Finding Courage now that I can See

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“Courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point, which means at the point of highest reality. A chastity or honesty or mercy which yields to danger will be chaste or honest or merciful only on conditions. Pilate was merciful till it became risky.” – C.S. Lewis

A teacher in Sunday school today shared this quote. It reminded me of the moments when I sense temptation growing and I know it’s time to do battle with my weakness. I faced those moments numerous times this past week. By the grace of the Lord I was victorious despite my frailty.

Recently while meeting with my therapist he taught me a principle I had not considered before. I had always believed if I wanted recovery badly enough and worked hard enough then the Lord would remove my weakness through His Atonement. With this belief in my heart I’ve often felt frustrated when I felt I was doing my best and the Lord wasn’t delivering me—not fully—from my addiction.

In those moments of frustration I felt tempted to think I was being cheated, or that I wasn’t good enough. Recurring clinical depression reinforced those thoughts and eventually I came to believe that for some reason the Lord in His wisdom was going to let me struggle with depression and addiction for the rest of my life. I thought I was destined for an endless cycle of sincere repentance and relapses with periodic sobriety and respite from depression. I had accepted it and decided I wouldn’t give up, that I would keep trying because that’s what the Lord wanted me to do. Maybe some folks receive healing from addiction but that blessing wouldn’t be mine till the next life so long as I was faithful and didn’t stop trying.

A series of alarming choices recently awoke me to the subtle destructiveness of these beliefs.

I now find myself continuously pondering what my therapist taught me, which is this: the Lord doesn’t remove weaknesses, rather He strengthens and teaches us to live righteously despite them. He does this because as He has said, He “gives [us] weaknesses that [we] may be humble.” One of the reasons I came to this earth is to learn to rely on Him in all things. What better way to accomplish this than by learning to rely on Him for the rest of my life because I cannot handle my weaknesses on my own? And instead of asking Him to remove my weakness, what if I were to ask Him to show me how to live with my weakness without giving in to temptation?

“If men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them” (Ether 12:27).

As I sought to apply that principle this week, I found new meaning in the Savior’s promise that “[His] grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before [Him].” He has always been there for me and given me grace in times of need. But there was something different about it this week. This week I stopped looking for healing from addiction and instead started looking for strength to abstain from my addiction. In so doing, it felt as though I was no longer attaching a condition to my relationship with Him, but instead was enjoying a relationship of trust with Him wherein I knew that He and I were working together and that with Him I could do all things. It was like I no longer looked to him as a doctor I would visit when feeling sick, but as a personal trainer with whom I was constantly working to progress and move forward to avoid sickness in the first place.

I feel my words don’t adequately describe the shift in thinking God is giving me, so I pray His Spirit shares it with you and that I let it sink deep into my heart so that I understand it well enough to explain clearly. In just one week it has changed the way I view my relationship with my Savior and my Father in Heaven. I feel a new kind of faith in Him that I haven’t felt before, or perhaps haven’t felt in a very long time; and for that I am grateful.

A scripture comes to mind: “… one thing I know, that, whereas I was blind, now I see” (John 9).

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None are Forbidden

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Frequently Satan tries to make me feel shame. Sometimes he dredges up old, painful memories related to sins for which the Lord has already forgiven me; other times he whispers lies about my self worth, that I am not cut out to be a good man, or that there’s no point in continuing onward given my history of repeated failure. Whatever the play, when I listen the effect is the same: I end up feeling like a lost cause.

What a crock!

I am not a lost cause because Jesus Christ has cleared the path for everyone! No one is too lost, too addicted, too depressed, or too beaten to fall beyond the reach of the Savior. He gently prompts me to not give up, to keep going especially when I see no point in trying; and He never misleads me. When I choose to listen to His voice, the effect is always the same: I feel uplifted.

These scriptures from the Book of Mormon have comforted me the past few weeks:

For behold, my beloved brethren, I say unto you that the Lord God worketh not in darkness.

He doeth not anything save it be for the benefit of the world; for he loveth the world, even that he layeth down his own life that he may draw all men unto him. Wherefore, he commandeth none that they shall not partake of his salvation.

Behold, doth he cry unto any, saying: Depart from me? Behold, I say unto you, Nay; but he saith: Come unto me all ye ends of the earth, buy milk and honey, without money and without price.

Behold, hath he commanded any that they should depart out of the synagogues, or out of the houses of worship? Behold, I say unto you, Nay.

Hath he commanded any that they should not partake of his salvation? Behold I say unto you, Nay; but he hath given it free for all men; and he hath commanded his people that they should persuade all men to repentance.

Behold, hath the Lord commanded any that they should not partake of his goodness? Behold I say unto you, Nay; but all men are privileged the one like unto the other, and none are forbidden.

2 Nephi 26:23-28

Perspective

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“I believe every human being carries in his or her heart some form of fundamental questions regarding life itself. Where did I come from? Why am I here? What will happen after I die?

“These kinds of questions have been asked by mortals since the dawn of time. Philosophers, scholars, and pundits have spent their lives and fortunes seeking for answers.

