I am writing to you because my testimony is just dangling by a thread. When I was younger (I'm nearly 39 now), it seemed that following God was a protection. If I needed him, he was there. If I had a problem, he helped. I went on a mission, got married in the temple, graduated from BYU, and now have five kids. Until recently I was the stake Relief Society first counselor and my husband was on the high council. We have served in every single calling we have been asked and they have usually been very time consuming. We pay our tithing and give a generous fast offering and go to the temple and have Family Home Evening. And my life is falling apart.
If you're wondering, it's not because of sin. We've had some situations completely out of our control, including (but not limited to): a child who has exhausted all treatment options with brain cancer; a grandchild who died in a car accident; a chronic illness that makes my regular work impossible at times; company executives at my husband's work who embezzled money, meaning we lost all our retirement and a few months later, the company closed, leaving us unemployed for nearly a year; our one running car hit and totaled by an uninsured driver; a house fire that destroyed most of our scrapbooks and photos. That's just the abbreviated list of problems.
A few years ago I would have told someone in my position to have more faith. So that's what I tried when things starting unraveling. I was more dedicated. But the more I study, the more I see that it doesn't matter. I am convinced that our God is a God of whim. He saves some good people, and lets others die. He gives some miracles and others nothing. He allows evil people to win and succeed. He makes sure his eternal plan is never foiled, but the rest of it is just up to chance and we are left to sink or swim.
You need to know that I believe in God. I know he exists. I know that he can do anything. I just don't think he will. At least not for my family and not for me. Unless he feels like it. And for the past many years he hasn't felt like it.
So I guess I can have solid faith in the fact that if I endure I will have some kind of eternal reward. But I have no faith that this life will be anything but misery unless I get really lucky.
I know bad things can happen to good people. But is there no protection? No boundary? Does righteous living mean nothing? Is Satan the only one who rewards his servants?
Please don't throw some scriptures in my face. I've read them over and over and over. Don't tell me about Job. I know that eventually everything turned out great for Job, but his wife and kids were dead. And the way things have been going here, I feel that God cares about my happiness about as much as he did for Job's first wife.
If you do have something that can give me hope, I'll be reading.
Steph, I am glad you decided to write to the Circle. Sometimes God seems just too far away.
When you are tired of trying to find solace in scripture, buddy up with Robert Frost, who felt the same frustration with the impenetrable veil.
Choose Something Like a Star
by Robert Frost, 1947
O Star (the fairest one in sight),
We grant your loftiness the right
To some obscurity of cloud
It will not do to say of night,
Since dark is what brings out your light.
Some mystery becomes the proud.
But to be wholly taciturn
In your reserve is not allowed.
Say something to us we can learn
By heart and when alone repeat.
Say something! And it says “I burn.”
But say with what degree of heat.
Talk Fahrenheit, talk Centigrade.
Use language we can comprehend.
Tell us what elements you blend.
It gives us strangely little aid,
But does tell something in the end.
And steadfast as Keats' Eremite,
Not even stooping from its sphere,
It asks a little of us here.
It asks of us a certain height,
So when at times the mob is swayed
To carry praise or blame too far,
We may choose something like a star
To stay our minds on and be staid.
I like the advice to “choose.” We all come down to that. A lot of people choose to “stay their minds” on religious faith, and a lot of people don't. It's a very private, individual thing.
Your life has battered you into an intellectual and spiritual corner. It's when we are in agony that we are forced to grope within for “something like a star.” If your faith comforts you, that is enough. You don't have to work out a thousand page mathematical proof. The comfort is proof enough. But if you feel like your youthful faith has hung you out to dry in light of the way your life has unfolded, that doesn't mean you are lacking anything spiritually.
It means you are searching. Maybe you are even hungering and thirsting after righteousness. No matter how painful it is to feel that aching emptiness, it's actually a good sign. Hunger is the harbinger of healing. It is a strong and reliable natural drive. We know we're on the mend when we start to feel hungry again.
Don't make it any harder, Steph. Cut yourself as much slack as you possibly can, in every area of your life.
I wish I were Oprah and could come swooping in with a few million bucks to help restore the small part of your losses that are replaceable. Far more, I wish I could reverse the rotation of the earth like Superman and undo the losses that can never be restored in mortality.
These are fantasies. Reality is whatever small comfort you might take from reading these words this minute. I wish it could be more.
Stephanie, I'm crying with you and praying for you. May God give you the light at the end of the tunnel that you so need to see.
You've certainly had more than your “fair share” of trials, Stephanie. I think that's something we all ponder from time to time. Why do some people seem to have crisis after crisis after crisis in their lives while others don't? Why are some people tested so much and others aren't, or at least not to the same degree?
I wish I could explain it but I honestly can't. I don't know the answer to that one.
It would be really easy to say “there must be opposition in all things”, but that still doesn't really explain anything. We all have to be tested in this life. We all have trials and struggles. We all face opposition and adversity in our lives. But all the trials and tribulations aren't equally divided among God's children. It's not like we each get a house fire, a bounced check and a debilitating disease that we can check off on an official list of prerequisite tribulations before the Heavens can finally proclaim that we've been tested enough. Some people really do suffer much more than others through their lives and I just don't have the knowledge to explain the reasoning behind it. I do trust however, that Heavenly Father knows.
Going on the assumption that much of your question was venting, and understandably so, I'm guessing that you don't really believe that Heavenly Father let Job's wife die because He ‘didn't care about her” or her happiness. He allowed all but one of the Savior's apostles to be killed. He allowed His own Son to be killed. He allowed Joseph Smith to be tortured and persecuted almost endlessly. He allowed Joseph's children to die one after the other, then He finally allowed him to be murdered. He allowed hundreds to die crossing the plains, many of them children. Surely, those saints were giving everything they had for the building of the kingdom, yet he allowed them to suffer so greatly, then took their children. They were some of the most choice of His children, so why did they have to suffer so much? Christ, His apostles, Joseph Smith, the early saints ?I suppose it wouldn't make you feel any better to say that you're in good company.
Clearly, the blessings of righteous living aren't necessarily guaranteed for this life, but for the next. Serving faithfully in our callings, paying our tithing, going to the temple and having Family Home Evening don't preclude us from losing a child, a spouse, a job, suffering from sickness, or even experiencing all of these. I know that you know this already, but still, you're yearning for relief.
It sounds to me like you're feeling “picked on” by God. You want to say, “I know I have to have trials, but why are You giving them to me one after the other, and why are they all these big, huge devastating ones?”
If it had just been the house fire, you probably wouldn't have written in. If it was just the struggle with your husband's employment then you wouldn't feel like your testimony was “hanging by a thread.” But it's the seemingly non-stop barrage of tragedy after tragedy that's left you feeling like you've been abandoned.
You asked if Satan is the only one who rewards his servants. I know you already know the answer to that one, too. He rewards his servants temporarily, and only here on earth, then they suffer for the rest of eternity.
Heavenly Father on the other hand, longs to give us an eternal reward. He allows us to suffer in this life to strengthen us and prepare us for the next.
Again, I can't explain why you're being tested the way you are, why you in particular are having to suffer as much as you are. But I promise you, you have not been abandoned.
I think when we are so weighed down and so emotionally exhausted, it's hard for us to recognize that He's there. The important thing is to NOT lose faith, and I know that's your struggle right now. And really, if you think of all the trials that you've been suffering through, and see them in the eternal scheme of things the trial of your faith is the biggest and most urgent one; more than your daughter's health, more than your husband's employment, more than the loss of precious photos.
My concern for you is that you'll allow this to pull you away, to lose your faith and your testimony. But you need those now more than ever. If you're barely hanging on now, think how hard it will be when you're no longer in tune with the Spirit,when He CAN'T comfort you and bring you some peace because you won't let Him in.
Let me tell you about someone close to me. This is all true.
“Beth's” husband became an alcoholic and left the church. Then he left her and their children. Then she lost a two-year-old grandchild in a drowning accident. Then, after her son's child died, that same son lost his job and his family had to move in with her, all seven of them. He was unemployed for almost two years. Another of her sons had become addicted to drugs and was homeless, living under a couple of the bridges in Provo. He was so violent and was in such bad company that had threatened her and her son's family that was living with her, that she couldn't allow him to live with her, and he spent all the money she gave him on drugs instead of getting hotel rooms. She bought him a bike so he could get a job and work, and he sold it for drugs. The police found him on the side of the road, unconscious and nearly dead. After six weeks in the hospital he was released and had a short “I'm going to change” period, but now he's roaming the streets again, and she doesn't know where he is most of the time. Then another of Beth's sons left his marriage to be with another woman, and now she hardly has a relationship with those grandchildren. Finally, her other son confessed to molesting his daughter from the time she was two until she was five, and went to prison. He's now registered as a child sex offender, and her six-year-old granddaughter is suffering the effects of her abuse. That was the last straw for Beth. She felt like God had totally abandoned her, and said almost the exact same thing you said.
“I was active in the church, even when my husband wasn't. I made sure my children knew the gospel and went to church. I paid my tithing. I went to the temple. I served faithfully in my callings. I studied the scriptures. And what good did it do me? Is this the reward I get?”
She was so angry she stopped reading scriptures. She stopped praying. She stopped going to church. She stopped paying tithing and going to the temple.
The tragic thing is, God didn't abandon her. She felt like He had because the trials kept piling up and things weren't getting any better. But He had been getting her through it. Even though she was barely hanging on, that's how she was hanging on! Then she abandoned Him.
Do you see the irony in your question to us? You feel like you can't find Hope in God, then ask us for something that can give you hope, as though we mere mortals have the power to give you hope that you believe God is purposely withholding from you. Yes, we ladies can be rather charming sometimes, but true hope comes from the one place you're beginning to turn away from.
I know you didn't want us to quote any scriptures, but I can't deny what keeps coming to my mind. My absolute, all time favorite scripture. It's short but powerful, and I'll be nice and let you “borrow” it.
“…Nevertheless, I know in whom I have trusted.”
Much love for you Stephanie. You'll be in my prayers, specifically and by name.
my heart goes out to you, dear sister. Trials in this lifetime can seem overwhelming and tiresome. Just when you seem to be getting things together, it seems as if Satan decides to throw you another curveball. He is really good at using that dreaded thing called discouragment. By no means is it the Lord that is doing these things to you and your family. I am sure that he suffers with you in your times of need, and tries to lessen the burden. We have been sent to this earth to be tested and to endure trials. Unfortunatly, some of us are given much harsher trials to overcome. If it is any consolation, sometimes I wonder if what my mother always said is true: “Satan knows those who where the strongest against him in the great battle, and now that they are here on earth is relentless in his pursuit to bring them down. He will use every means at his disposal to make them think that they are unworthy and that the Lord doesn’t care. This is not true. The Lord suffers with us, and when we see him again will cry with us, and hold us close to his heart.”
It seems almost unfair that people who do the wrong thing seem to be rewarded, while those who are striving to be the most dillegent seem to get more trials. I can’t explain it. But it does indeed make us stronger. (I know, huge cliche)
I hope that you continue to display the faith that you have had thus far. You are apparently an incredibly strong person, and I am sure you are a beacon to your family. Please know that you are in all of our prayers.
You know, just when you think you just can’t take another hit, it sideswipes you. I have very close relatives you seem to have everything handed to them and they could not be more ungrateful or ignorant or self righteous leaving you with a feeling that they think the whole world owes them and you need to listen to their problems. For me, this has been one doozy of a year and I finally feel we are on the upswing, but it still stings to listen to them continuously gripe. The ONLY WAY I can endure is by reminding myself that maybe their troubles are all they can handle. They are weenies! If I only had their troubles! But, to them, it is the world. So, my point is this: you MUST be made strong enough to endure, otherwise you wouldn’t have. That is what I tell myself. I am woman, there are sacrifices that must be made and others to comfort and put a smile on for and that is just the way it goes. It sucks, you betcha it does and I hate it. I do not want to struggle like this. But on the flip side, my strength gives others strength. Just like yours. Your story has inspired me and made me cry; cry for you and cry for me and cry for our children and grandchildren. It is not fair, but it will be worth it. And I think I just found my testimony! After nearly 20 years of sitting on the fence, second guessing, winging it. You are in my prayers and I can’t thank you enough for sharing.
I just wrote a huge long thing and now it’s gone. Grr.
I just went through a hard time myself, and can relate to some of these feelings. All I can say is that when I’m mad at God or mad about life, it’s at those times when I need God the most, and I need to turn to Him and seek His peace and comfort and blessings and perspective. And accept His will. Hard indeed, but in the end, it’s the easier way!!!
For me, the snag in life comes from this. you say:
“If I had a problem, he helped. ”
For too long, I have approached gospel living with the intent to have life be peachy king (insert righteous living, push desired button, and out comes a great life — like a vending machine), without tragedy and trial and unexpected turns. I think sometimes we get caught in a trap that says ‘If you are righteous everything will work out.” That’s true to a point — as long as we define ‘work out’ in the right way. It sounds like maybe you have defined it to mean a life where trials don’t happen so much. I think that as we grow and as life goes on, we start to realize that all the scripture reading in the world and all the service we give sometimes won’t change the hard, painful trials we have. It’s then when we can come to realize that God sometimes doesn’t change our circumstances, but will change US and strengthen us if we let Him. I’m in this process right now, and when the light bulb moments come, it’s the BEST reward life has to offer!!!
All that helps me when I get to this almost-rock-bottom place is to stop, turn to God and say, “OK, I don’t know how to feel anymore, but I know I need peace. And help me to accept thy will and open my heart to Thee.” I turn to worship, scripture and prayer and service not to receive some blessing like I could out of a vending machine, but to have a heart that is soft and receptive to the Spirit so the Atonement can work in my life and give me strength to bear my burdens. God never promised that he would remove our trials, but He has promised strength to face them.
So I share what I have found (and what I obviously forget on a regular basis…so this is me reminding myself too!!) — it’s only in turning to God when He feels farthest away that I find Him and His strength — and that, dear sister, is the greatest reward life can offer — because then it doesn’t matter what happens in life. If we truly trust in God and feel His power, life’s trials have ‘no power over [us] to drag [us] down to a gulf of misery and endless wo.’ The only way for that to be possible is to build on the Rock. There is no other way. And in the end, this is the easy way. We make life hard by expecting life to be about life only. If we limit ourselves that way, we truly will be miserable. That’s the key and the purpose of our existence — to learn to turn to and trust in God no. matter. what.
Hang in there. Don’t give up. Keep reading, keep praying, keep serving…but we do it to find God and His peace and power, not to demand (cuz that’s what we do sometimes, don’t we? — at least I do!) that life will turn out as we want it to. It may or may not, but if we truly feel God by your side, life will not feel as hard. It’s the Mosiah 24:13–15 thing.
Oh, I’m very sorry to hear of all your troubles. I can understand that when you are in the midst of a trial, you sometimes forget that there will be a light at the end of the tunnel, even if you feel like the tunnel is very long and never ending. I don’t have anything ground breaking or monumental to share other than take things one day at a time. If all you can pray for is the strength to get thru one day, then pray for that specifically. I know the Lord will not take our trials away but he can make them lighter on our backs, if we let him, if we are honest with ourselves and with him in our communications with him. I also know that He will give us the tools and the things we need to make it thru–if we ask for those things and are willing to take them, no matter how unlikely they seem. I hope you feel better soon! Good luck with everything! We’re all here praying for you and cheering you on!
Stephanie – I’m going to ask you something, rather than tell you. It may seem obvious, from what you’ve written, but I want you to answer completely and honestly to yourself.
How does God feel about you?
I didn’t want to post here because it’s just too hard, but I have read every word. SilverRain got me to sign up, but I’ll try to respond to you all if I can tonight.
Kathy, thank you so much for your kindness and for not lecturing me! You made my day. Alison, thanks for the prayers.
Some people really do suffer much more than others through their lives and I just don ?t have the knowledge to explain the reasoning behind it. I do trust however, that Heavenly Father knows.
Here’s the problem with that answer (which I hear all the time). It implies that there really IS a reason. It implies that the pain and trials that have been in my family (or other families like mine) are part of God’s plan. And if you believe the gospel you know that’s not true. They could be, but I don’t know (and neither do you) that they are. So what good does it do me? Either God decided he wanted me to have these problems “for my own good” or he just let them happen because he didn’t care to stop them.
I ?m guessing that you don ?t really believe that Heavenly Father let Job ?s wife die because He ?didn ?t care about her ? or her happiness.
I think you’re giving me a trick question. I think he didn’t care that she died and he didn’t care that she wasn’t going to be happy in THIS life, which is what my question was about. He didn’t care enough to keep her alive and to help her be happy. It seems to me that he let her and her children die so that we could all learn the lesson of JOB getting what he wanted back. If you’ve got a better explanation, go ahead and explain it to me.
I suppose it wouldn ?t make you feel any better to say that you ?re in good company.
