Have you ever felt despondent? Alone? Afraid? Panicked? If so, you are completely normal! Sometimes in life, hard things happen—and as human beings we have feelings that accompany those trying times, usually painful feelings. But as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (sometimes mistakenly called the “Mormon Church”) I testify that these hard times can yield the greatest, most light filled, close to Heaven moments. It is in these moments when our souls our harrowed up (see Alma 36:12) so that we might be able to have the greatest spiritual growth—similar to the farmer who tares (or plows) his dirt before growing a wonderful crop.
In a book titled, Experiencing Christ: Your Personal Journey to the Savior, written by Randall J. Brown, and published in 2009 by Cedar Fort, Inc. (pp 1-2) Brown shares a personal experience when his own heart was harrowed up and was brought closer to the Lord Jesus Christ because of it.
In January 1990, I experienced a fiery trial. I endured a two-week cycle of continuous panic attacks, during which the desperately needed escape of sleep never came. In the midst of this tortuous cycle, I felt as if time had completely stopped, yet the emotional and mental pain continued relentlessly. The panic attacks were followed by periods of deep depression. As a means of enduring the emotional hell I was caught in, I resorted to running through the neighborhood to survive each succeeding wave of panic. At times the symptoms would subside for a few moments. During these brief reprieves, I thanked God for deliverance, only to find that after a few seconds of relief I would slip into a dark depression. The cycle then started again with another wave of panic. It would all wash over me with the same intensity as before. This hellish cycle repeated itself continually, day after day. In my desperation for deliverance, the compulsion to end my own life became a stark reality.
At one point, as I lay on the floor with the nerves in my face twitching uncontrollably, I cried out to the Lord from the deepest part of my soul for deliverance. When the relief I sought did not come immediately, I felt doomed and completely abandoned. I believed that I had descended into the depths of hell, with no means of deliverance. I cried out in my heart, “O God, why hast thou forsaken me?”
As I look back on this harrowing time in my life, I realize that I was given a gift. I received great insight into what the Savior experienced for me in Gethsemane as He suffered and bore the trials and afflictions of my life. Although I am obviously unable to comprehend the infinite depth and breadth of the Savior’s sacrifice, I can understand, to a small degree, what He endured on my behalf. This experience was the commencement of a journey for me. Although it was just the beginning of a series of fiery trials and afflictions, I now know that in this furnace of affliction, the Lord was purging my soul of spiritual wounds, false beliefs, and barriers that kept me from deeply experiencing my Savior’s mercy and grace.
Through my personal school of afflictions, I have become painfully aware of my desperate need for a Savior. I have come face-to-face with the stark reality of my own nothingness without the divine help of a Savior. I have now come to see that although I have been an active member of the Savior’s restored Church my entire life, the Savior was taking me to a deeper knowledge of Him made possible only through the purging and refining process. Until I experienced such fiery trials, I had not fully experienced a mighty change of heart. My uncircumcised heart contained weeds at its deepest levels, places that only Christ could reach. I was full of fear, guilt, and resentment that served as barriers to faith, hope, and charity, and that kept me from fully experiencing the Savior’s mercy.
Many years later, after the worst part of this illness was behind me, I was assigned to home teach two sisters whose husbands had endured similar battles. Although it is impossible for me to comprehend, these brothers’ sufferings were far greater than my own, and in both cases, the illnesses took their lives. As I have come to know these sisters, it has become apparent that they both possess relationships of deep trust and intimacy with their Savior. Their unfathomable sufferings have led them to experience Christ as their fount of consolation and hope.
Their husbands were Christ-like men as well. One served as a Gospel Doctrine teacher, and the other was a former bishop and stake president. I believe both of these wonderful men drank every ounce of the bitter cup they were intended to drink in this life and that through the crosses they bore, they came to know their Savior. In each of their cases, the Lord asked them to wait on Him for deliverance until mortality was past. It was after mortality that they would come to a perfect knowledge of Christ’s infinite love for them. There they could know with perfect understanding the bitter cup He drank for them.
I know and testify that Jesus is the Christ and that through His Atonement—where He felt all of our pains, sicknesses, and temptations (see Alma 7:11-12), He can help us through anything and everything that we will ever go through. Though our pain may not be entirely taken away, He can make it that we “may bear with [our] infirmities” (Alma 31:30), and in so doing we will know our Savior Jesus Christ on a more intimate level. I invite you to invite the Savior’s gift of the Atonement into your life, in greater abundance, that all of the experiences you are given may be for your benefit in growing closer to God. For more ideas in how you might be able to do this, meet with Mormon missionaries—“they can help you!” (Russell M. Nelson, “Ask the Missionaries! They Can Help you!,” Ensign, Nov. 2012).
This article was written by Ashley Bell, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Ashley Bell is a 22-year old wife, mother, BYU graduate, and member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Ashley loves to run, cook, garden, read, and most of all spend time with family and friends.