This is the third post in a series about how, through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, we gain power within each part of our beings: our Heart, Might, Mind, and Strength. The first post, found here, is an overview and explains how I understand these principles. The second post, found here, looks at how He helps heal our Heart – or as I have understood it our spiritual selves.
This third part looks at how, through Jesus Christ, our Might – or the emotional parts of our being – are made whole.
In the LDS King James version of the Bible, the Topical Guide, under the heading for pain, refers also to the words: Affliction, Anguish, Distress, Grief, Sorrow, Suffering, Torment. Emotional pains are some of the most intense we suffer during our mortal lives. There is simply no way to express in words the pain we feel when suffering emotionally, but here also Christ has suffered for us in His Atoning sacrifice and has the power to heal us. “Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows….the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:4-5) In the October 2006 General Conference, Elder Jeffrey R Holland taught,
“I testify that the Savior’s Atonement lifts from us not only the burden of our sins but also the burden of our disappointments and sorrows, our heartaches and our despair.” (Broken Things to Mend)
I’ve been struck by the New Testament account of Mary as she visits the tomb of her beloved Jesus on the Sunday morning following His death on the cross. The scriptures record that she came early, while it was still dark. I imagine her lying awake in bed, waiting for the earliest possible hour she can, according to their religious law, arise and go to the tomb. Her world had been shattered by the death of Jesus, something which the scriptures imply she hadn’t understood would be possible. She simply doesn’t understand how the Messiah could be slain by wicked men, but though her understanding is lacking and she is grieving beyond words, her faith somehow remains sufficiently intact to go to the tomb at the earliest possible hour.
In John’s account of this episode, he doesn’t record the other women coming with Mary to the tomb, or the attendance of angels there that say He is risen. John simply says that Mary believes Jesus’ body has been taken. This righteous woman, who was clearly very close to the Saviour, is not able to recognise and believe that He is risen. She has come to the tomb, seen the stone rolled away, no body inside, and no guards, and she has put 2 and 2 together. Within everything she understands and knows to be true about life, and about the gospel as she understands it, there is only one explanation – He has been taken; probably for some nefarious purpose. What she doesn’t understand, however, is that her maths is missing the divine arithmetic that makes the equation of the gospel work. In this oft-quoted passage, Isaiah says,
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8-9)
What are less quoted are the verses that follow this. In this passage from Isaiah, the Lord isn’t simply saying “I know better than you, so get on with life and stop questioning.” He is, rather, giving words of comfort to His people. He is saying, “When things appear too much for you; when the wicked seem to prosper; when the pressures of life are bearing down on you and you just don’t understand how you could be left in such a way when you have the faith you do – rest assured that I am in control, and all things shall work to your good.” Following the well-known passage above are the less-known words,
“For as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater: So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it. For ye shall go out with joy, and be led forth with peace: the mountains and the hills shall break forth before you into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands. Instead of the thorn shall come up the fir tree, and instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle tree: and it shall be to the Lord for a name, for an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.” (Isaiah 55:10-13).
It is a beautiful promise of reassurance and comfort.
Returning to the account of Mary at the tomb; after she has left the tomb and informed Peter and John of what she has seen (according to Luke, she with the other women had been told by an angel that He had risen, of which she informed the Apostles), she returned to the tomb with them. I find it interesting that Peter and John, when they looked in the tomb, saw nothing but the burial clothes, while Mary, when she looked in, saw angels. It seems to me that Mary lingered, while the Apostles were in a hurry, and there is a lesson here for us. Were the angels there, but simply not seen by Peter and John? Were they too much in a hurry to have the spiritual experience that was there waiting for them? Was their faith insufficient – after all they didn’t believe the report of the women who had said an angel told them He had risen? This is important, because it is the conversation Mary has with the angels that ultimately leads to her emotional healing.
The angels first ask Mary, “Why weepest thou?”, but these words are not able to ease her pain. But then the Saviour uses the same three words, “Why weepest thou?”, and with the follow up single word – her name “Mary” – in an instant her tears of sorrow are replaced with tears of joy.
We can look for relief from grief and pain in so many places. Many today look for it in money and material things, some look for it in friends, some look for it in power or supposed authority, or learning; but while these may temporarily mask the emptiness and pains we all experience, there is only one who can make the pain go away – Jesus Christ.
These three words, “Why weepest thou?” are not merely a question, but are the first step in our being comforted. As a parent of small children I am often confronted with a crying child, and my question to whichever child in tears,” Why are you crying?” is never simply a question of fact, but is rather intended as a question that enables me to ultimately provide comfort. It is usually accompanied by a hug, and is followed up with a plaster, and/or a cuddle, and some soothing words, until their tears go away and they are ready to head off and play again.
It is a question I believe the Saviour often repeats to us, but it’s not a question He is seeking a literal response to: rather it is an invitation for us to come to Him and to be healed – to have our tears dried through His loving care.