No, it doesn’t. And even though I think you think you are countering what I said, I think you’re reinforcing it instead. My point was that God simply protects and helps at his whim. Being righteous is does have a covenant guarantee eternally, but it means absolutely nothing at all for this life. I am so exhausted by the horrible things going on and I do not understand why a loving God doesn’t choose to help.
Again, I can ?t explain why you ?re being tested the way you are, why you in particular are having to suffer as much as you are. But I promise you, you have not been abandoned.
Tracy, if I hear something like that one more time I’m going to puke. Sorry. You say I haven’t been abandoned. I say I have. I have been abandoned HERE, in THIS life. Which happens to be where I LIVE. I already acknowledged that righteousness has eternal rewards. What is so devastating is that we are left HERE on our own, unless God’s mood swings in our favor.
it ?s hard for us to recognize that He ?s there.
I already said I know here’s there. But that doesn’t mean anything if he’s ignoring me. He’s up there, yes. But he’s choosing to let one horrible thing after another happen to us. So, what does it MEAN to mean that “he’s there?”
The important thing is to NOT lose faith, and I know that ?s your struggle right now.
I’m screaming at the screen when I read this. I don’t need another lecture on faith. (No pun intended.) What is the faith that you think I’m struggling with? I already believe God is real. That is the only faith that we are supposed to have. No, I don’t have faith that he will protect me. He hasn’t and as you already gave a ton of examples, lots of times he doesn’t. I don’t believe that he’ll fix my problems. So what OTHER faith do you think I’m supposed to have? There is no other faith that is founded in truth.
My concern for you is that you ?ll allow this to pull you away, to lose your faith and your testimony.
All I can see is that I’ve lost testimonies that were always false anyway. I still believe in God, just not in all the things I was told in Primary and seminary.
Did you ever read Elder Cook’s book? His family prays and they find wallets and hats and get money for rent that falls from the sky? I pray and my granddaughter dies. Some get help, some don’t. No one ever told me the truth about that. We just heard nice little stories with happy endings.
The tragic thing is, God didn ?t abandon her. She felt like He had because the trials kept piling up and things weren ?t getting any better. But He had been getting her through it. Even though she was barely hanging on, that ?s how she was hanging on! Then she abandoned Him.
And how do you know that, Tracy?
Do you see the irony in your question to us? You feel like you can ?t find Hope in God, then ask us for something that can give you hope, as though we mere mortals have the power to give you hope that you believe God is purposely withholding from you. Yes, we ladies can be rather charming sometimes, but true hope comes from the one place you ?re beginning to turn away from.
I’m not “trusting” in you over God. You misunderstood the point of my email. I’m asking if maybe there’s something I missed. I’m asking if maybe I’m wrong and you can show me where I’m wrong. I HOPE that I’m wrong and that God cares enough to help.
To everyone else who responded, I’ll try to answer more tomorrow. It’s after 11:00 and I have a very early (church!) meeting that I’m supposed to be at.
I don’t know why those weird codes are in there, if someone can help fix it.
I’m probably jumping in too soon since you said you still have yet to respond, but I’m interested to hear you articulate what you think faith is, and what testimonies you had. Faith is something that takes a lifetime to understand, so I think all of us are sometimes wrong about what faith is really about. Faith isn’t just about knowing that God is there; it’s soooooooo much more. I’d love to be able to explore this together, because I think it’s something we all need.
If you really hope to hear you are wrong, I can tell you that you are. How do I know? Because I have felt some of what you are feeling — abandoned, and ‘why don’t I get the happy answered prayers like “everyone else”? Truth is, everyone else doesn’t get those happy endings, either, and although I have basically said those very words (“we just hear nice little stories with happy endings”) that simply is wrong. Dead wrong. And guess what? It’s freeing to realize that, because then I have been able to reevaluate what faith means, and it’s not just having life be easy or have it work out as we want it to. (Elder Eyring came to our stake conference and basically said something along those lines..that if we are praying for things to be easy, that isn’t right. We should be praying for God’s will to be done, and we should be willing to submit to whatever He will inflict – the scriptures say that He will inflict things on us, He will chasten us. That’s hard to swallow when we are hurting, but if we realize that pain is part of the plan, it is a powerfully healing doctrine.
Here is where it’s easy to be wrong: “It implies that there really IS a reason. It implies that the pain and trials that have been in my family (or other families like mine) are part of God’s plan. And if you believe the gospel you know that’s not true.”
I believe the gospel, and we are NEVER told that the gospel equals the promise of a painless life but of peace and hope through the pain. This is what I think would be really worth sorting through together because it is easy to get into the mindset that if we are righteous, we won’t struggle. But that is simply false, and there are hoards of scriptures and quotes and stories to back that up. Our mortal selves don’t want to hear that to struggle is the program, but it IS. As I have gone through some hard spiritual struggles, I have been amazed at how unapologetic the prophets and apostles are about the pain of life. But they show us (and the scriptures show us) how much God cares to help – the key is to understanding how the help will come. Sometimes it will be a happy ending, but often it comes in the form of peace, strength and perspective and increased faith in the atonement (which is why we are here!)
So I think that we can have a really meaningful discussion. I must admit though that I am a bit afraid to say that, though, because I felt a lot of anger coming through in your comments. People here care; please try to give us a chance and understand that if you are getting responses, we are responding to your request for help, not trying to lecture.
You can find God’s help, but it will take a change of perspective and a major broadening of the definition of faith. Again, I say this because I know from personal experience that this is true; I’m trying to develop that kind of faith, too (I think most people are!), and guess what? It works, but it basically turns everything you have said on its head. Is it worth a try? :bigsmile: Anyone else want to explore this together? Anyone who can relate to feeling alone and forgotten, please raise your hand? Can we gather together and strengthen each other here?
I don’t know why those weird codes are in there, if someone can help fix it.
When you comment, look below the comment box…there are two radio buttons. Once says text and the other HTML. Make sure HTML is selected. On occasion, it won’t be and so your formatting tags won’t work if that is the case.
Stephanie, I’m afraid I don’t have a kind, compassionate, gentle answer for you. Do you honestly think that your trials are harder than everyone else’s? Do you honestly think that the other people around you have not also suffered through trials as big as yours? You ask a question and then you blast the people who try to answer it and give you perspective. You ignore all the good advice and focus on what makes you mad–what makes you want to puke? This life is a test. period. That’s why we are here. TO BE TESTED. To see what happens and if we will endure it well. We are not here to party and hang out and enjoy the ride. Heavenly Father occasionally allows us some fun and games but the purpose here is to be tested.
You know what this makes me think of? The GRE. I don’t remember exactly what that stands for but it is the test I have to take if I want to get into grad school. This is a computer based test and it is designed to test you at the limit of your ability. So, it starts with a question that is supposed to about medium on the difficulty scale. Then if you answer it right, you go on to a harder question. If not, you get an easier question, and so on. It is designed to find out how hard of a question you can answer and then keep you working at that level. So, if you feel like you’re drowning in all the rotten, hard questions, you’re doing well! I think that our trials can be the same way. If we are to be tried and tested to see if we will remain true, then Heavenly Father has to keep sending bigger challenges our way. But he gave us hope by promising us a reward and eternal life if we are faithful. So he gives us something to look forward to when everything around us is falling apart. So he is not a God of whim who does not care, he is a God who says, “Prove to me, Stephanie, that no matter what I do to you, you will turn TO me and not AWAY from me. Prove to me that you are faithful and you still know I am a God of love and I am in control—I’m not toying with you. I’m training you.”
You said yourself that you feel that God does not care and that he is a God of whim. That IS a struggle of faith. Our God is not a God of whim. He is not cruel and he DOES care. Struggling with that IS a struggle of faith.
okay, I’ll step back into lurk mode and try to find where I left my compassion. . .
This is going to be really long- but there’s a lot to answer. So gear up– 🙂
Well, that’s what I was trying to do, Steph. I think there IS something you missed, I think you ARE wrong, and I was trying to show you that God DOES care, that I care.
Evidently though, it just made you angry and you took it as a “lecture”. So honestly, I’m debating whether or not I should continue to respond. If you’ve heard it over and over again and it makes you scream at the computer screen and want to puke, then what’s the point?
On the other hand, if you’ve heard it over and over again and it just makes you want to scream at the computer screen and puke, then maybe that IS the point. Maybe you’re not really “hearing” it. Maybe it’s the answer, but you don’t want to hear it, so you just get angry and say “I know, I know, I’ve heard it all before and it’s a bunch of crap.”
Actually, I know that IS true. I DO believe the gospel, AND I believe that pain and trials have been in your family as a part of God’s plan.
BUT I think you’re saying it differently than I mean it.
I DO believe that there really IS a reason. I don’t know what it is. However, the fact that there’s a REASON, doesn’t mean that GOD is sitting around in Heaven saying, “Hmmm, Stephanie needs to learn a lesson, so how can I torture her today? Oh duh, I don’t need to wonder how to give her a hard time, I made a schedule of all the horrible things I’m going to do to her a million years ago. Now where did I put my Franklin planner…..”
You seem to be seeing it this way:
If there’s a REASON why this is happening to me, then that means that God purposely gave my daughter that illness, he purposely caught my house on fire, “for my own good”, to teach me a lesson.
He saw them happening just by the natural course of things and allowed them to happen because he “didn’t care” enough to stop them.
Your exact words were “Either God decided he wanted me to have these problems “for my own good” or he just let them happen because he didn’t care to stop them.”
Heavenly Father allows bad things to happen in our lives, not by “whim”, but by his wisdom.
Sometimes He steps in, sometimes He doesn’t. But that doesn’t mean that when he doesn’t step in that he doesn’t care. Why did “Beth’s” grandson drown when there was a nurse next door who did CPR? Why did he die even after his father administered to him? How many kids “nearly” drown only to be saved? So why didn’t He save this little boy? Because He didn’t care about his parents happiness? Because he didn’t care that this boy wouldn’t have happiness in this life, and he DID care about the happiness of the other children who WERE saved?
My own daughter is in a wheelchair. She’s 15 but she can’t walk, talk or understand when you speak to her, and she probably never will. She’ll never have ”friends”, she’ll never walk or run, she’ll never feed herself, never be out of diapers, never date, never marry, never have children…. so where’s her happiness? Sure, she’s pretty much guaranteed a place in the Celestial Kingdom, but doesn’t God care about her happiness in THIS life?
What’s the “purpose” of her condition? What’s the point? What’s the reason? Is this all a lesson for ME? What’s the “lesson” for me? How is it “for my good”? How is it for HER good?
I don’t know. I can guess. I have some thoughts on that. But I can tell you one thing for sure- I know that God knows. And I know He cares. He could have prevented the whole thing. He could have made sure that chromosome formed correctly, or He could have miraculously healed her. But he didn’t. There’s a reason– even if I don’t know what it is.
And I know one other thing as well– it makes me work harder, trust more, study more and have more faith. Because just knowing that she’s going to be there, makes me want to strive even harder to make sure I’m there WITH her. Is THAT the purpose? I don’t know, maybe it’s at least a part of it, though I can’t say so for sure.
My asking if you really believe that Heavenly Father let Job ?s wife die because He ?didn ?t care about her ? or her happiness wasn’t a trick question. You implied, but I didn’t think you really meant, that Job’s wife’s death was somehow proof that God didn’t care about her or her happiness.
But then you clarified:
You’re assuming that she wasn’t happy in this life though. She may have had decade after decade after decade of happiness before the pain started.
If we go by your reasoning, no one can ever get sick unless they all get healed, no one can ever die either, because otherwise it means that God isn’t “helping them to be happy”.
Since you asked, I think the purpose for US of the story of Job is to teach us to have faith and trust in God DESPITE the pains and heartache. To have faith and trust even when we might otherwise feel abandoned.
When “Beth’s” grandson drowned, the evidence of those with faith was starkly apparent.
Those of us who were members of the church, though we were heartbroken and crying, had “hope”. We bore our testimonies at the funeral and expressed that hope. Those who were NOT members of the church, even those who were of other Christian faiths, did NOT have that hope, and they were FILLED with questions.
The family, at whose home the drowning actually occured, was especially “hopeless”.
To THIS DAY they STILL don’t understand. They don’t understand how this little boy’s parents could ever be happy- could go on to have more children- could still believe in God or have faith in a God who didn’t save their son, who seemingly didn’t care about a helpless, innocent 2 year old boy.
You talk to his parents now, and they readily admit that it was hard. In their hearts they knew the truth, but there was a battle inside– between the part of them that knew the truth, and the part of them that just wanted to die and give up just so they wouldn’t have to hurt anymore. The father had thoughts of suicide– which only made him even MORE upset, because he KNEW he shouldn’t feel that way, and he had a wife and other children who needed him. But still, he had the thoughts ” I administered to him, why wasn’t he saved? Am I not worthy enough? Didn’t I have enough faith in my priesthood, or in God? Wasn’t God listening? My son is dead. I can’t stand this pain. It would be easier to die.”
So there was a moment of decision– or rather several moments that repeated themselves on various occasions– I either believe or I don’t. I act in faith, or I don’t. I trust or I don’t. I endure and continue on, or I don’t. What’s it going to be?
His family has continued to grow, they stayed strong, (though it doesn’t mean they didn’t struggle and have “lows” in their spiritual strength), and are actually stronger for it.
The others– those who didn’t believe, who questioned our faith, have only continued to struggle, not believing, not having hope, and still grieve over this little boy, in a totally different way than his own family does.
Isn’t that ironic? The ones who are suffering the worst over this accident aren’t even his family. Why? Why are they hurting so much and still suffering so much, even more so than the boy’s own parents? Because they don’t have faith that God CAN help them, or that he WILL help them. Because they don’t believe. God can’t help them endure it the way he can help this boy’s family endure it. Christ bears much of their burden FOR them- his paraents aren’t carrying it alone. The poem “Footprints in the Sand” comes to mind— “It was then that I carried you”. He’s carrying them through their mortal life without their son.
Of course, this little boy’s family misses him, they mourn his loss- but they have Hope, which hope comes from their faith and their continued efforts to grow in the gospel and be worthy to be with their son in the hereafter.
Let me restate what you said using my own beliefs.
My point is that God simply protects and helps according to his wisdom. Being righteous does have a covenant guarantee for the eternities, but it doesn’t mean that this life if free of pain and struggle. The only thing it can guarantee us in this life is Hope and inner peace, even during our pains in this life. I sometimes feel exhausted by the horrible things going on and sometimes it’s hard to understand why God doesn’t choose to help the way I THINK he should help, nevertheless, I know in whom I have trusted. I know He loves me, and with Him, I can endure it.
You can call it cheesy if you’d like. Feel free to puke.
Then I guess we just have to disagree. I’d say that He’s been carrying you.
That’s one of the things I love about that poem. Chirst doesn’t come in and remove all the problems. He carries you through them. You still see them happening, you still feel their effects and the pain, but you experience them WHILE in His care, and much of the burden is being carried by the Lord. So you can either let him continue to carry you, or you can jump out of His arms and REALLY experience what pain is WITHOUT him there.
I didn’t mean “He’s there” as in “He exists” and is somewhere around the corner from Kolob. I meant His spirit is there WITH YOU, but only if you invite it in. So are you inviting Him or are you pushing him away?
SInce you say you’ve “heard it all” before, then I’ll assume you’ve heard this before too, but— even Satan knows that God is real. That’s not faith. And it’s not “the only faith” that we are supposed to have.
The ironic thing here Steph, is that He’s probably protected you a thousand times from things that you aren’t even aware of. Clearly, there are some things he hasn’t protected you from, but that doesn’t mean that you haven’t been protected.
It’s very easy to point out all the bad things that happen to us- it’s much harder to recognize the miracles sometimes.
It would seem to me that despite the fact that you lost precious photos in your house fire, you were blessed that no one burned to death.
Even though your husband has had trouble with employment, somehow you still have a place to live, food to eat and clothing to wear. Some don’t have any of these.
Because I was with her through it all — and she admitted it.
My first thought in all this, Stephanie, is to wonder if you are depressed? You have been through so much, it would not be unexpected at all for your body to have gone into a tailspin. If you haven ?t seen a doctor already, you might want to make an appointment.
You have been through a horrible time, and I feel so bad for you. I wish I knew something I could say, or do, that would guarantee helping you feel better. All I can do, though, is to extend my sympathy and my love. I have been where you are, and I know how you feel. I remember one memorable night when I felt that the Lord had taken from me every hope of happiness I had ever cherished. I was so angry with him and I let him know that. I needed to be able to feel and express those emotions before I could move on and heal.
What I am about to say here is really long, so I’m having to break it up into two posts. I hope you will bear with me and read both of them. I hope you find what I have to say useful enough to you to be worth reading to the end.