“I am grateful that the restored gospel of Jesus Christ has answers to the most complex questions in life. These answers are taught in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. They are true, plain, straightforward, and easy to understand. They are inspired, and we teach them to our three-year-olds in the Sunbeam class.

“Brothers and sisters, we are eternal beings, without beginning and without end. We have always existed. We are the literal spirit children of divine, immortal, and omnipotent Heavenly Parents!

“We come from the heavenly courts of the Lord our God. We are of the royal house of Elohim, the Most High God. We walked with Him in our premortal life. We heard Him speak, witnessed His majesty, learned His ways.

“You and I participated in a Grand Council where our beloved Father presented His plan for us—that we would come to earth, receive mortal bodies, learn to choose between good and evil, and progress in ways that would not otherwise be possible.

“When we passed through the veil and entered this mortal life, we knew that we would no longer remember the life before. There would be opposition and adversity and temptation. But we also knew that gaining a physical body was of paramount importance for us. Oh, how we hoped that we would quickly learn to make the correct choices, withstand the temptations of Satan, and eventually return to our beloved Parents in Heaven.

“We knew we would sin and make mistakes—perhaps even serious ones. But we also knew that our Savior, Jesus Christ, had pledged to come to earth, live a sinless life, and voluntarily lay down His life in an eternal sacrifice. We knew that if we gave our heart to Him, trusted Him, and strived with all the energy of our soul to walk in the path of discipleship, we could be washed clean and once again enter the presence of our beloved Father in Heaven.

“So, with faith in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, you and I accepted, by our free will, Heavenly Father’s plan.

“That is why we are here on this beautiful planet earth—because God offered us the opportunity, and we chose to accept it. Our mortal life, however, is only temporary and will end with the death of our physical body. But the essence of who you and I are will not be destroyed. Our spirits will continue living and await the Resurrection—a free gift to all by our loving Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ. At the Resurrection, our spirits and bodies will be reunited, free from pain and physical imperfections.

“After the Resurrection, there will be a Day of Judgment. While all will eventually be saved and inherit a kingdom of glory, those who trust in God and seek to follow His laws and ordinances will inherit lives in the eternities that are unimaginable in glory and overwhelming in majesty.

“That Day of Judgment will be a day of mercy and love—a day when broken hearts are healed, when tears of grief are replaced with tears of gratitude, when all will be made right.

“Yes, there will be deep sorrow because of sin. Yes, there will be regrets and even anguish because of our mistakes, our foolishness, and our stubbornness that caused us to miss opportunities for a much greater future.

“But I have confidence that we will not only be satisfied with the judgment of God; we will also be astonished and overwhelmed by His infinite grace, mercy, generosity, and love for us, His children. If our desires and works are good, if we have faith in a living God, then we can look forward to what Moroni called ‘the pleasing bar of the great Jehovah, the Eternal Judge.’”

Dieter F. Uchtdorf

Full talk here.

I’m hungry

In a previous post, I likened my addictions to hot water. Interestingly enough, the longer I stand in a hot shower, the more my body becomes accustomed to the heat, and the less hot water I have available for use.

Eventually the hot water will run out. Addiction is like this for me.

Another metaphor:

I’m invited to a great feast. The host has laid out everything I could possibly want to eat. I eat till I’m stuffed.

A few hours later, I’m hungry again. I return to the table and eat till I’m full. I feel better. I notice that I ate more this time.

Thirty minutes later I repeat my previous actions, only this time I have to eat even more before I feel satisfied. The food still tastes great, so I’m glad to eat more!

After some time I realize that I can’t get full anymore. I’m always hungry… always eating and never satisfied. But the food still tastes good.

What happened? It’s the same food, same menu, same table.

I look around and see others eating quite happily. They’re having a good time. Some of them look full and satisfied. Why can’t I still enjoy the food and have a good time?

I grab a pile of food and sit in a corner to eat and think. Next to me are seated other eaters with their own piles of food. They’re all skinny even though they’ve clearly been eating copious amounts of food. I notice I’m skinny, too.

I look around the room, peering into the darker corners of the great hall. I see men and women of all ages. They each sit alone, isolated and emaciated. They look horrible. They look miserable, but they’re still eating.

I’m still hungry but I can’t get enough food.

I get up to inquire about the food. Something must be wrong with it.

The host must have noticed my concerned expression because suddenly he’s at my side.

“What can I do for you?” he asks.

“The food isn’t filling anymore. Something’s wrong with it,” I reported.

“Oh, is that so? You’re probably thirsty. What you need is something to drink.”

“Of course! I must be thirsty. I am thirsty!”

“Here, let me show you to our open bar. You may have water if you like, but the drinks are much more satisfying…”

Over the past twenty years I’ve learned the truth. I learned it the hard way, but now I know. Now I know where to find real food for my soul—not the counterfeit stuff that the world offers me.

Jesus Christ had this to say about the water offered by the world:

“Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again. But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.

“I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst.”

I now enjoy more peace than ever before. My soul finds satisfaction and health from my Higher Power daily. He is the bread and water of life for my soul, and when I partake, I am filled with His Spirit.