Monday, February 10, 2014


"Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ." ~Galatians 6:2

I ran away once.  It didn't look like that's what I was doing. In my heart, though, running away was exactly what I was doing.  I didn't want to go.  But I ran away because I felt helpless, and I can't stand to feel helpless.  I felt like I was watching people I loved dearly suffer, and I was powerless to do anything about it.  It overwhelmed me.  I had to go away.  So I went far, far away.

I was small and selfish in that respect.  All the many good reasons I had for doing what I did were always slightly outweighed in my heart by that one cowardly, weak motivation.  I've grown up a lot since then.  Life has taught me a lot.

One thing I've learned over the years is that God will absolutely, undoubtedly, give you more than you can handle.  Giving you more than you can handle--allowing you to be overwhelmed with pain and grief far beyond your own capacity to bear--is one of the most effective tools the Savior has to show you who He is, and what He does.  If he never gives you more than you can handle, you never have much reason to look to him to carry your burdens.

He also allows you to suffer and be overwhelmed in order to allow others around you to know him better, to understand what he does for each of us.  When someone is in pain and lost and afraid, often the only thing we can give them is our presence.  In my moments of overwhelming sadness and grief the people that meant the most to me are those who didn't turn away from my pain.  When my sister-in-law and dear friend lost her toddler in a household accident, at first looking at the anguish in her face was overwhelming--part of me wanted to run away.  But I was not as selfish then as I had been earlier in life.  I stayed.  I let her pain wash over me in waves, I hugged her, I cried with her, I let her be angry and miserable, and I stayed put.  I didn't run away.  And somehow, in sharing her pain, I was healed.  There was absolutely nothing I could do to change the reality of her child being lost, but somehow, she got better, and so did I.  When we are in the depths of agony, sometimes what we need most is someone who will stand next to us, feel the pangs of pain reverberate without turning away from us, and remind us that everything can be alright when we are having trouble believing that anything will ever be OK again.  No, perhaps they can't promise us that everything will be OK, because some afflictions cannot be undone, but they can reassure us that someday we can be OK--they can reach down into our grief and assure us that the light is still there at times when we can't see it ourselves.  When we are broken, we need someone to reassure us that healing is possible--slow and difficult, perhaps, but still attainable.  Sometimes the grief is big enough that what we need isn't someone who will make us smile: what we need is someone who will not shrink away from the magnitude of our pain.

When the Savior worked the Atonement, that's what he did:  he looked into the lowest depths of our most grievous sins, the most profound aches of our worst turmoil, and didn't flee or flinch.  He instead stepped into that pain, took it all upon himself and forever made himself a bridge between the darkness and the light.   He showed his love by embracing our pain and taking it upon him, making of himself a light that can penetrate the bleakest darkness.  In our pain he is there.  And in the pain of others, he is there.  In our love, in our willingness to face their pain and stand beside them in their grief, we will find ourselves closer to the Savior.

As Elder Maxwell once said, "When, for a moment, we find ourselves not being stretched on a particular cross, we ought to be at the foot of someone else's--full of empathy and proffering spiritual refreshment.  On the strait, narrow path that leads to our little Calvarys, one does not hear the serious traveler exclaiming, 'Look, no hands!'"

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