During one particularly difficult time in my life, I went for a walk early one morning. As I walked I listened to a Cat Stevens song, over and over. Trouble, Oh trouble set me free. I have seen your face, And it’s too much too much for me. Trouble, Oh trouble can’t you see? You’re eating my heart away, And there’s nothing much left of me. ? Those words seemed to encapsulate everything I was feeling right then – how tired I was of the trials I was dealing with, how weak and overwhelmed I felt from the relentless increase of one trial after another. I walked and I listened, and I kept hitting rewind to listen again, and as I did, I silently cried, tears streaming down my face. I was mourning for all the losses, big and little, that I ?d been suffering. I grieved for the steady erosion of dreams I ?d cherished for so many years. Life was not a happy place right then, and I couldn ?t understand why the Lord was making me go through all this. What kind of a father lets his daughter suffer so much? What kind of a father doesn ?t make everything better?
I have had many times in my life when I felt like God had abandoned me, or didn ?t care about me. While I have never doubted his existence, I have, many times, doubted his intentions and concern. I especially doubted right then.
Since then, I have gained a deeper understanding of the reasons behind adversity. Which is not to say that dealing with trials is now an easy thing, but it has given me a rock to cling to when things are at their worst. I offer what I have, therefore, in the hopes that it might be of use to you, Stephanie, or someone else.
Before I say anything else, I want to provide a link to an article by Carlfred Broderick, The Uses of Adversity. ? This essay has had a profound impact on my life and my attitude toward adversity. He says many of the same things I ?m going to try to say here, but says it so much better than I ever could.
As I have experienced trials in my life, the questions I had seemed to sort themselves into three general categories. Why is there adversity? Why is this particular trial happening to me right now? What is the role of the Gospel in my life when I am suffering?
What is the role of the Gospel in my life when I am suffering?
I dearly love what Br. Broderick wrote in the above essay. The gospel of Jesus Christ is not insurance against pain. It is resource in event of pain, and when that pain comes (and it will come because we came here on earth to have pain among other things), when it comes, rejoice that you have a resource to deal with your pain. ?
In what way does it help us? In my case, I was molested by someone I trusted when I was a little child. As is common, that left me very confused about many things regarding sexuality, my worth as a human being, and the way that I should conduct myself. I hated myself and blamed myself for what had happened to me. Throw in a mentally ill, violently angry father, a codependent mother who had every excuse in the book for why it wasn ?t my father ?s fault, and an extended family that only ever aggravated our problems, and you had a very hurting, and weird, little girl. Which meant that I not only had no friends, I was actively persecuted at school and at church by the very people who should have been my friends ? both adults and children.
I put this out there to explain how it was that, as a teenager and young adult, I was angry, self-destructive, and desperate for anything that would make me feel better. I wanted to drink, use drugs, and sleep around. At my most desperately self-hating times I thought about becoming a prostitute ? it seemed the ultimate way to hurt and punish myself and I desperately wanted to tear myself apart in my self-hatred.
The reason I didn ?t do any of this was that I had been taught those things were wrong, and those teachings and the tattered scraps of faith I had, kept me obedient. I didn ?t know if God loved me or hated me. I didn ?t understand why it was wrong to do those things. I did know that God had said not to, and I was obedient. I am so grateful, now, that I was taught those things. I am quite sure that I would have been dead long ago, if I had not obeyed those commandments.
That is one way the gospel has been a resource that has protected me. Just as important, it has given me a framework that I could use to understand why those bad things happened to me, and what my true place in the plan of salvation is. I know, Stephanie, that you said you didn ?t want to have scriptures quoted to you, but it was in the scriptures that I gained the greatest understanding of my life and all the things in it. It was in D&C 10 where I read the Lord ?s words to Joseph Smith, Behold, they have sought to destroy you; yea, even the man in who you have trusted has sought to destroy you ?Thus Satan thinketh to overpower your testimony in this generation ?I will not suffer that they will destroy my work; yea, I will show unto them that my wisdom is greater than the cunning of the devil. ? (D&C 10: 6, 33, 43) I knew, as I read them, that those words applied to my life, as well, that Satan had sought to destroy me, but he would not succeed and I would triumph over him, with the Lord ?s help.
It was in Proverbs 31 that I read the Lord ?s description of a righteous woman ? a woman who is strong, intelligent, independent, an entrepreneur and a real estate developer, a teacher and a leader in her family and her community ? and I learned that there was more to me than a sexual object, that I had worth as a woman that had nothing to do with what value the men in my life did and did not place on me.
It was in Alma 7:11–12 that I learned the Savior suffered in his mortality, and that he went through great physical hardship, not just for the fact of the atonement, but so that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities. ? And it was in D&C 122 that I learned further that even Jesus Christ, the Messiah, the one perfect being that has ever lived, needed to suffer in order to not be spiritually crippled ? that suffering has nothing to do with righteousness and everything to do with growth.
Why is there adversity?
Which brings us to the question of why and how adversity and trials come to us. As I see it, there are 4 causes to adversity.
1) Another person has misused his or her agency.
What I suffered as a child was due in large part to another person ?s wickedness. With the freedom to choose between good and evil, comes the ability to make terrible decisions as well as good ones. By giving us agency, our Heavenly Father has voluntarily bound his own hands, so that he is not able to stop the wicked from injuring the innocent and the righteous.
That doesn ?t mean that he abandons the victims of the wicked, though. As I look back over my life, I can see many times when the Lord was there, to help me and support me through the dark times. I usually didn ?t know at the time that I was being helped, though, because I was so busy dealing with my pain that I wasn ?t aware of much else. But, now, I can see the Lord ?s hand in my life, bringing me to places where I could have good therapists who helped me, where I could meet good friends who supported and loved me. In fact, it was from my best friend that I learned how to express emotion like a normal person. I ?d spent most of my life up to that point feeling like an alien in a human suit, mimicking body language and emotional expression, but doing it badly and seeming weirder than ever.
2) We misuse our own agency.
If I had followed through on the self-destructive desires I had when I was young, I do believe that I would not have been fully responsible and that the Lord would have given me a great deal of leeway, considering how confused my thinking was. That would not, however, have protected me from the negative consequences I would have suffered. I know now, what I didn ?t know then ? that I am very vulnerable to addiction. If I had broken the Word of Wisdom even once in my life, I would have become violently addicted (as happened to a sister of mine) and I have no doubt it would have killed me.
I knew someone when I was in college who had lived a wild life as a member of a motorcycle gang. It ended when he was in a serious accident that left him in a wheelchair and with significant brain damage. At the time I knew him, he had repented and was living a productive and righteous life. Repentence, however, couldn ?t take away the damage to his spinal cord or his brain. He would, sadly, have to live with those injuries to the end of his mortal existence.
We can hurt ourselves and make our lives more difficult by such things as engaging in criminal behavior, breaking God ?s laws, or simply by being constantly prideful and refusing to let the Spirit teach us what is true.
3) The Lord blesses us with a specific trial.
Yes, I ?m serious and I ?m not being sarcastic. I do think that some of the trials we go through are given to us, and they are meant to strengthen us and to teach us. I believe that all trials we go through can be turned to our good, if we choose to do so, but I think that some of the things we go through are given to us because we need those specific trials in order to attain our full potential as children of God.
I believe that my infertility is one of those trials, and that the severe postpartum depression/psychosis I went through after the birth of my youngest child was given to me to teach me. I believe that one of the reasons I had to wait so long to get married was to teach me patience and to teach me to trust the Lord, because the Lord knew I was going to have such a hard time having children. I was able to use many of the things I learned during those lonely years to support me as I spent further years waiting for my children.
I can look back on every single trial I have had in my life, even the molestation, and see how I have learned and grown from it. Partly that has been because I have chosen to learn and grow, and to take what Satan used to destroy me to make myself stronger and wiser. I was greatly influenced in this attitude by a poem Vaughn J. Featherstone once quoted. And each must fashion – Ere life has flown – A stumbling block, Or a stepping-stone. ? A Bag of Tools, R.L. Sharpe. I was inspired by that poem to take control over my past and to force my experiences into a tool for learning, instead of the destructive influence it has been. (Inspired by Elder Featherstone himself, too – I have always found him to be a comfort and an inspiration to me. He had a bad childhood himself and knew what it was to suffer. He overcame that, and I needed to see him to know that it was possible, that I could overcome too.)
4) We live in a world where bad things happen.
My sister would argue with me on this, but I do believe that we live in a world where the natural laws are allowed to work without too much interference. We grow old, we have accidents, we have natural disasters. I fell and twisted my ankle yesterday. I bruised my knee, too. I am not feeling good today from all that. My misstep wasn ?t caused by the Lord and it wasn ?t because of anyone ?s misuse of agency. It just happened. I was near the edge of the driveway, my daughter called to me and I looked toward her as I was stepping forward ? right onto the edge of the driveway where it is higher than the lawn beside it. It still makes me feel a little sick to remember the feeling as my ankle turned and I went sprawling. (I ?m amazed I didn ?t break my ankle, actually ? I didn ?t know a human ankle could bend at that sharp an angle.)
The Lord didn ?t make Katrina happen. It ?s the nature of our world that there are hurricanes and that some of them are going to be bad. If we are wise, we are careful to be prepared for things like that. If we are prepared, then the Lord can help us. If we are not prepared, then the Lord is limited in what he can do, because we haven ?t given him anything to work with. (It ?s like my mother always said, The Lord can ?t help you remember the answer to a test question, if you haven ?t studied first.) Our preparation, though, doesn ?t prevent or bring the hurricane ? it just gives us the ability to deal with it when it comes.
I think a great deal of the trials we deal with in our lives fall into this category. I believe that the Lord is there to help us when we experience these trials, but I don ?t believe that he is necessarily going to prevent them. We were deliberately placed in a world where bad things are allowed to happen. We needed that, because we needed to have adversity. If there is no adversity, there would be no opportunity to use our agency. We ?d live in a blissful, happy little world, spiritual cripples, emotionally stunted, never facing anything that would challenge us or try us. We would never grow, never learn, never strive. We would be blobs, sitting around without even an glimmer of understanding that we were living easy. It would be a very bad thing. I ?m grateful the Lord didn ?t do that to us.
Why is this particular trial happening to me right now?
That is the 24 thousand dollar question, isn ?t it? And I think the answer is something that, in my life at least, only comes with pondering and prayer and time. It never seems to come to me when I am in the middle of a trial. It ?s only after ward that I can look back and say, Oh, I see! Wow, that was cool. Wish I could have learned that in an easier way, but I ?m glad the Lord loved me enough to make sure I learned it any way I could. ?
I ?ve talked a little already about what I ?ve gained from some of my trials. My most recent trial, the depression, lasted for years. I initially took the approach that I needed to quickly learn what I was supposed to learn, because I wanted it to stop. It was miserable and horrible and I really wanted the depression to go away and for life to be back to normal. So I worked very hard at trying to learn, trying to gain spiritual understanding, compassion for others, patience, endurance, being cheerful when I don ?t feel that way ? everything I could think of that I might need to learn. And the depression didn ?t go away.
So, I tried harder, but the harder I worked, the more I slipped backward, until I was in deep trouble. The nadir came one night when I was walking through the grocery store, tears streaming down my face (and garnering me a lot of strange looks!) I was praying as I went, saying, Lord, you have promised that you would not try us beyond our strength. I am at the limit of my strength now. I do not want to kill myself, but I ?m not sure I can continue staving off the overpowering impulses I am getting. Please, please, help me. Please, do not try me beyond my strength. Please do not let me kill myself. ?
Obviously, I managed to keep from harming myself. It was a long time before things improved much, though. I did learn that the medication I was on was actually making my symptoms worse. Once I got off that I stopped having those powerful impulses to drive my car into the side of a building or off an overpass. The greyness and the apathy, the sadness and the despair didn ?t improve much, though.
Finally, about a year and a half later, my husband asked me one night if I wanted a blessing. I was feeling so horrible right then. I felt, for the first time in years, that God had abandoned me, that he didn ?t love me or care about what I was going through. I was alone and friendless and it was never going to get any better.
So, when my husband asked me if I wanted a blessing, I burst into tears and said, No, what good would that do? All the Lord will tell me is that I am a horrible person and it ?s all my own fault and I ?m in trouble. I don ?t want to hear that. I don ?t want a blessing! ?
My husband then did something I ?ve never seen him do before. He refused to take no for an answer and insisted on giving me a blessing. So, I sat there, his hands on my head, my shoulders tightly braced in preparation for my anticipated dressing down ? and instead I got a very loving and gently blessing. I was told that I hadn ?t been tried to the limits of my endurance. I was told that I could bear more than I had, and that I would have to, someday, that a time was coming that would take me to the limits of my endurance and strength. I was told that this had been to prepare me for that, and that I was stronger now than I had been when it all started. I was told the Lord loved me and knew my heart. I was told that I was a good person, not a bad person.
After that, things started getting better and although it wasn ?t entirely over, I have been steadily improving ever since.
A few weeks later, after I had been given time to absorb the words of the blessing, I received some personal revelation that let me know that I had made all this much harder on myself than it needed to be. I had been lazy and complacent before my depression, not saying my daily prayers or reading my scriptures as I knew I should. It had been so easy to just say, Later. ? When the trial came, though, it was too late. I didn ?t have the strength and spiritual reserves built up that would have sustained me during those years and would have lightened my burden. The Lord had helped me through the depression, but he wouldn ?t be able to do that the next time. If I didn ?t make sure my reserve oil was topped up before the next trial, like the wise virgins, it would destroy me, because I wouldn ?t be able to get through it without that.
I am still learning what it is that I gained from that trial. I know that I gained understanding and compassion for other women who have gone through postpartum mental illness. I have learned that I used to try to make it through life by being good enough ? and was trying to work my way to the Celestial Kingdom through righteousness. I understand on a gut level, now, what was only intellectual knowledge before. I can ?t do it. I am helpless and completely inadequate. It is only through the Savior and his atonement that I can make through even one day, much less attain salvation. I am completely and utterly dependent on the Lord.
This has changed my life. I am a better person and in a better place, spiritually, than I was before. I am grateful the Lord required this of me. I know he did it out of love for me. I pray that he will always bless my life with trials, because I don ?t seem to able to progress any other way ? and I don ?t think I ?m just an idiot child. I think I ?m pretty normal that way.
My daughter hates it when I make her do her homework. It is hard for her and she cries and thinks I ?m mean. I know, however, that she won ?t learn anything by avoiding her homework. I know that because I used to not do my homework. I love her and I want her to have a better life than I have had. So, I push her and require her to do things she doesn ?t want to do, and as she gains proficiency in things that were once difficult, I make her learn new things.
I am God ?s daughter. I know he loves me, as I love my daughter. He is teaching me, and through that teaching, as hard as it is, I will be happier and happier as I go through my life. I have a peace now that I never had before, because I better understand my place in the plan of salvation, because I better understand my relationship with the Lord, and because I have tested the Lord and found, yet again, that he will not abandon me, even when I think I am alone.
I don ?t know if this will help anyone else. It is what I have learned, through my experiences, but I hope that it will be of some use to you, Stephanie, and anyone else who reads it.
This is one of the best threads ever. Thank you all for responding the way you have. Your stories and advice and counsel have strengthened me as a side.
It does come down to this: what do you believe? what will get you through this life? you are questioning the gospel – all the doctrine and books and everything if you truly believe that God doesn’t care. So, try another religion, there are plenty – I have investigated alot myself and have come back to the gospel because I feel comfort in my soul. Not because I “know this church is true…” because I don’t. But I feel comfort and that is what keeps me going, if only for my children.
Sorry if it is too harsh but it feels like you need flat out instead of warm and fuzzy words.
Thanks momof2 for your post– long is good sometimes!
momof2, your posts were amazing. Thank you!
Sometimes I look at other people’s trials and just feel so grateful for my own. And I know people have looked at mine and been grateful that they have their own as well! It’s obvious that there is not equality in what we are given to deal with in life.
I think our trials are tailored to our personalities and strengths. We’re helped where we need help. The particular combination, and timing, that works for me, wouldn’t work for another person because we’re different people and we grow in different ways. It’s like how my blueberries and strawberries need different soil conditions, different planting depths, and different ph levels. If I tried to grow my strawberries at the high acidity my blueberries love, my strawberries, at the very least, wouldn’t bear, and might die. And my blueberries would drown if they had to put up with as much water in the soil around their roots as the strawberries thrive on.
I have a friend with two daughters, both of them autistic. I can’t imagine how she does it. I don’t know if I could have handled that particular burden. Infertility vs autism? No need to think about it – I’ll take the infertility, thank you. Throw in the depression and a few other things and you might have something that starts to approximate maybe one tenth of how hard I think her trials would be, if I had to bear them.
I’m waiting to hear the answer to my question from Steph before posting more on this topic.
That’s an awesome comparison, mom. You’re hitting 2 for 2!! –Next time they form a ward softball team I know who my first draft pick will be.
