes are from this talk. No, I didn't cite them. This is my citation.

This talk provided me with a lot to process and think about, and it really helped bring me more peace. If you've read recent posts, you would know I'm having a hard time. Between scripture studies, I get filled with some serious anxiety and depression. My studying of the scriptures and other gospel tools is what is keeping me afloat and hopeful. After today's study, I feel much more hopeful than I have all weekend, and I think I have enough hope to give me the motivation to be productive today.

Here is a dive into what I studied/learned/was reminded of about the Atonement today. If it's kind of on the choppy, side, please excuse me. This pretty much came straight from my journal (with some name changes and minor stuff). I just hope that maybe my thought process here could help other people who have been struggling too.


Pain: there are some cases where it is inflicted on purpose for the growth or repair of certain aspects of the body
-          For the repair of my back, I have to do stretches and exercises that are painful. I have to endure that pain as it is necessary for the healing that needs to take place.
-          That physical pain is a severe trial I am experiencing. It’s in my back and my feet, and sometimes, it really is excruciating.. I have to have that pain, though, to help my soul reach the perfection I am seeking and that God knows is possible. Pain is a part of growth and perfection. If I didn’t experience pain, my body would never come close to perfect again. But, if I do the things I am supposed to, despite the pain, I can experience recovery. I can be recovered, in a sense, to Heavenly Father and the spiritual state I desire.
-          The same goes with my emotional pain.

There are different ways I can deal with pain: I can get angry that it is happening and pull away from God. I can also use it as an opportunity to rely on the only true source of healing, which is God. I’ve felt the pull of both. I also know which one provides me with nourishment to my soul and which one leads me into deeper despair.

Pain is a part of life. Why? Because we all need to experience pain to grow. When you are trying to get in shape, if you never push yourself, you will never grow. If you never push yourself, you will never get faster. If you only run an eight minute mile every day and don’t try to increase your time or distance to avoid the pain (soreness, possible injury, etc), you will avoid the pain, and you won’t get better/faster. Pain is a part of life because we need it to grow. We also need repair time—time to heal. This helps prevent injury and allows a safe growth process.  In the spiritual sense, that comes from the time we take to increase our knowledge and understanding of the plan of salvation and our relationship with our Father and Jesus Christ. Without that time to repair and rebuild spiritual muscle, we will get too injured to go further.

Pain teaches us patience. That is one of the character weaknesses I have been working on strengthening, so in the eternal perspective, my pain is very important to my strength.

Elder Orson F. Whitney wrote (cited in the talk by Elder Richards): “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. … It is through sorrow and suffering, toil and tribulation, that we gain the education that we come here to acquire.” Are those not the qualities I am trying to strengthen in myself? I am being prepared and strengthened.

“Much of our suffering is not necessarily our fault.” We experience pain from life in general (death, illness, loss of job), and the actions of others. My pain comes from both of those categories. I can deal with my pain appropriately as I realize that opposition is part of life. Without opposition, the plan of happiness wouldn’t be. We need this opposition. Without opposition, there could not be wickedness or righteousness. There couldn’t be happiness or misery (see 2 Ne 2:11). We need opposition. “We all encounter enough to bring us to an awareness of our Father’s love and of our need for the Savior’s help.” And that awareness of the Father’s love and our need for the Savior are part of what we are here to discover. That awareness and knowledge will help us get where we are going in the eternal realm.

The Savior knows personally the pain I feel. He knows the pains of us all because of His Atonement. Rather than just knowing, He suffered it so He could understand our pains and know how to succor us. I can have faith in Him because He suffered it. I can have faith in Him because He knows exactly what I am going through. My favorite scripture about the Atonement is Alma 7:11-13. In these verses, it describes His purpose.  He suffered everything for us so His “bowels could be filled with mercy” and so He would know how to succor us. As we rely on that, and His power, we will be converted to Him, and we will be able to achieve our purpose of life.

Here are some other scriptures about the Atonement that he mentions in this talk and impacted me as I studied them:

3 Ne 9:13
I love this verse because it asks all those who were spared because they were more righteous if they will come to Him and be converted so He can heal them. Even though it says they were more righteous than others, they weren’t perfect. They still needed the power of the Atonement to help them be fully converted to Him and be healed of their pains through affliction, infirmity, or sin. Maybe my sins aren’t as bad as other people’s are, but I still need that healing through the Atonement. Any sin makes me unclean, so I need to repent and become clean again.

3 Ne 27:13-16
These verses reminded me of something I realized yesterday (courtesy of Bishop and Jack). We met with our bishop yesterday, and towards the end he excused me to talk to Jack alone. When Jack came out, one of the things he said they talked about was how Christ suffered the Atonement for love of God first. He did it for us and His love for us—we know that. But, first, it was for God. Christ said “send me” because He loved God and wanted His purposes to be fulfilled and let God receive the glory. He came to the world to do the will of the Father. Through the will of the Father, Christ was sent here to draw all men unto Him. If we repent, are baptized, and endure to the end (keeping our covenants), all will be well for us.

“Late one night lying in a hospital bed, this time as a patient and not as a physician, I read those verses over and over again. I pondered: ‘How is it done? For whom? What is required to qualify? Is it like forgiveness of sin? Do we have to earn His love and help?’ As I pondered, I came to understand that during His mortal life Christ chose to experience pains and afflictions in order to understand us. Perhaps we also need to experience the depths of mortality in order to understand Him and our eternal purposes” (bold added).

No amount of pain I will experience in this life will come close to the pain He has felt because He suffered not only my pain, but everyone else’s. However, my pains help me understand Him, why he came here, and the plan of salvation. My pains and growth not only help me understand the Atonement better, but they help me understand my role in the plan and give me glimpses to what I have waiting for me hereafter as long as I remain faithful. And when I am in intense pain and feel completely alone, it is a tremendous blessing to know that I am never alone. Christ is always there to succor me and lift me up, and He knows exactly what I need because He has felt that same pain.

Relief may not come immediately. I mean, I will get some kind of help. His power is administered through giving me strength, patience, and peace. Just because the trial isn’t removed doesn’t mean He doesn’t care or isn’t watching over me. He is always watching over me. He has felt this pain. He knows me, and He knows exactly how much of this pain I need to condition me into the spiritual shape I need to be in.

“Our great personal challenge in mortality is to become ‘a saint through the atonement of Christ.’” My trials are helping me get there. 

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