Wow, great thread, great advice. It’s very good to read this early on a Monday morning as the week is about to start. Momof2–thank you, thank you, thank you so much for sharing–I can’t tell you how much I appreciate what you said, especially about your trial with infertility.
One thing that has been brought to my mind is a conference talk I heard about 5 years ago. It was the October 2002 conference and I was going thru a particuarly nasty set of hardships that I didn’t understand. I was asking “why me?, this is not fair and so on…”
The talk was called “But if Not” by Elder Lance B Wickman of the 70s, in the Satruday afternoon session of the October 2002 Conference (sorry I can’t get the link thing to work right now).
The talk was about the loss of a child or having sick children, but I think the message can be applied to any situation.
Some points that I thought were good:
1–Mortality is the lab of applied faith.
2–Do not doubt the goodness of God. Our will must be swallowed up in His.
3–Mortality is the season of unanswered questions.
4–We become humble when we are humble.
5–There are some ‘WHY’ questions that will go unanswered, and we need to face the why and then let them go.
6–We need to approach the Lord with faith and confidence and with a broken heart and a contrite spirit.
I did not do this address justice, and I recommend popping over to lds.org and reading it–it’s so wonderful.
We talked about the Lord forsaking us, or what we percieve as being forsaken in our SS class yesterday. One point that was brought up was that if there has been a movement away from God, it’s us that’s moving, not the Lord. Then I thought of Alma and his people in Mosiah 24. They were incredibly put upon by their Lamanite oppressors, and I know they didn’t understand the WHY of it all. But they continually poured their hearts out to the Lord. And when prayer was banned, they prayed in their heart. I mentioned this on another thread the other day, but “their burdens were made light upon their backs”. They didn’t have their burdens taken away, but they were able to endure. There is no magic pill that will make our mortality better, but we do have “Balms of Gilead” to get us thru. Life is very unfair, but we can either take it one day at a time, and as cheerfully as we can, or we can choose to sit and pout about it.
Sweet Stephanie, I wish I were there so I could wrap my arms around you. Do you know what I know?
I know you have a sensitive heart. I know you have lived a faith-filled life up to this point. I know that
“now we see through a glass darkly” on this side of the veil, and it is hard to understand why God doesn’t clear the view for us. I am the bishop’s wife, and I could give you the list of unbelievable, horrifying facts that make up my life–but I won’t. It wouldn’t help you, and would only serve to depress me, and I’m trying to fight past that right now. Sin isn’t involved, but medical and professional and ecclesiastical leaders look down and shake their heads when I tell them what my life consists of. No one has any answers. Satan couldn’t have invented a more bizarre situation than mine. It is not a past situation. It is a very present situation, and will continue to be.
Do you know what I suspect? I suspect that, since you have lived faithfully in the past, at some point you will find the strength to rise from your personal dust. I suspect that at some point you will be able to stand up straight, but it will hurt. After that you’ll be able to stagger a few steps forward, and later, a few steps more. Then slowly, you’ll begin to walk by faith again. At some point you will run and not be weary. At some point you will fly. I think it is in you.
Probably nothing anyone could say will make things better right now; in fact, well-meaning people may only make it worse. So I will leave it at this: I’m right beside you. I cry with you. I love you. I hurt with you. I believe in you. I pray for you.
Carol Lynn Pearson has a short poem I eventually accepted as my creed:
“I know as much of God and the world
As a creature with two eyes must–
And what I do understand, I love,
And what I don’t understand, I trust.”
Serena, welcome and thank you for your giving heart.
I have been trying madly to catch up. It’s impossible. I have only skimmed this thread where so many of you have poured out your hearts and minds. There is no way to do justice to you all. I’d just like to add that, maybe like Serena, but not as eloquently, I understand some of what Stephanie is saying. I understand enough that I couldn’t even begin to respond to her email. (Trust me, it’s GREAT to have awesome co-authors!) But I do hope she comes back to post. I agree that she seems angry, but I hope we can be compassionate about that anger. Hearing a bit about her trials, I can tell you that even my worst trials (which, frankly, would make some of you lay down and die!) don’t compare to hers. We all have trials, but it simply is true that, relatively speaking, some lead markedly charmed lives.
Just one note on faith and how I think, perhaps, Stephanie is relating this to her life. The first principle of the gospel is not faith. It’s “faith in the Lord, Jesus Christ.” We are commanded to have faith in him which is (as I believe the Gospel Principles manual says), to have “faith that he is who he says he is.” So, we must believe that he exists and is our Savior, etc.
But the Bible dictionary does say, “All true faith must be based upon correct knowledge or it cannot produce the desired results.”
When we experience serious trials, other members often tell us to have “more faith” and it’s usually said in the context of the idea that the faith will solve the problem. But faith in Jesus Christ has nothing to do with having faith that our problem will be solved! It might be, but it might not, and we can have all the faith in the world that our problem will be solve, but if it’s not “correct” faith, it simply doesn’t matter.
That, I think, is a serious point of doctrinal confusion. In a sense, unless I misunderstood, I agree with Stephanie that a broad faith in Jesus Christ IS the faith we are commanded to have. If she still has that faith, as she says, then I’m unsure what other faith we are telling her to get.
I thought the Job comment was very interesting. The story is all about Job and how it all worked out so well. But do we ever talk about his wife and children and how it worked out for them? I suppose we all hope that we aren’t the one who is a bit player in the bigger story.
If she still has that faith, as she says, then I’m unsure what other faith we are telling her to get.
First of all, I hope that Steph can sense that there are people here who care, and I, too, hope she will join back into the discussion.
My question would be what is the purpose of having a ‘broad faith in Jesus Christ’? What are the fruits of that faith supposed to look like? I think faith is supposed to be more than just belief or a declaration of awareness of God’s reality. Just because we say we ‘have faith’ doesn’t mean we are fully exercising it, or understanding its depth and power, or accessing the blessings that can come from that faith. When Stephanie talks about a faith that only looks to the next life, I think it’s possible that there is an opportunity to deepen the roots of the faith she has. That has been my experience, anyway. When I have felt abandoned, always, if I have turned to God, sooner or later, insights will come that have strengthened my faith, helped me understand the Atonement better, and given me better understanding about the purpose of life — NOW, not just looking ahead to the eternities. When she says that faith doesn’t serve her now, it suggests to me that her faith can grow through these situations.
I agree that faith won’t always solve the problem, but it CAN help us understand things, feel God’s love and presence, see what we might be able to learn, and be grateful in the difficulty. I think perhaps most importantly, it can also help us truly submit even — or especially – when things don’t work out as we want them to. Like someone mentioned (and Elder Simmons taught), it allows us to say, “But if not….” It’s more than just saying we know God is real, it’s a willingness to accept whatever happens and trust that it is for our eternal good – -and that we can receive help and strength now as well. Faith is not meant to change God’s will but to more closely align us with it.
I think the challenge we face is when we think the purpose of faith is to change things that are happening. If they don’t change, that doesn’t necessarily mean we don’t have faith. It means that our faith is needed to carry us through the hard times, not to change them. Members who tell us to have more faith only with the goal to change our circumstances only are missing so much of what faith is about, and what the prophets teach about it. Just because that might be a common response doesn’t make it right. 🙂
So, what does it mean to really believe that Christ is who He says He is? We talk about that so lightly sometimes, but in my mind, if we really understood what that meant, I think we’d all be a lot more at peace with life, a lot closer to God. A broad faith that doesn’t change our day-to-day lives now is a faith that can and needs to grow. Faith is a process, not a checklist item. If Stephanie ‘still has that faith’ then the challenge is to find how to exercise that faith so that she can find answers to the questions she is posing. That faith can help her see that she is not abandoned, that God does care about her life now, that He loves her, and that there is divine purpose in her struggles. Indeed, I think this is a challenge we all have. How can faith change my life, or better yet, change my heart and desires and my perspective so that my load can be made light?
do you honestly believe that? Your trials are worse than most of ours and hers are worse than yours? Is there a hierarchy of pain and suffering? Sister A lost her grandchild so she has great suffering but Sister B lost her daughter and her grandchild so hers is greater? That’s ridiculous. Honestly, Alison, you really think the rest of us are wimps (since we would lay down and die if we had your trials) and that there are some who lead charmed lives? I think if you believe someone lives a charmed life, perhaps you just don’t know them well enough to KNOW about their trials.
I think the difference is what we think of as “the big” trials.
Certain things automatically make people think “oh my gosh– how completely horrible and tragic”
And there does seem to be a “hierarchy” of what seems to be the worst thingsd to suffer through.
–Death of a young child
—Car accident where father and children are all killed leaving mother completely alone- or vise versa
—someone being raped
—Child being abducted and sexually abused
We could go on and on. Most people would say that those are worse than having a car accident and you broke your leg. So if Sister A was raped, loses a child in an accident, then her huband gets cancer and dies, then her house gets wiped out by a tornado, and the most “tragic” thing that’s happened to ME is that I had a car accident and broke my leg- then someone may likely say that Sister A has suffered more than me, and my life seemed “charmed”.
But, you’re very right. We don’t always know people’s trials. Those looking in may not know that I was raped, too, because I don’t talk about it. They don’t know that I was molested over and over again by a family member and am still suffering from nightmares and trust issues. People may not know that the reason my son hasn’t been showing up to church lately is because he’s sitting in a jail cell convicted of child pornography and will be there for the next 19 years– I just tell them he “moved”. They don’t know that I’ve been excommunicated. They see me at church every week, but I sit in the very back row and don’t take Sacrament, and no one’s seemed to notice. They don’t know that my husband has an addiction to pornography and it’s been tearing our marriage apart. They don’t know that many years before I joined the Church I was actually a prostitute and now I have HIV.
Okay– just so everyone knows– that wasn’t about me. 🙂 But those are just a FEW of the TRUE trials of people in my ward, and they’re things that most people in the ward aren’t aware of.
So it’s true– we may THINK someone has led a “charmed” life, but they haven’t.
I must say though– that for me– I have NOT had any devastating things happen to me.
Well– okay– that’s not true. I have. But they weren’t devastating to me. Not sure how to word this. I’ve experienced things that OTHERS would say were devastating– or at least– they were devastating to others when it happened to them– but it didn’t have the same effect on me.
I’m not sure I’m saying that very well. I’m afraid people are going to read that and think I’m patting my own back- but that’s not what I mean.
I also would add that “in the quiet heart is hidden sorrow that the eye can’t see.”
But to say so seems to make light of the real pain and suffering of getting in a car accident and breaking your leg. Maybe that’s not as tragic as all of those other things, but to say, “you think that’s bad?? If YOU had the trials I’VE had, you’d just lay down and die” seems to make light of any pain that is not grand enough.
I think it is frequently true that we *think* we couldn’t survive certain trials, but when they happen to us, we DO survive them. Many times, we THINK something would be dreadful and then find out that it isn’t as bad as we thought or that there are unexpected blessings in the trial.
I guess my point, in the context of this article, is that the SUFFERER can learn a great deal from the perspective of “it could always be worse.” But maybe as outsiders, we can look at Stephanie’s trials–which I WILL say are likely worse, collectively, than what most of us have experienced–and see that maybe we cannot really know the devastation and abandonment she feels right now. Maybe expecting her to “buck up”–because we did in a different (yes, less trying) situation–isn’t the best or only approach. Maybe we can just say, “Holy, cow. You’ve been through so much. I can’t imagine! I’ll pray for you!”
I have always felt that if Christ himself felt so abandoned and devastated in Gethsemane that he begged God to remove the trial, that we imperfect creatures can also be given some allowance to feel overwhelmed and alone in our very difficult trials. Maybe we can just help Stephanie not feel so alone and unloved until she can feel God’s love again.
We could almost start a whole new thread about suicide and why some people come to feel that their problems are so insurmountable that suicide is the best option. Suicide has plagued my family – we’ve had three (plus one in my husband’s family before I entered the picture). One was almost 20 years ago, but the other two were in the last 18 months. It has been horrible on my family – especially my mom (it was her brother and two nephews). And Alison, you said something very interesting that I’ve always wondered about myself:
“He had some difficult things he was dealing with, but nothing insurmountable, nothing deadly. How I wish he could have seen his way out, seen that, yes, there were worse things that really were not only survivable but WORTH the effort to survive.”
The people in my family who chose this way out did have some difficult things – but nothing so horrible that any of us ever guessed that suicide would be the solution. Some chronic illness (nothing extremely unusual or painful), divorce, financial difficulty, fight with a family member – these seem to be the breaking points. And yet millions of people have endured these things without taking, or even considering, that action. I’ve wondered, and still wonder, why that is?? Why can some people go through pure hell in their lives and be strong and others are broken by a seemingly comparatively minor event (or series of events). You look at a life, and the difficulties that are endured, and wonder how someone could really be so discouraged that this is the answer for them.
I can only go by what I feel about my own family, and that is that for one reason or another, these people did not seem to be themselves when they made this choice. Anyway, this is probably a topic for another day…
I don’t think there is any such thing as a hierarchy of pain, because I believe that every person is affected by different things in different ways. I might say I’ve led a charmed life, since I have not had anything happen to me that others would consider horrible. At the same time, I’ve had pain so deep I could not bear it. In words, some of the things I’ve been through would rank very low on the list of horrible things, yet for me, with the particular palette of trials the Lord has given me, they were utterly devastating.
The only important things about Steph’s trials are that she had them, that she is hurting, and that she doesn’t believe God loves her. I am sorry she never returned to this conversation, though I can’t blame her. I don’t think I would have, had it been me who poured out the frustrations of my heart only to be answered the way she was.
If you ever read this again, Steph, just know that even though it may not feel that way right now, God does love you. He knows you. He cares about your “little” life just as much as He cares about the big picture. He sees your pain, and He weeps with you. I wish I could do the same. I know how many times I’ve needed someone to just weep with me, and found no one willing to let me hurt. Some things can’t be fixed. Some things won’t be fixed in this life. But I know God loves you. I hope you learn that again, too.
1) Yes, some trials are blatantly worse than others, but for each of us, whatever we are experiencing is the worst we have ever been through. When I was little my dad would get mad at me for complaining about the water being too hot, when I had to wash my hands. He would put his hand under the water and say, “See? Not hot!” But, for me, it was practically scalding. My skin was still tender. My dad’s skin was toughened by years of living and using his hands in all sorts of conditions and weather. The “adversity” his hands had experienced had toughened them up, but my hands hadn’t gone through that. I notice, now, that my little ones complain the bath water is too hot, unless it is a temperature that I find practically cold. I remember that experience with my father, though, and take their word for it.
There are things I go through now, that when I was younger would have had me in tears for days. Today, I blow them off, because I’ve been through worse and that seems like so little in comparison. That doesn’t take away the validity of my pain back then, though. It hurt terribly, because it was the worst pain I’d ever been through.
I think adversity is something we learn to bear “line upon line”.
2) Something that invariably makes any trial worse, is not knowing when it is going to end, or if it will end. Feeling out of control, and helpless to do anything about your adversity, makes it more difficult, also. If you have lived all your life thinking that a righteous life = a happy, comfortable life, free of serious bad things, then having a hailstorm of serious bad things happen to you, feels not only like a betrayal, but leaves you feeling helpless. You’ve done what you were supposed to do! If that didn’t work, what are you supposed to do now? If bad things can happen for no reason at all, how can you prepare for them? How can you prevent them? How can you protect yourself?
I have never been so frightened in my life as when I have been in a difficult situation that I thought might just go on forever. I can handle any pain, as long as I know it will end. And if I know when it will end, I can bear it even more easily. Uncertainty makes me start panicking, and when I’m afraid, the pain increases to the point that I start thinking I can’t bear even one more moment of it. Someone in that situation might very easily decide the only solution is to end everything. I think that’s why teenagers are so vulnerable to suicide. They don’t have the life experience yet to teach them that all bad things do end someday, and that there is life and happiness beyond the suffering. Or even in the middle of the suffering. When I was in the worst of my depression, the times I was closest to killing myself were the times that I was most convinced it was never going to end and it was never going to get better.
I am going to address this in two parts, one to all of us and the second part to Stephanie.
To those trying to help: I have lots of other things I need to be doing today, but I feel compelled that we all need to be there for Stephanie. While there has been much of wisdom shared by many, may I respectfully suggest that she may not be ready to hear much of it. Those who have expressed their view from further down the road past the trials, while sharing their hard-earned perspectives, may also do well to remember how they felt IN THE MIDST OF THE TRIALS. That is where Stephanie is, and that is where we need to reach her. Like many of you, I have had seasons where I felt as she does. I remember once looking heavenward in the middle of a thunderstorm and saying, “How about if I just go outside and give You a nice clear target?” I have written a couple of article on meridianmagazine.com that might be helpful. One is called “When the seagulls don’t come.” The column is called “A Beacon Light.” Another is called “Trump That!” I thought of it when some of you talked about categorizing our trials.
Instead of saying an insincere “fine” once when asked how I was doing, I said something like, “I’m on the ropes. You know when the boxer has fought back all he can and he finally just falls on the ropes, puts his hands over his face to ward off the rest of the coming blows and waits to fall on the floor for the referee to count over his body. That’s how I am.” Dog piling is illegal in football. Most of us are capable of dealing with our small day-to-day trials and even with a gigantic one now and then, but when circumstances pile daily struggles on top of grief on top of financial woes on top of health problems, I don’t know too many people who don’t or wouldn’t crumble under the load, so be kind to Stephanie. God doesn’t need us to defend Him. He is God. The fact that she is feeling anger is not a bad thing. It may be the only thing that is giving her strength right now, the strength that will give her the power to get to her feet before she is counted out. We must not respond to her anger with anger of our own, or righteous indignation or judgment or anything like unto it. We need to do our best to slip on her shoes and then imagine having the entire football team tackle us. When you are down there, under that pile, NOTHING anyone can SAY helps much. She has heard most of it in her life in the church. She has taught much of it. Now she has to decide if it is all a bunch of malarky. She is working through that process, and we need to accept that she has sufficient faith and strength inside her somewhere, perhaps gone into hiding right now, that will bring her through. In the meantime, she needs to be able to vent without being judged or found lacking.
If someone has an avalanche of rocks in front of their car, you don’t drive by and tell them there are clear roads up ahead. You stop and get out and help them move some of the rocks. In this case, I don’t know how we do that. We can’t undo any of these trials, but as God’s hands here on earth, we need to offer her one thing–love. I am not discounting any of the things that have been said. I am going to go and research some of the articles, etc. She needs to know that our hearts are hurting for her, that we wish we could do more than sit at a computer and try to impart words of wisdom, that we know what pain feels like, maybe not hers specifically, but we don’t blame her for feeling alone and abandoned. Joseph Smith felt that way. Christ felt that way. In questioning our faith, we often find it, deeper and more abiding. We can lose it as well, but I think she will find hers. My husband, who is a family therapist, says most of us are more resilient than we realize. I have drawn strength from that statement at times, reminding myself that I can get through things I never thought I could endure.
Perspective is something we gain for ourselves, but it can rarely be given. When my marriage was falling apart, a lady in the ward brought me a videotape that was about someone who had been in a concentration camp and another one about a former athlete who was now a paraplegic. Watching them only gave me a worse attitude, like it wasn’t supposed to matter if my marriage and hopes and dreams went up in smoke as long as I wasn’t in a wheelchair or a concentration camp. When she told me she had a warm feeling in her bosom that everything was going to work out all right, I told her she probably just had her bra on too tight.
A few years ago, when my strength was all but spent taking care of my husband after his two back surgeries, I broke out in raised red welts all over my body. It took three months for a diagnosis of dermal lupus. I remember angrily yelling at my husband when he needed something “It’s my turn to be sick!” I didn’t know how I could go on as his patient and loving caregiver when I looked like a leper and had little patience, strength or energy left. Then came the frosting on the cake. Our teen-age son ran our Jeep through a man’s fence, panicked and drove off, leaving behind our front license plate as a calling card. He was charged with a “hit and run” and we had to get a lawyer for him. That whole thing was enough to put me over the top. My husband is a family therapist and I told him to give me the name of a professional colleague he was not embarrassed for me to let it all hang out for, because I needed to talk to someone. He gave me the name of the LDS Family Services counselor for our state–Hawaii. I knew from talking with a friend who had lost her husband and was seeing the LDS counselor that she only came to our island two days a month. That made me angry, too, because of the inaccessibility of it all. “Availability three weeks from next Thursday? Okay, I’ll plan my crisis accordingly.” So I called Honolulu to find out what days she was coming, so I could put my angst on hold and possibly get an appointment. They told me that she was in Hilo that day, our town. They gave me a number to call but said she was already booked for the day. In desperation, I called anyway. It turned out that she had just hung up the phone and had a cancellation and told me that she could see me right then, if I could get there immediately. I drove down to the church and met with her. In the course of the discussion, she asked about my support network, and I mentioned the name of my friend who was also seeing her. Because she knew I knew that, she mentioned that it was that friend who had cancelled her appointment, making her available to see me, so she was still being part of my support network. That one thing–the cancellation and her being on our island that day–was a small but necessary reminder to me that God was still looking out for me. My prayer is that Stephanie, in the midst of all that she is going through, will have some small reminder of God’s love for her, and that she will be able to recognize it as such.
The other thing I left with that day is a letter signed by my counselor that basically said, “You are a normal woman. Anyone would crumble under this kind of load.” In other words, she gave me permission to fall apart. I needed that, needed to know that I was normal, not that everyone else had handled such things with grace and aplomb, faith intact, no murmuring and what was wrong with me. If we in the church do any injustice to each other, it is putting on that facade of perfection that makes everyone else feel imperfect and lacking by comparison. In these postings there have been several people who have shared of their trials and their imperfections, their struggles and their sorrows, who have been willing to be real. For me, sometimes that is all I need, to know that I am not the only one who has ever felt the way I feel. One of my favorite sayings is: We are not put on this earth to see through one another but to see one another through.”
It is okay to fall apart under the unfair burden you are carrying right now. Just remember to keep all the pieces.
God loves you. Look for evidence, and He will give you some.
It is okay to question your faith. It implies that you still have some to question.
What you are carrying IS unfair and burdensome. I have found that when I am in that state, I am not comforted by descriptions of heavenly blessings and eternal rewards, even though I believe in them, because of the crapfest that is the NOW. What I have found helps me is if I can look at one trial and think of one positive thing I can do. For example, in your situation, you might ask friends and relatives if they have any pictures of your family that they would be willing to donate since you lost so many in the fire. When my life feels out of control, I take one thing and I exercise control over it. I file. I organize. I give myself ONE THING that I can say doesn’t feel out of control. It is a small thing, but it gives me something to hang onto when I feel everything is out of control. “No, my silverware drawer is organized.” You can do something in memory of your lost loved one–plant a tree, compile a short history, do a service project. These things can bring small feelings of being human again. When my first husband died, one of my brothers came to visit me. He had forgotten to bring a jacket. I loaned him one of Paul’s. It had been my gift to him on his last birthday, which was held in the hospital four days after I gave birth to our son. It was very expensive. It fit my brother perfectly. At the end of the weekend I asked for it back. Eventually I came to the point where I was able to give that jacket to that brother, but my grief had to subside first. There does come a time when the grief lessens and you are left with the joy that that person was a part of your life, but you can’t recover from the tsunami until the waves stop coming. You can’t even think about rebuilding when it is all you can do to hang onto the tree and hope you aren’t washed away. I hope you are able to feel the love and compassion coming to you from people who have no idea who you are. Hang onto the tree. We will pray for the waves to stop.
Enduring the difficulties does make you stronger, but it also helps us be more compassionate and a strength to others. Even though that is the case, I have never been able to say “I am thankful for my trials.” I am not thankful my husband or brother died. I loved them too much to ever be able to word it that way. I am not thankful my second marriage ended, but I am thankful for my husband, Thom, and can’t imagine my life without him. I am thankful for the growth and the strength and the compassion, but I still would have rather not had the trials. Have you ever had that nightmare that you were taking a test and halfway through the timer went off and the teacher made you turn in your paper early? Yes, you are being tested, but it isn’t time to turn in your paper. After I lost a baby I had carried for nearly five months, I was at a church meeting and one of the ladies, because I still looked somewhat pregnant, asked me when the baby was due. I quietly told her I had lost the baby. Immediately she jumped in. “Then it wasn’t meant to be.” Another lady, who I later came to find out had lost unborn children, said, “That doesn’t make her feel any better.” You will emerge from all of this, and you will be that person to someone else who struggles. I have my list of “why?” questions for the Almighty, so get in line behind me. Beyond that, none of us understands fully how and why trials come how and when they do, which ones are averted and which ones allowed and to whom they come. None of us truly know what was “meant to be” and what was random in our lives or anybody else’s. I often feel like the little kid on the Art Linkletter Show who seemed down. When asked why he said that his dog had died. When Art suggested his dog had gone to heaven, he said, “What does God want with a dead dog?” I don’t think I have ever been as mad at God as I was when I ran over my stepson’s favorite little kitten and killed it. To this day he doesn’t know it was me. My husband said it was probably better if he thought I was just the one who found the run-over kitten. He had already lost his mother. Why did he need another loss? What did God want with a dead kitten? I won’t even pretend to know all the answers, but I have to believe that someday I will understand better how it all unfolded and why. In the meantime, I imagine God often feels the way housewives do. “Sure, you don’t have a clean shirt, but have you noticed all the things I have done? Did you notice that I cleaned the crumbs out from under the toaster? I didn’t think so. Did you notice how clean the windows are and that I washed the screens or do you just look right through them?” At the times that our needs are not met, and when we don’t have what we need, it is difficult if not impossible to see God’s hand in our lives, but it is there nevertheless.
Know that we are all trying to help, no matter how awkward and off-the-mark our comments may be. Let yourself feel our love, then puke if you still have to.
momof2, your words here have been very profound for me, and I think you’re right. Seeing a “light at the end of the tunnel” does seem to be a determining factor on whether our trials knock us down or whether we can bounce back. I do see that as a determining factor in the suicides in my family – they thought “it’s never going to get any better than it is right now, and right now it sucks”. Whether that was true or not (it most like would have gotten better, although they didn’t see it at the time), in their mind it was true and that’s what made the difference between ending it all and bearing it out.
Soozer, very nice as well. I’m going to look up your other articles when I have a minute.
agardner, I have to say that I have come to the same conclusion. I have only personally known three people who have committed suicide. (Although I have known OF many more.) The first was a guy I went to high school with. A totally cute, great, good kid. He committed suicide nearly two decades later, when on drugs. The other two, a woman in my ward just over year ago and, then, this man I spoke of.
With the woman it was not a huge surprise, since she had talked about it and was very depressed about her life. But Greg? It was such a shock. To EVERYONE. To his wife and kids. To his neighbors.
All I can conclude is that he wasn’t himself. At all.
I kept trying to blog about him, but I couldn’t figure out what to say. Well, here goes. (I backdated it to when I wrote it to make sense contextually.)
BTW, you all have me crying all over my keyboard. momof2 and (long lost!) Soozer, especially you. I have to go make dinner…I can’t see to read anymore.
Soozer – loved the referenced columns. I agree wholeheartedly.
A wonderful article from the Ensign by M. Russell Ballard. I highly recommend it.
Some Things We Know, and Some We Do Not
momof2 – thanks for referencing that article. Another really good one is called I think “The Broken Bowl”. I know it helped my mom a lot.
I like that, you can fall apart but make sure and keep all the pieces. That’s good.
Yes, you said:
I guess I think there is a time and a place for both. She had plenty of the “i’ll pray for you”s and only responded with bitterness. Sometimes we also need a reality check. Just because every person does not have a laundry list of appropriately horrible tragedies does not mean that she is the only one who understands pain and the only one who has struggled with feeling God doesn’t care. If we refuse ever comfort offered, then how is the Lord to reach us? I’m not suggesting anyone ever tell a suffering person to “buck up” but sometimes we need some help or a reason to pull our heads out of our sorrow.
I truly do not mean to be contentious, but she was offered some very loving, kind, gentle replies that made her want to puke! She rejected everything constructive that was offered except for the offers of prayers. Which I guess is good–she did respond positively to those but she seemed to have come seeking more than more offers of prayers and expressions of empathy.
I’m feeling a bit confused by some of what has been said, like
I feel compelled that we all need to be there for Stephanie. I have sensed this is what we have been trying to do. ???
“don’t think I would have, had it been me who poured out the frustrations of my heart only to be answered the way she was.”
But — and maybe it’s just me — I think overall, there has been a lot of love and concern expressed here. I hope it can be appreciated that all do our best in trying to reach out and help. I am myself very, very sorry if anything I have said has come across as ‘not being there for Stephanie” or answering her in some way that was offensive. But I hope she can try to see our hearts and know that we aren’t just trying to uncaringly tell her to ‘buck up’ — we are trying to share from our hearts. As I have read the comments, I sense that most of them have really been from a heart of love and concern, not trying to judge or be unkind or insensitive. I think it’s important to reach out and show concern and sympathy, but some people show their love and sympathy by opening up and sharing their lives, sharing what helped them. I don’t think people should be faulted for that, for trying to share their faith and testimonies.
Stephanie, if you are still reading, my heart goes out to you. I do know what it feels like to feel abandoned. I know what it feels like to not have prayers answered in the way you had hoped they would be, and to have that shake the foundations of faith. I hope you can find comfort in knowing you are not alone in these feelings, and that there are others who have been where you are and have been able to find God again, to find faith again, to feel strength and hope and peace again.
I do know that you can feel His love again if you keep moving forward and don’t lose the pieces, don’t lose the hope, and keep looking for His hand. You will see it again, sooner or later. Until then, know that there are many here who DO care and are concerned, even if we may not express it in just quite the right way, or even if we might say things that may not come across just right. Please forgive our inadequacies but know that there is a lot of care here. I’ve been here long enough to know that is the case. We just all express it in different ways, and the printed word is so very limited in being able to discuss such tender things.
I hope you will be able to feel and know of our love, and also eventually feel and know of God’s love again.
I think that assuming that “my pain is worse than your pain” leads to a mentality of trying to one-up people in their tragedies and turns us into martyrs of the worst kind. On the surface, of course, losing one would be worse than two, etc. But what if the one I lost was my child and the two Sister A lost were her brother and sister? Don’t I suffer more for having lost a child? What if the two who died were spared years of suffering by their death? Maybe their death would be easier to accept if it meant they did not suffer painfully by lingering for a long time. I think Stephanie’s trials are HUGE but she is hardly the only person I know who has faced those big, awful trials. Getting caught up in comparing and ranking trials draws us away from the learning to get through the trials and endure them well.
jennycherie, the context and qualifiers here are extremely important! I said, “SOME of you” You changed that to “MOST of ours.” I said, “lay down and die” (i.e. become really, horribly discouraged), you said, “worse than.”
I simply did not say that my trials were WORSE than MOST of yours. I said they were difficult enough that some of you would be floored. (That has no relation to whether or not you’re already floored by your own.)
So do I. But, as I said, I don’t think this is a “buck up” moment.
Honestly, I didn’t see that. I think her anger was at having her impressions of her experience discounted or corrected. “I’ve been abandoned.” “No, you haven’t.” “He’s not here.” “Yes, he is.”
First, I didn’t one-up her pain. I one-downed it. As I said before, I think that SELF EVALUATION is usually a GOOD thing. HER trials added some perspective to MINE. HERS made MINE seem less significant. HERS, without anyone slapping me upside the head or telling me to have “more faith,” got me to tell MYSELF to “buck up.” And they got me to focus on someone else.
Second, the martyr complex is an entirely different issue.
IF you can identify trials AT ALL, you are quantifying!
So, if you say, “Losing a child is a trial.” you have already determined that it’s generally WORSE than NOT losing one. I already acknowledge that there isn’t some perfect continuum of trial ranking. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t some reasonable way by which we measure these things. And it doesn’t mean it’s bad to do so.
So, we lookout for pitfalls like thinking we have it worse than anyone on the planet and becoming a martyr. But I think that’s much more a personal journey than one we send others on. And it doesn’t keep us from noticing that some people have much more to dig out of than most.
I know lots of people who face them, too. But very few who face so many, so close together. Usually I see the trials a bit more evenly distributed. In fact, the story of Job that she brings up is a good example. Don’t you think that part of the reason his story is so compelling is BECAUSE his trials were so much worse than usual?
I wasn’t trying to say that most of the advice given was anything less than a loving attempt to help. It is just that I’ve felt what Stephanie seems to feel, now, and it was recent enough to remember how it was. I would not have come back for more advise I already know, either.
Of course, that is why I didn’t post it when I felt that way. There is really nothing any of us, through the medium of a computer, can do.
The distinction seems to be – does Stephanie want advice, or does she want sympathy. It occurred to me, when I was writing my first post, that she might not really want an answer, in spite of her question. How often do we women pose a question primarily as a way of expressing our fears and concerns? It’s a very feminine quality, I think, to want sympathy and a listening ear more than advice and counsel. As I was writing, I really debated in myself if I should even post that long response, or if I should just confine myself to expressions of love and understanding. I finally decided to take her at face value and try to answer her questions, but to make sure I started out with the expressions of love and compassion.
It’s interesting how, we complain about men trying to solve our problem, when all we want is a shoulder – but then we women do the same thing. Is it that this is the internet and we can’t read her body language or hear her tone of voice? Or is it that it isn’t just men who tend to try to solve the problem instead of offering sympathy?
I suppose we’re splitting hairs. I think it is just as silly to say that to one person as it is to say that to some or many. And I don’t see that saying “lay down and die” is terribly different from saying “worse then”. You used hyperbole, I rephrased it but did not change the general meaning, I thought. That you would ever tell even one person that if they just had your trials they would lay down and die could hardly be construed as being encouraging or constructive. Which is why it seems so odd/ridiculous/out-of-place when you were admonishing the rest of us to be more supportive and compassionate towards Stephanie.
You’re right – – you did one down HER pain. . . at the same time that you one-UPPED the pain of “some” of the others who read here. I think it is a great point that we can learn from the trials of others to have perspective on our own. I also think, though, that when we are in the midst of our own trials, believing that our trials are the WORST can be very harmful. It takes our focus away from dealing with the trial (for example, from grieving the loss of a loved one) and make us focus on how much harder we have it than everyone else.
I have caught myself doing this to my husband—getting upset with him for not just listening to me vent and then doing the same to him.
Different people want different kinds of help—- some people just want sympathy. They want to vent, get out all their frustrations, talk about their struggles and for people to just “listen”, pat them on the back and say- I’m sorry, you must really be hurting, I’ll pray for you, I’ll cry for you, “choose a star”.
Some people want concrete information, ideas and suggestions, examples from scripture and counsel derived from doctrine for solutions to problems. And the natural thing is to give to others, what we usually want ourselves.
But, we can’t read people’s minds- we’re a bunch of strangers, who’ve never met, who only know each other from conversations over the internet.
Stephanie specifically ASKED for what she might be “missing”– she knew the scripture stories, she knew she had to have faith, — but she must be missing something– so she asked what she was missing- what hope could she look for–what piece of information, what part of the doctrine was she not “getting”, to help explain why God wasn’t changing her situation, or making his presence more evident- because it seemed to her that God had abandoned her.
I think however, like momof2 suggested, she asked for something she didn’t really want.
If you go back over all the postings, you’ll note that the only people who seemed to get Stephanie’s approval, are those who said in so many words, “I’m sorry, you must really be hurting, I’ll cry for you, choose a star.” But none of them answered her question– they just expressed compassion. She thanked them for their compassion, and then specifically thanked them for not “lecturing” her.
Others of us expressed our compassion, validated her feelings saying that we understand why it would feel like she was being dumped on, that God seems to be helping others and not her, etc, etc, we offered prayers on her behalf AND tried to answer the question. She didn’t like the answers, called them “lectures” and got angry, totally by-passing the compassion expressed, the offer for prayers in her behalf, etc and zooming in to criticize the constructive part of the response that actually offered an answer to her question.
Silver says she thinks that Stephanie didn’t come back because the info offered her was stuff she already knew– and that SHE (Silver) wouldn’t have come back either for more advice she “already knew”.
But that was my earlier point– the answer (not necessarily the one Stephanie wants, but the answer that really is the REAL answer) is that the advice she “already knows” IS the answer. But she doesn’t WANT that answer. So she’s trying trying to find another one, but there isn’t another one. She says she hears it all the time and it make her want to puke– but she’s hearing it all the time because THAT’S the answer.
She says she can’t find hope in God because God won’t help her- that she KNOWS he won’t protect her, and that he’s purposely ignoring her. She says He CAN help her, he just WON’T because he acts on whim and has mood swings, and right now, to put it in other terms, his mood is “anti-Stephanie”, and he has abandoned her.
Some will say “you feel abandoned, I’m sorry, I hurt for you”
Some, like me, will say “You feel abandoned, I understand WHY you feel abandoned, I’m sorry, and I hurt for you. But he’s still there, trust that.”
If she interprets that as “lecturing” or “discounting her feelings” then that’s her own negativity taking over. The thing is, what I say is TRUE whether or not she believes it, and whether or not she wants to hear it. He IS still there, and WE all know that. THAT’s the truth. So we can either express compassion AND emphasize the truth or we can withhold the truth, because “she’s heard it before so why should she bother to hear it again”, and JUST express compassion.
She says she CAN’T find hope in God, and so she came to us for it. But the truth is we can’t give it to her. The one place she CAN find Hope is the one place she’s given up on. So when you try to explain that to her, she gets angry. And, she didn’t really WANT hope from us, (because she KNOWS we can’t give it to her. As she said herself, she already KNOWS where hope comes from, but that He is refusing to give it to her) So she didn’t really expect any Hope from us, any answers to anything, any “missing” info, she just wanted sympathy, which was evident in her responses to OUR responses.
Now HOPEFULLY, that’s just temporary thing. When things are REALLY bad, and people feel like they can’t handle anymore, they sometimes throw a spiritual temper tantrum, get angry at God, and shake their fists at the heavens and anything that has to do with it– the scriptures for example. (“Don’t tell me about Job, don’t tell stuff from the scriptures, dont’ tell me about faith”, etc) . If she’s so convinced (at least at the moment) that God has abandoned her, that he doesn’t listen to her and rather CHOOSES to ignore her, and she doens’t want to hear anything about faith, anything from the scriptures, etc— then I can’t help but think that she’s not praying, not reading the scriptures, not doing anything to refill her resevoir. Obviously, I can’t say that for sure– and I hope that’s not the case.
There’s a time and a place for withholding advice and just giving compassion. There’s a time and a place for expressing both. The hard part is discerning when those times are! Which is easier in person, when you can see someone’s expression and hear their tone of voice. It’s much harder on the internet, where all you can do is go by their written words. And someone in the throes of great emotional distress probably isn’t going to be communicating very well.
I feel so bad for her. I’ve had times when I longed for another human hand to hold more than I desired comfort from the Lord, and I think maybe Stephanie is in that same place right now. She’s trying to find that comfort and sympathy anywhere she can, and I think we were just one of the places she looked. I hope so at any rate, and I hope she found what she needed somewhere.
Just in case you are still reading…
“I am convinced that our God is a God of whim. He saves some good people, and lets others die. He gives some miracles and others nothing. He allows evil people to win and succeed. He makes sure his eternal plan is never foiled, but the rest of it is just up to chance and we are left to sink or swim.”
I teared up as I read this. I have been there. It sucks (ummmm yes, a SERIOUS understatement, but without swearing…), and I am sorry to hear you are feeling that way. I won’t go into why I was in that place years ago, because it isn’t important here. But I still look back on that time period as by far the most difficult in my life. And I hear you. I felt the scriptures and testimonies of others simply didn’t apply to me. Their reassurances meant nothing to me because I wasn’t seeing the promises play out in my life. Although I had done “everything” a good Mormon girl should do, my life was changed irrevocably… over and over. Seemingly without purpose and without relief. From anywhere. I felt abandoned and lost. It seemed that the foundation of my testimony that I had previously relied on (the benevolence of God, if we do what we have been commanded we will feel of his comfort, that he is aware of us, etc) had crumbled to dust. And I saw God as an uncaring, neutral power.
Mostly, I want you to know I am thinking of you and you have been heard. You will be in my prayers. If you want information on how things turned around for me, feel free to email me.
I love this! I am really grateful for your allowing me to step into your circle of sisters. Your wisdom warms me, and I am comfortable here. For too long I’ve felt like an orphan in the gospel. Your honest discussion of things at the core of your being has been a delight to me, an unexpected candy bar in my underwear drawer! What a wide and wonderful variety of experiences, situations, attitudes, and approaches to draw from. You are precious to me already, and I wouldn’t even know you if I saw you on the street. (I like that safety feature; it allows us to be ourselves in ways we can’t always be with the sisters we see fleetingly at church.)
One of the first things the resurrected Lord did was to extend His wounded hands for His friends to see and FEEL. He who could have been whole chose not to be. Why?
I think there is something so beautiful and typical and symbolically significant in His inviting them to literally FEEL HIS PAIN. He didn’t thrust a finger in THEIR wounded hands or shove a hand into THEIR wounded sides. Even if they had willingly invited him to do so, they may have pulled back in horror and pain and anger, not realizing at the time of their invitation that it would hurt so much. He invited them, if they so chose, to come forward and feel HIS pain. He didn’t pull away. The message he delivered with his truly open wounds was, “See, I am with you.” I think his openness may have healed some who were closed.
I had not intended to tell you much about me. My intention was to wrap my arms around Stephanie.
It doesn’t surprise me that Stephanie hasn’t responded. I think it is interesting that very different human beings follow amazingly similar patterns of behavior in certain situations, testimony of the gospel notwithstanding. For instance, women who have been raped suffer predictable after-effects. People suffering loss, (the death of someone they love, perhaps,) go through clearly identifiable stages of grieving–maybe not in the same order, or at the same rate or intensity, but they all seem to go through it, if they would heal. To say that certain people don’t suffer through those stages simply means we haven’t seen the whole picture. Some stages of grief closely mimic faithlessness, but it isn’t permanent, and it isn’t her fault. Stephanie has lost so much. She is grieving. I don’t think anything we could give to her would change a thing right now: not our faith, not our knowledge, not our hope, not our anger, not our criticism, not our loving suggestions, not our prayers–or at least, as far as she will be able to see. She is healing, and we can’t speed that up for her any more than we could heal a big gash on her leg. All we can do is sit on the curb by her. Love her. Wait with her. Cry with her. Not be too surprised or upset if she lashes out. Change the bandage when she can’t change it herself. Maybe, maybe, show her our wounds that have or haven’t healed yet, so she knows that we have reasons for understanding pain. It’s not a “my wounds are bigger than your wounds” kind of thing. It’s just an “I’m hurting, too” kind of thing. At some point, she will look down with surprise and notice that her wounds have healed. And maybe then she will be sitting on the curb with someone else, crying, showing old scars but pointing out that they have healed or are healing. Waiting. Praying.
I’ve made a decision. I am going to invite you to put your finger in my wounded hands and thrust your hand into my side. See the next comment.
I want you to know that I am finally at peace with this list.
I was married when I was seventeen to a handsome, charming young man who was trying to get active in the Church again. I was going to “help” him. We had a baby when I was eighteen, and we divorced when I was nineteen. His drug and alcohol addictions got the best of him. When I left him, I was living by myself in a sorry little rental house with no heat in the middle of a very cold January. I was living on a ten-pound bag of popcorn we received for a wedding present. I was so malnutritioned that my baby girl was born six weeks early. Most of the time, I didn’t know where my husband was.
I was sent to BYU in Provo by my good bishop, “to meet a husband,” he said. What I met were octupii with testimonies, (sort of.) I swore off dating. Who I ended up marrying was a boy I knew in high school who was too shy to hold my hand. He is sweet and gentle and very different from my first husband. We were sealed in the Idaho Falls Temple. He adopted my first little girl and we had her sealed to us.
Beginning of Happily Ever After, right? Wrong. We had nine children. We took them to church. We read scriptures with them. We prayed with them. We sang, “I Love to See the Temple” every time we drove by the temple. We had family home evenings and family outings and tried hard to support them in everything they did. We did it right, according to the books.
My oldest daughter is bipolar. I would rather she had cancer. When you die of cancer, everyone loves you and they are sorry when you die. They think of you fondly. Bipolar illness is a serious brain malfunction. It stretches personalities into unrecognizable deformities. People consider my daughter to be odd. She looks normal on the outside, but she just isn’t. She has delusions of grandiosity, and if you give her five minutes, she’ll tell you how wonderful she is. Turns people off immediately. Sometimes she has hallucinations. Every emotion she has is inappropriate to the situation at hand. She laughed through her best friend’s funeral. She gets shockingly angry over the smallest things. She used to be a sweet, sensitive, girl with a gentle, profound testimony. I thought she’d never marry, but she did, to someone whose problems are very similar. Sometimes she calls me and doesn’t even say hello, just starts yelling at me about something that doesn’t concern me. It’s an ugly disease. I trust that she will be whole and beautiful in the resurrection. But not now. And I feel guilty that I, also, don’t enjoy being around my daughter.
My second daughter has a serious case of asthma. I used to find myself sitting by her trying to breathe for her. It can be so scary.
My third daughter, WHOSE NAME IS STEPHANIE, suffered from anorexia and bulimia. We are very close to her. She tells us we were wonderful parents, and her eating disorders have nothing to do with us. The bulimia was so severe, it caused epilepsy. It is horrible to watch your daughter flopping around, smashing into things and becoming bruised and broken, not being able to help. Somehow, somehow, Stephanie lost her testimony. Friends of hers in the Church betrayed her. She went to college and lived with her boyfriend, got pregnant, and married. Not in the temple, which is what we sang about and planned when she was little. She has very bitter feelings toward the Church. I pray and pray and pray for her. Maybe that’s why the other Stephanie’s quiet plea for help struck my heart.
I have a genetic defect. I know something about pain. My body makes kidney stones, big ones.
I’ve passed over a hundred kidney stones. Some of them were too big to pass, and I have had fourteen separate surgeries to remove them. I take a medication four times a day, but it doesn’t prevent them. Last time I went to the emergency room, the nurse, a male, said, “I can’t believe you women. Men come in here with kidney stones, and they roll on the floor and cry and swear and vomit. You women come in with bigger kidney stones, and you lay there in silence.” If you’ve ever heard anyone say that having a kidney stone is more painful than having a baby, it’s true. (At least it was for me, and I’ve had plenty of both.) This is one of those things I will never be free from in this life. I’m 45. I could easily have another 45 years’ worth of kidney stones.
When I was having my children, I had three miscarriages. One of them was a ruptured tubal pregnancy. (Doesn’t it sound dramatic?) After a week of internal hemorrhaging, I nearly lost my life.
I help to take care of my parents. My dad had his knee joint replaced three times, but he had the MRSA staph infection, and they finally took his knee joint out and just put a metal rod in. The MRSA is finally gone, but his leg is two inches shorter than the other one. My mother has such a severe depression that her LDS psychiatrists said it had been a long time since they had seen anyone that seriously depressed. She was a victim of incest when she was young. No medication helps her. She has stayed in psychiatric hospitals, and she even spent several months at the University of Utah receiving electroconvulsive shock treatments, which sometimes helps people who aren’t helped in any other way. The medication they gave to help her shakiness gave her irreversible Parkinson’s disease.
My mother is my hero. She gets out of bed every day.
Since this email has been so long, you’ll get the rest of the story in part three.
Here is the worst problem of all. The sweet, gentle man who married me is my best friend. He is also my bishop. We are very close. The thing that has effected this closeness is almost too horrible to mention. Some professionals we’ve been to laughed at us. Some wouldn’t believe us. Some believed us, but didn’t know what to do to help.
My husband rapes me in his sleep. It is a very rare disorder, affecting less than 1% of the population. It is only now beginning to be studied. You’ve heard, haven’t you, of people who walk in their sleep and talk in their sleep? Some even cook in their sleep, eat in their sleep, kill in their sleep. There was a famous case reported concerning an LDS man who was serving jail time because he chopped his wife to pieces–and he was fast asleep. People scoffed at the idea. We cried for him.
We believed him, because our own horrible experiences are so unbelievable.
There is no sin here. Intent is what makes sin. He has no evil intent. You would have to know my husband. He is gentle and sensitive and caring. He turns his head if he accidentally sees a scantily-clad woman on TV. When he is awake, he bends over backwards to protect me. He is the kind of man who works a fourteen-hour day, then comes to the kitchen to help me do the dishes. He is morally clean and does everything he knows how to keep the commandments.
Oh, it’s easy, said my past bishop and the psychologist I saw through LDS Social Services: sleep in another room. My heart won’t let me do that. My husband said once he felt like he was being punished for another man’s sins. For a long time, it wasn’t very real to him. He thought I was making up awful lies. As he has grown older, he has been able to wake up and catch himself “in the act.” (How would it affect your marriage if you suddenly started sleeping in another room? What would it do to your husband?) He has a ton of undeserved guilt about this. He’s been to doctors and psychologists and priesthood leaders, has received blessings, has fasted and prayed for help. Nothing. He has offered to sleep in another room. He has taken medications, which only made things worse.
His self-esteem, on a scale from 1 to 10, is a negative six. I firmly believe he was called to be a bishop because he so desperately needed to see that he was acceptable to someone as important as our Savior Jesus Christ. We are both victims here. Satan laughs.
I love him, and I forgive him. I didn’t always feel that way. I have come to that slowly through the help of the Atonement. Even though there has been no evil intent, the consequences are very real. I have some terrible fears, and I struggle with anything sexual. I know first-hand about the things abused women suffer, the feelings of worthlessness and woodenness. I related very much to what mom of 2 said about trying to imitate human emotion. I suspect this will be a lifelong problem. It happens as little as once a month or as often as a few times a night. When we were younger, it was full-blown rape. Most often now it doesn’t involve anything sexual; he just holds me down so I can’t breathe. He is a foot taller than I am, and I am very much afraid of this Mr. Hyde that shares my bed. I am taking an antidepressant, and it does help me.
One last thing to add to the list of adversities. People told me I was beautiful when I was young.
I have been cursed with some kind of hormonal abnormality, and I am going bald. My hair doesn’t cover my scalp anymore. I go to beauty salons, and different beauticians sigh and tell me they can’t do anything to fix my hair. My twin sister has the same problem, and she gave up and bought wigs. I’m not ready to do that; I think they look too false, and they are hot and uncomfortable. I am not too pretty. The other day a lady in the ward sent me a story about a fisherman who had a beautiful spirit that lived in an ugly body, something about putting the most beautiful flower in the ugliest pot but Knowing that the beautiful flower wouldn’t mind. My patriarchal blessing says I will be blessed to “grow old in beauty.” It hurts to read it. I suspect that looking decent will be an after-the-resurrection blessing.
Okay, that’s me in a rather large nutshell. Thanks for listening. What do I know? I know our Heavenly Father loves us and cries with us. I know that Jesus is the Christ. I know they are not Gods of whim; they are Gods of great purpose. Nothing they do is by mistake. Their power to do good is not limited by our lack of understanding. One day we will see through the glass clearly. I love them.
I trust them.
I’m not responding only to this point to sound calloused to all you have shared. My heart goes out to you; it’s hard to hear of others’ struggles because it really does leave me feeling helpless. (And, yes, vulnerable. So much can go wrong in life, ya know?)
But for what it’s worth, I wanted to respond to this.
How would it affect your marriage if you suddenly started sleeping in another room? What would it do to your husband?
We actually do sleep in different rooms. I have health issues and sleep issues and it’s just as simple as the fact that I can’t sleep with the snoring and him needing to get up and get ready. I just talked to a good friend who has ended up having to do the same thing. Just wanted to say it’s doable. Only you can know if it would be right for you and your husband.
God bless you in all you deal with.
Thank you, dear. It is good to know that other couples sleep separately and make it work. My husband offered to sleep in another room, and would if I asked him to, but it would break his heart. It would be the last great rejection. It would be evidence to him that his worst fears are realized, that I really don’t love him because of the things he unintentionally does in his sleep. If this weren’t such an emotion-charged issue, sleeping in separate rooms would be a good solution. His greatest fear is that one day I’m going to get fed up with the problems and leave him. I never will. I try to reassure him. Leaving him every evening at bedtime wouldn’t reassure him.
Yes, I thought that might be the case…that the emotion of it all could make it very difficult if he connects a decision like that to rejection. (On the other hand, I can’t imagine that staying in the same room helps things much, either, but it’s a rock and hard place kind of thing, I’m sure.)
What a hard situation. I hope that he will someday feel confident in your love and God’s and that you can find a solution that can work for you and not reinforce the problem one way or another. Hugs!
I have a million thoughts running through my mind- first– I’ll admit–this is a bit hard to swallow. Not that this couldn’t possibly be a real illness– because I guess it could. I honestly don’t know enough about any of this to even make a judgment. It just sounds so horrifying that it’s practically unfathomable. I did look it up online and found a couple articles discussing it.
So assuming that this really is real…
I’ll be very honest– I considered not saying anything because I KNOW someone is going to suggest that I’m “not being compassionate”. That I should just say “I’m sorry, this is so horrible, this must be so hard, I’ll pray for you”. Yes, all of that is true. I AM sorry, this IS horrible, and I WILL pray for you. But despite those who would suggest that saying anything more than that is “not being compassionate” or is discounting feelings- let me just say that you’re entirely wrong. It’s nothing BUT compassion that’s compelling me to respond. I’m not sure that trying to assuage the pain in this situation, or simply saying “I’m sorry, how tragic, I’ll pray for you” is really showing compassion. If someone’s house is on fire and they’re so in the thick of things that they aren’t thinking clearly, do you just stand there and say “I’m sorry, I’ll pray for you”? Is THAT real compassion? Or does real compassion motivate you to point out a possible escape in an attempt to help rescue them?
Davidson, I DO understand that not sleeping in the same room with your husband might be construed by him as a rejection. But is that WORSE than being raped? Even if it’s unintentional? Would his feeling rejected be more terrible than being repeatedly raped? Are his feelings of being accepted more urgent than your ability to breathe if he’s pinning you down and suffocating you? Okay, so you didn’t suffocate to death the last time, but what if you DO the next time? Is it more important for him to feel accepted with his disorder, than it is for you not to be raped?
I don’t believe for one minute that you would allow your daughter to be in this situation if it was HER he was doing this to in his sleep. If he was sleepwalking into her room everynight, once a month, whenever, pinning her down and raping HER, you wouldn’t just “live with it” and try to “cope with it” because he can’t help it and it isn’t intentional, right?
Are you less valuable or less important than your daughter? If it’s not okay for him to do this to your daughter, than it’s not okay for him to do this to you, either. Just because you are his wife, it doesn’t change anything. You are not obligated to sleep with a man who rapes you, or otherwise attacks you, EVEN IF it’s unintentional.
So my thought is this— you say that during consensual lovemaking he’s tender and loving– so how could he feel “rejected” if you are willingly intimate with him when he’s NOT asleep?
It’s rather common for couples to be intimate when they are going to bed at night– and even during the day– so why can’t you show him your love for him, your acceptance of him, your forgiveness for this disorder and the pain it causes you, by continuing to be WILLINGLY intimate with him when he’s awake– then you could “sleep” separately at night? That is NOT rejection. And how COULD he for one moment consider that a rejection? It’s the complete opposite. The fact that you’re still together is PROOF of the exact opposite.
I would think that HE wouldn’t let HIMSELF sleep with YOU at night. His love for you, and his desire to protect you if even from himself, should be more important than his “feelings”. You’re determined to continue to sleep with him at night, for fear that he might feel rejected. But shouldn’t he be even MORE determined to protect you from something more concrete than “feelings”? Shouldn’t he be more concerned with preserving your dignity? To make sure that he’s treating you like the daughter of God that you are? Even if his mistreatment is unintentional? Why is that LESS important than his feelings?
If you were blind, and everytime you got behind the wheel of the car, you got into an accident due to your blindness, and hurt one of your kids, would you keep getting behind the wheel of the car, with your kids in tow, allowing them and or others to suffer over and over again, to spare yourself the shame or embarrassment of not being able to drive a car?
If he feels so horrible about what he does, than doesn’t it make sense that he’s going to continue to feel worse and worse as long as it keeps happening? Don’t you think that THAT self-deprication, and self-loathing is WORSE for him than sleeping on the couch or in another room? Especially if he knows you love him because you’re still willingly intimate with him while he’s awake? The very thought that he can spare you from the pain and horror of his disorder by simply sleeping somewhere else should make him feel more like a real man than he’s probably felt in years. Knowing that he can actually DO something to protect “his woman” is probably exactly what he NEEDS.
If I knew that in the middle of the night, I was sleepwalking and raping my spouse, hurting my children, or anything of the sort, and I’d tried every therapy and every medication to no avail, then I would love my family up with my every waking hour, and lock my butt in a separate room every night. Maybe even a totally different location. It’s only 7-8 hours or so. People go to their JOBS for longer than that. They sacrifice their time with their families, in order to provide for them.
Shouldn’t your husband, (and shouldn’t you ALLOW your husband) to sacrifice that time with you, in order to protect you? Shouldn’t his love for you OBLIGATE him to protect you? More so than you apparently feel “obligated” to sleep in the same room with him?
You are a brave one, Face the Music. I love you for taking the time to think and research and write a thoughtful letter FOR ME. It is amazing to me that anyone would care that much. I love the people who say they are sorry that I’m having problems and they’ll pray for me. I love the people who question me for my own benefit. I can’t tell you how much this means to me. I’ve spent twenty-five years being quiet about this. Well, okay, not entirely silent. As I’ve said before, we’ve told doctors and psychiatrists and psychologists and priesthood leaders, and nobody has any answers. My parents and my twin sister know, but it is too painful for them. My parents pretend I never told them. My sister occasionally asks me how I’m doing in that respect, but it is pretty hard for her to hear. Once when I was the ward girls’ camp director, I told a fellow camp leader while we were at camp. She laughed. She avoids me now. I figured I’d be bearing this burden alone for the rest of my life.
The initial reaction most people have is disbelief, followed quickly by questioning my husband’s motives. For those who might disbelieve, there are articles on the internet about this problem. It is referred to as “sleepsex” or “sexomnia.” I thought I was the only one! But it turns out that it does happen to other people, both male and female. And I will warn you now that you have to be very careful about looking. There is a sleepsex website, a forum for discussion, but I quit going there because some people’s discussions are pornographic. I don’t need that.
May I clarify? Somehow I gave the impression that I am able to participate in consensual sex when we are both awake. He is tender and gentle with me all the time when he is awake, not just specifically concerning sex. It’s one of the things we’re struggling with. Sometimes I am able to agree that we can have sex, and sometimes I just can’t. He is patient and understanding with me, but I know he feels rejected. He is willing to be rejected if it will help me.
Face the Music, you asked questions that are very hard for me to answer, very painful for me, but maybe it’s good. I have often wondered, “Why doesn’t my husband love me enough to insist on protecting me? Why doesn’t he ‘lock his butt in a separate room every night?'” I don’t know the answer to that. I don’t think it’s because he doesn’t love me. I think he is still somewhat in a state of denial, simply because the truth is too horrible to accept. If I go to bed with him, he can pretend that it doesn’t really happen, or at least he can tell himself that it probably won’t happen tonight, or if it does happen, it won’t be that bad. It is true that I don’t always tell him when something happens, or how bad it was, just because it is so devastating to him, and after all, what’s the point? It will only make him feel bad, knock him down a notch lower. He doesn’t need that. It doesn’t change anything. I suppose some will say I have a martyr complex. Do I? I see it this way. I’ve been told all my life that I can’t change other people’s behavior; I can only change my own. I’ve been told by prophets that I should be anxiously concerned about the welfare of my companion; that I should put him first. I’ve been told that the good of the group is more important than the good of the one. I’ve been told that we will be exalted on high if we ENDURE IT WELL. Not just endure it. To me, enduring it WELL means forgetting self, keeping hope, forgiving, reaching past my own hurt to help him deal with his. I’ve come to that after years and years of doing it the wrong way. There were years when I wouldn’t speak to him in the morning after something awful happened. Times when I screamed at him and cried. Stuff like that, which always made both of us feel worse. And in the end, didn’t change a thing.
He is not selfish. He is the most unselfish man I know. Just because he doesn’t know how to handle this doesn’t mean he doesn’t love me or want things to change. And it isn’t true that I just take it and take it. We’ve tried lots of things. I’ve slept on the couch. He’s slept on the couch. He’s slept on the bedroom floor, wrapped tight in a sleeping bag, even in August. I’ve slept above the covers while he sleeps under them, and vice versa. The result of our sleeping in separate rooms was worried children. Last year I spent a lot of time sleeping on the couch, and one day my youngest asked me, “Mom, are you and Dad going to get a divorce?” The ripples widen to hurt others. You can’t tell an eight year old, “Dad rapes me, so we don’t sleep together.” You can’t just eliminate an explanation, because then they are left to wonder, and imagination often conjures up something worse than reality. I sleep with my husband for the good of the group. An amazing thing has happened since I’ve tried to take a more Christ-like approach. I have to think about how to word this accurately. God hasn’t seen fit to remove the trial, but it is as though he has removed the consequences of this particular trial. I don’t feel them anymore. My heart is at peace. It is so tough to explain. I don’t feel the panic or the fear when he attacks me. I don’t feel that deep and anguished hate, with nowhere to direct it. I don’t feel hopeless or helpless. It isn’t pleasant, but it isn’t unbearable. I learned long ago that the best thing to do when he attacks me is lay still, play dead. If I try to fight him, it’s much worse. When he holds me down so I can’t breathe, I wait until he relaxes and then I lift his arm away. And then I roll over and go to sleep. God has enabled me to deal with this, and I am so grateful. It surprises me.
Stephanie asked if there were no protection in this life for those who try to be righteous. I testify that there is! There is. Maybe not the protection we expected, but a kinder, better, more real protection. Not protection from rape, but protection from the CONSEQUENCES of rape. What an amazing thing! Do you know any other women who are raped who are protected from the consequences of it? I cater to his emotions because I guess I’m a little more emotionally resilient than he is. His patriarchal blessing says, “Do not let a spirit of doubt or discouragement enter your heart, for these are the means Satan has to end your usefulness.” I don’t know if he would ever become desperate enough to kill himself, but I do know I wouldn’t do it. My grandfather hung himself. My sister-in-law hung herself, and I spent all last summer taking care of her three abandoned children. I saw their pain. My cousin shot himself. I’ve dealt with the hurt of the people left behind. I would never do that to people I love. And life is so worth living, even with all the problems. I have come to know that each trial is a specific tool designed to accomplish a specific result in my life. I have grown used to problems. Now, when He sends them, I watch with interest. I accept them. I trust that He is shaping me. I trust that I will live through it. I trust that He knows best. And I trust that there will be spaces between the problems, if not now, sometime in a month or two. Maybe a year or two. And there really is joy to be had, even in this life! I look for it and find it, even in the smallest things. Tender mercies.
I’ll tell you one tender mercy, and then I’ll go. Richard G. Scott came to our stake conference last month. He was giving a good talk, and suddenly he stopped. He said he felt impressed to speak to someone in the audience, or maybe several someones, who had been sexually abused. He said many helpful things, but the thing that stood out most to me was when he said that Satan may send fear, but we can choose to refuse delivery. We don’t have to be afraid. We can rise above it. I thought fear was something I had to accept! And now I know I can defeat it, with Heaven’s help. What a freeing thought that was to me! I loved having the witness of the Spirit that God did care about me, enough to inspire a prophet to lay aside his talk to speak to me! I am known! I am loved. I am not alone.
It is enough for now.
Even when I specifically pointed out that I meant “become really, horribly discouaraged”? How does that have any relation to whether or not their own trials have done the SAME? There simply isn’t a comparison of pain there. If I tell you that childbirth will cause some of you excruciating pain, is it saying that passing kidney stones (or broken legs or being smashed by a semi) won’t?
Certainly you’re entitled to that opinion. But I can tell you that BECAUSE I’ve had five miscarriages (and people know it), I’ve had dozens and dozens of people call, email, or visit me when they experience or are concerned about it. So, in at least one case, conveying some of the nasty trials I’ve had has actually helped lots of people. Even if it’s a relatively minor nasty thing in the course of my life.
Same thing with bullying. It was very painful and I addressed that. Even I was stunned at the email and the pings.
Silver, momof2, aunt sassy, everyone, I am so touched by what you’ve written.
davidson, welcome here. I am so glad you feel comfortable with us.
A thought comes to me. You said your husband feels awful for raping you in his sleep. I’m sure that is true. I’m sure that the pain of harming you is excruciating. I understand that you feel sleeping in another room would feel like rejection to him, BUT I can’t understand how that rejection would not be MORE than compensated for by him being RELIEVED of the pain and guilt of raping you! I can’t believe that his self-esteem would be MORE damaged by you sleeping in another room, than it is by his RAPING you. Do you see my point? Sure, we’d rather have neither, but I can’t see how his being allowed to continue raping you serves EITHER of you in a positive way.
FWIW, my neighbors sleep in different rooms just because the man snores like a truck. It keeps his wife awake. They have a great marriage. But if getting a good night’s sleep is a good enough reason, I can’t imagine why protecting your life isn’t.
BUT I can’t understand how that rejection would not be MORE than compensated for by him being RELIEVED of the pain and guilt of raping you!
This was the thought that I had as well.
ut if getting a good night’s sleep is a good enough reason, I can’t imagine why protecting your life isn’t.
And as one of those wives who sleeps in a different room for the snoring reason, I agree with this, too. You can simply explain to the children that they should have no concern about the marriage, but that mom can just sleep better in a different room. My kids have adjusted to it just fine.
I admire you’re ‘you take it for the group’ thing, and your testimony of the Atonement is wonderful. I do think it’s an approach that should be read with caution, though, because I am not sure the right solution in hard situations is always to put up with harmful behavior. Because this is involuntary, I think it might be a unique situation in that way, but just in case someone is reading who is in a voluntarily abusive situation, ‘taking hits for the group’ is often NOT the right solution. God expects us to be kind and charitable, but part of that sometimes, I think, may include keeping boundaries to avoid enabling behavior that is inappropriate.
I appreciate davidson’s openness and also willingness to listen. And again, sister, I appreciate your testimony. Your peace does come through and it’s a great thing to see how the Atonement can help even in terribly difficult situations.
I don’t know if anyone has mentioned this, but if you check your scriptures, I believe that Job’s wife did NOT die, only his first ten children. This is important to note because it has been discussed whether God cared anything about her or not. She had a hard time of it, for sure, but if I understand the scriptures correctly, she is the same woman who became the mother of the next ten children, which included the fairest daughters of the land.
Again, sweet people, thank you for your thoughts and taking the time to respond. It does bring tears to my eyes. I just can’t tell you what this means to me after 25 years of struggling with my emotions alone! I hope God will reward you for your kindness. I think I was wrong, Alison, to relate the story about what the male nurse said when I went in for kidney stones, and I apologize. Pain is pain. I don’t think we can really qualify or quantify it. I would never dismiss anyone’s pain. Young sisters in the ward talk about the difficulty of dealing with two small toddlers, and then they see me sitting there (mother of nine), and they look embarrassed and say something like, “This must sound so stupid to you.” Fact is, it doesn’t sound stupid to me. I remember clearly that having just two was really hard when I had just two. By the time I had nine, I had a little help, and it just didn’t compare. When I had two or three I didn’t have any experience under my belt or any older children to lend a hand, and in some ways it was harder than having nine. Same thing with kidney stones. Someone will be talking about having a first kidney stone and tell how they vomited and cried, and then they see me sitting there, and they apologize for being wimps! And I tell them! The first kidney stone I had was by far the hardest, because it was new. I didn’t know what was happening to me, and I thought I was dying. I hadn’t developed any coping skills, didn’t know I was going to live through it and come out fine, didn’t know that pain was going to teach me important things. I don’t love kidney stones, but I know the drill now, and it’s okay.
I’ve been thinking very carefully about what you said about sleeping on the couch rather than continuing to risk abuse. (BTW, sleeping in another room is not an option. We have a small house and a large family and there isn’t another room or bed available.) I slept on the couch the last two nights. The couch is not greatly comfortable, and I tossed and turned. I didn’t say anything to my husband about sleeping there. He gets up at 4:30 in the morning to get ready for work, and the kitchen and the living room are adjacent to each other, so I could hear him, and he could see me.
It’s so weird, and I suppose all married couples are like this, but I could tell by the way he moved and the quiet sounds he made, as he got ready, that he was feeling surprised and hurt that I slept on the couch. There was a puzzled expression on his face when he knelt by me for prayer. He didn’t make any protests, because he knows from other conversations we’ve had that it might be best. But ouch. I felt bad all day. I actually felt worse than I feel when he attacks me in the night, and I was tired to boot. And I’m certain that he worried about it all day. I didn’t tell him about our conversations.
You who sleep in separate rooms or beds, has it made the two of you grow apart emotionally? I’m not trying to be impertinent; I just really need to know. Honestly now? Have you asked him his opinion? If you have, would you tell me what he said? Do you know how he REALLY feels? My great worry is that we will grow apart emotionally from choosing to stay apart physically. When we sleep together in the same bed, we talk and fall asleep holding hands. It’s a very weird situation. He is my Mr. Hyde, but he is also my Dr. Jekyll. He is my attacker, but he is also my healer. They live in the same body. Fact is, I’m 45 years old and until just recently, I was afraid of the dark, especially the dark in my bedroom. I was afraid of my own bed. It’s not a simple matter of having sex when we want to and then just hitting the hay in separate rooms, no big deal. Remember that it isn’t like that for me. Sex has to be carefully planned, no sudden moves, no surprises. Even when it is planned carefully, I sometimes back out at the last minute, just because I REALLY CAN’T handle it emotionally. That is getting better, but it still pops up and surprises me sometimes.
Just thought I’d mention it. I’m the snorer, and sometimes I rattle the windows! LOL. He has never once complained about my snoring, and I’m certain I have caused him some sleeplessness occasionally when I get to sleep before he does. Another way in which he suffers; it isn’t all about me. But something in me clings to the idea that a man and a wife ought to sleep together, even if it isn’t easier. Surely being married isn’t always easier than being single, but people tend to do it.
I know some of you must think I am hopeless, but this really is a complicated issue with lots of different angles to examine and prioritize.
Hey, dear ladies, is this too heavy for you? If you can’t comment on this issue because it’s just too overwhelming and depressing, I understand. Mom of 2, do you have anything to say? I would value your opinion, if it isn’t too hard to give. Thanks.
Oops, I just read about thread-napping on another thread. This is new to me, and If I have napped a thread and created a terrible faux pas, I apologize. I didn’t think we would hear from Stephanie again, but if she is still reading, I’m sorry, dear. I’m still thinking about you and still praying for you. Once my sister was thanked by a woman for whom she had been praying. My sister said, “It was nothing. It’s the least I can do.” The other sister said, “Oh no! In this situation, it is the VERY MOST you can do, and the most appreciated.” That gave me something to think about. I had come to believe that maybe saying I would pray for someone was quite a cop-out. I see it differently now. If it is true that we must “ask, and ye shall receive”, asking is a very important part of that equation. Any father would think twice when a majority of his children are asking repeatedly for the same thing.
You who sleep in separate rooms or beds, has it made the two of you grow apart emotionally? I’m not trying to be impertinent; I just really need to know. Honestly now? Have you asked him his opinion? If you have, would you tell me what he said? Do you know how he REALLY feels?
If we want to remove this to another thread, I’m happy to start it. Stephanie, I will add to davidson’s comment that we care about you and hope that you can know that there is love and concern here, even if it didn’t necessarily come across well in our words.
davidson, I think if you are going to sleep somewhere else, it ought to be a decision you make openly, after discussing with your husband. It was a joint decision for us, and I have repeatedly asked my husband if he is OK with it. It does have its downsides (I love cuddling and obviously we won’t get as much of that in separate rooms!) but it really does work fine. We spend time together when we are awake and this really does help me with my health issues. (I slept with him for years before my health issues hit, so it’s not just about the snoring). I totally and completely believe that it’s ideal for a hubby and wife to sleep together, but I think it ought not be held up as the only option if there are other challenges that might be made worse by that decision. Marriage is a negotitation. Work together through this. It sounds to me like you sort of tiptoe through this (understandably) but in my experience, silence in pain only makes the pain worse, and can often distort reality.
Again, I would not decide this on your own. I can imagine why he felt hurt and surprised, because it was a surprise, and because he’s obviously sensitive (understandably). Unless you can really communicate and you can find ways to reinforce your love and reassure him, this would likely not be the best option for you. But I don’t think suffering in silence for either of you is the best option. This is your joint trial. Face it in love together! Those are my thoughts.
The fact that you don’t sleep well on the couch of course should be a consideration as well.
I really do appreciate your wisdom and your anchoring. You steady me and help me see things another way. I had forgotten about the tiptoeing; that was a decision I made long ago and has since become a pretty deeply ingrained habit. That first marriage really burned me, and I am afraid of marital fires. In my first marriage, if I did or said something to upset my husband, the door would slam and he would be gone for days or weeks, and I never knew where he was. When Al asked me to marry him, I really couldn’t believe my good fortune. I decided I would be very careful about what I said or did, because I was afraid of being abandoned again. I was young then, but it is a habit that has stayed with me.
You are right. I will talk to him. But I tend to avoid making waves about marital issues. And hey, would you start a new thread? Thanks. Don’t quite know how, and I feel bad taking Stephanie’s. I also just feel really bad about Stephanie. I hope she doesn’t give up on the Church.
I also just feel really bad about Stephanie. I hope she doesn’t give up on the Church.
I do, too. And I would be happy to start another thread, called ‘facing difficult marital issues.’
This was exactly my point as well, Alison. But you said it better!
Stephanie, are you listening to conference? It’s for you today!
Spencer J. Condie: “Just as God remembered Rachel, God will remember you. I so testify ?”
Oh, I hope you are listening!
Amen, Alison. I loved loved loved that!!
Elder Eyering’s talk also seemed to speak to this topic. Wow, Stephanie, it seems God is showering some attention on you this weekend! 🙂
He talked about remembering God and looking hard for his hand, even when it seemed distant. And about how God really does care, even though we sometimes don’t feel that strongly. So, do you notice that even GA’s understand God feeling distant? I think it’s OK to notice that. Christ did, too, so I do think there are dark times when we are left more to our own devices than others.
I like his short journal idea. I think I’ll try that.
I was forcibly struck, during Elder Eyring’s talk, by something I read once, that said that we need to count our blessings the most when times are hard. I have found that to be very true in my life.
Did I say that? Where?! Where?! :surprised:
Absolutely. I have had some horrible things happen. But I wouldn’t trade them for her trials.
Sure there is! It’s not clearly delineated in a continuum, but of course some pain is worse than others and, of course we can determine that to SOME extent in most cases.
I’ve had five miscarriages. It was horrible. But I’d take that over having five kids abducted and murdered. Wouldn’t you?
Ridiculous? You don’t think it’s worse to lose TWO loved ones than ONE? Sheesh, I do! And I think losing zero loved ones is by far the most preferable!
To me the idea that we can’t quantify pain and suffering to some extent is silly and comes from the basic idea that doing so would minimize the difficulty of someone in pain. But it needn’t do that. We don’t have to approach someone who lost a grandchild with, “Well, it could be worse, you could have lost all your grandchildren, your children, your spouse, your parents, and had your dentures fall out.” We can still sympathize and comfort even though we have enough common sense to realize that the world hasn’t exploded and sent us all hurtling into space. 🙂
But maybe, **as the sufferer**, realizing this can give us needed perspective. Maybe it can give us a model of survival when we most need it.
A friend of mine, a 42-year-old man, married, with two kids, in my ward committed suicide two weeks ago yesterday. If you live around here, you probably heard about it, as it was all over the news. He had some difficult things he was dealing with, but nothing insurmountable, nothing deadly. How I wish he could have seen his way out, seen that, yes, there were worse things that really were not only survivable but WORTH the effort to survive.
FWIW, one of my very favorite books for kids is called It Could Always Be Worse: A Yiddish Folk Tale. Wonderful, wonderful!
Pray, don’t put words in my mouth. I didn’t give a collective “all of you.” I said, “some.” Obviously it was a figure of speech, since I’ve rarely known anyone to will themselves to death upon vertical positioning. But, yes, I’ve seen others go through similar trials and give up hope or commit suicide or leave the church or…
Let me be more clear. I wouldn’t ASSUME someone’s life is relatively charmed from a distance. But I do BELIEVE those who tell me their lives have been remarkably charmed. And I used to be one of them.
About 15 years ago, I sat in a room with a bunch of my friends–all married, all mid-20’s to mid-30’s, all with kids under 12, all stay-at-home moms, all with husbands with decently stable jobs, if not lucrative ones, all members of the church. Our discussion centered on how blessed we were and how our greatest worry was that, at some point, we might have to deal with something REALLY difficult. At that point we had dealt with things like: struggling to finish college, being poor and having bills due, tough pregnancies and some miscarriages and infertility, car trouble, siblings who weren’t always nice, people in the ward who made our callings hard, kid who wouldn’t clean their rooms. One in the group had had a stillborn baby, the day I was giving her baby shower. At that point, that was THE WORST (yes, I’m quantifying pain, but in a way we all agreed with) thing that had happened to any of us.
Since then, three more of us have had some really difficult trials to deal with. The others (who are still close friends) are still dealing with more “normal” issues and still feel charmed. I have quite a few friends who have lives like this. I plan to get back there any minute now. 🙂
There is an almighty power out there, but is very obvious that this almighty power doesn’t care.. Everything you learned in the bible, koran, etc is all [no cursing, please].. It’s a bunch of fairy tale put together by a couple of senile old men around 2 millenniums ago.. No one can define god. For all we know he could be an immortal alien being that did experiments to create humans on earth. Everything that has ever happened in history is all chances, skill, luck, and effort. You can pray until your brain rots, it will not be answered. In dark times do not sulk thinking your God can save you, instead pull up your will power to defeat the darkness and pull your self to the light. Furthermore saying God does not help those that do not help themselves is meaningless, because if I can do it myself I don’t need some God to help me.
I am so happy I found this site. I just wish I could know what has happened in the past 4 years for Stephanie. All I know is I’m where she was. I just don’t have the faith anymore. I am done. I think my 3 year old and I are better off… away from life. I am trying to hang in there but God doesn’t want to help us. I given HIM so much credit in life and realize now – HE was never really there. I don’t think or know if there really is a GOD. If there was _ I’d prefer to follow the devil at this time. Atleast he rewards his servants. …
Anyway, I feel for the first time peace with death… I am going to be ok and my son will too. But its a struggle everyday. I like the quote: “You can fall apart but make sure and keep all the pieces.” Well bye ~ Tanya
Tanya, I hope you’ll stick around to chat. You and your boy are NOT better off gone.
Take some time to think through what’s going on in your life. We are here for you. You are loved.
Alison Moore Smith recently posted…Is Discrimination Wrong?
Tanya and Stephanie, my heart aches for both of you. I hope things have improved for Stephanie and, Tanya, they can improve for you. Please tell us how we can help you.
While I was reading your post, my daughter came over to show me a song she liked. I said, “No, I need to read this.” But she said, let me just open it and you can listen while you read. She had no idea what it was I was trying to read, but here is the song:
Claros, God cares. People have agency to make choices. God allows us to make choices because we have to learn and we have to prove what we are made of–and because he cares. Sometimes we suffer for our choices and sometimes other people suffer, because of our choices. As a parent, I can tell you that God agonizes as he watches his children make the wrong choices. Sometimes we are not where we should be when we are needed to heal someone’s pain and sometimes we are the direct cause of pain. Our faith plays a large role in the way things play out and in our ability to handle things as they play out. The Atonement is there to cover all of the problems that arise because of agency. It is real and it can heal.
For two days now I have been trying to come up with a response and I still don’t know what to say, other than this: While I have not personally struggled with such feelings of utter abandonment by God, I have had many very close to me who have. Some have chosen one way out of it and others have chosen a different way. I hope that you are still reading here Tanya, and will engage in some discussion with those who do care.
Also, just wanted to state for clarification that I am agardner in the posts in the thread above from a few years ago.
Tanya– may I ask a few questions?
What struggles have you been having that make you feel like it would actually be better if you were “away from life”?
Are the “struggles” directly involving your son (example– he has some form of childhood cancer, he’s severely disabled or chronically ill)? Or are the struggles YOURS and they’re affecting him indirectly? (example– your marriage or relationship has fallen apart, you don’t have enough income to support him, etc). I’m just wondering why you think HE’D be better off “away from life”.
Whatever your struggles are, I hope that you’ll find the strength and determination to carry on and give your son the chance to do the same. Doesn’t he deserve that?
Kristen, that song was miraculously appropriate.
See, Tanya? Do you believe for one second that her daughter walking into the room at that very moment, recommending that very song was just a coincidence?
A random stranger, the daughter of another random stranger, received a prompting that very likely was MEANT to offer you some peace and comfort, and I’ll bet her daughter didn’t even know that her sudden desire to share that song with her mother was even a “prompting” at all. He’s there, alright.
Stephanie and Tanya– I hope you’re both still reading, even if just in “lurk” mode.
I want you to know, that all through President Uctdorf’s address to the sisters during tonight’s broadcast, I was thinking of you and hoping you were watching too. And I’ll BET that others here at Mormon Momma, who chatted with you were thinking of you, too.
So consider for just a moment, that I’m a complete stranger to both of you, as are the other sisters here. We’ve never met– and we only briefly “spoke” through the internet. And how long ago was it, that Stephanie wrote in?
A quick scan upward on the screen– it was in 2007. So 4 years ago, Stephanie wrote in about feeling that God had abandoned her. Then just recently, Tanya wrote in with the same concerns. And there I was, in a chapel in a small country town of Missouri, listening to one of God’s chosen vessels, and thinking of someone I do not know and have never met, but only briefly spoke to 4 years ago on a blog– and someone else I don’t know, who I wrote to a few weeks back.
Now I’m not saying that to make myself sound pious or like the Queen of Compassion– but if I, a complete stranger to you, was thinking of you, and remembered you because I care– then surely Heavenly Father– who CREATED you, and DOES know you and LOVES you, thinks of you, remembers you and cares about you.
I really hope you were watching– if not, then I urge you to watch it online. That talk was meant for you– both of you.
Are you hoping to live large like Ann Romney in this world…or is what the next world offers enough–churning out the babies needed to populate the universe of which your husband will be God?
This just came to my mind. Don’t know if it will help. I’m having my own list of difficulties.
Be confident and happy! It’s hard to receive revelation when you’re sad or upset. You know He loves you, don’t ever doubt that!
Also, I literally just read this today: Matthew 10:29–31.
Jason, thanks for the uplifting, positive addition!
Stephanie, have you read the book “When Bad Things Happen to Good People” by Rabbi Harold Kushner? He knows of what he speaks. I find comfort in his perspective. I cringe when people invoke God as the author of our trials. I mourn with you for your great losses. There is no healing platitude. Somehow, though I know that God loves his children, I do not know the meaning of all things.
After reading the Bible (Some Old Testament, Entire New Testament), I am of the opinion that God does not care about man or the other creatures He created. I believe it was man who invented religion for social control. Most religions preach the importance of man living in stupity and poverty as a lifestyle that God wants us to live. I cannot even go into a Christian church … I cannot bear to see people in desparate need praying into a black hole to a God who doesn’t care. It seems I have more compassion for these people than God does. It really breaks my heart.