I love these words of Elder Joseph B Wirthlin:
“I think of how dark that Friday was when Christ was lifted up on the cross.
“On that terrible Friday the earth shook and grew dark. Frightful storms lashed at the earth.
“Those evil men who sought His life rejoiced. Now that Jesus was no more, surely those who followed Him would disperse. On that day they stood triumphant.
“On that day the veil of the temple was rent in twain.
“Mary Magdalene and Mary, the mother of Jesus, were both overcome with grief and despair. The superb man they had loved and honored hung lifeless upon the cross.
“On that Friday the Apostles were devastated. Jesus, their Savior—the man who had walked on water and raised the dead—was Himself at the mercy of wicked men. They watched helplessly as He was overcome by His enemies.
“On that Friday the Savior of mankind was humiliated and bruised, abused and reviled.
“It was a Friday filled with devastating, consuming sorrow that gnawed at the souls of those who loved and honored the Son of God.
“I think that of all the days since the beginning of this world’s history, that Friday was the darkest.
“But the doom of that day did not endure.
“The despair did not linger because on Sunday, the resurrected Lord burst the bonds of death. He ascended from the grave and appeared gloriously triumphant as the Savior of all mankind.
“And in an instant the eyes that had been filled with ever-flowing tears dried. The lips that had whispered prayers of distress and grief now filled the air with wondrous praise, for Jesus the Christ, the Son of the living God, stood before them as the firstfruits of the Resurrection, the proof that death is merely the beginning of a new and wondrous existence.
“Each of us will have our own Fridays—those days when the universe itself seems shattered and the shards of our world lie littered about us in pieces. We all will experience those broken times when it seems we can never be put together again. We will all have our Fridays.
“But I testify to you in the name of the One who conquered death—Sunday will come. In the darkness of our sorrow, Sunday will come.
“No matter our desperation, no matter our grief, Sunday will come. In this life or the next, Sunday will come.
“I testify to you that the Resurrection is not a fable. We have the personal testimonies of those who saw Him. Thousands in the Old and New Worlds witnessed the risen Savior. They felt the wounds in His hands, feet, and side. They shed tears of unrestrained joy as they embraced Him.”
(Elder Joseph B Wirthlin, Sunday Will Come, October 2006 General Conference)
And the Sunday comes only through the Saviour Jesus Christ. Why? Because He took upon Himself our pains, our griefs, and our sorrows. In the Book of Mormon, Jacob uses the beautiful language, “…the word which healeth the wounded soul” (Jacob 2:8), and so it is that because of His stripes we are healed.
In an April 1998 Ensign article, Elder Jeffrey R Holland of the Quorum of Twelve quoted a number of scriptures relating to the persistent kindness of the Saviour,
“ ‘For the mountains shall depart and the hills be removed,’ he said, ‘but my kindness shall not depart from thee, neither shall the covenant of my peace be removed [from thee]’ (3 Ne. 22:10; see also 3 Ne. 22:13–14). I love that. The hills and the mountains may disappear. The seas and oceans may dry up completely. The least likely things in the world may happen, but ‘my kindness shall not depart from thee, neither shall the covenant of my peace be removed [from thee].’ After all, he has, he reminds us, ‘graven thee upon the palms of my hands’ (1 Ne. 21:16). Considering the incomprehensible cost of the Crucifixion, Christ is not going to turn his back on us now.”
Elder Holland goes on:
“The Lord has probably spoken enough such comforting words to supply the whole universe, it would seem, and yet we see all around us unhappy Latter-day Saints, worried Latter-day Saints, and gloomy Latter-day Saints into whose troubled hearts not one of these innumerable consoling words seems to be allowed to enter. In fact, I think some of us must have that remnant of Puritan heritage still with us that says it is somehow wrong to be comforted or helped, that we are supposed to be miserable about something.
“Consider, for example, the Savior’s benediction upon his disciples even as he moved toward the pain and agony of Gethsemane and Calvary. On that very night, the night of the greatest suffering that has ever taken place in the world or that ever will take place, the Savior said, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you. … Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:27).
“I submit to you, that may be one of the Savior’s commandments that is, even in the hearts of otherwise faithful Latter-day Saints, almost universally disobeyed; and yet I wonder whether our resistance to this invitation could be any more grievous to the Lord’s merciful heart. I can tell you this as a parent: as concerned as I would be if somewhere in their lives one of my children were seriously troubled or unhappy or disobedient, nevertheless I would be infinitely more devastated if I felt that at such a time that child could not trust me to help or thought his or her interest was unimportant to me or unsafe in my care. In that same spirit, I am convinced that none of us can appreciate how deeply it wounds the loving heart of the Savior of the world when he finds that his people do not feel confident in his care or secure in his hands or trust in his commandments.
“Just because God is God, just because Christ is Christ, they cannot do other than care for us and bless us and help us if we will but come unto them, approaching their throne of grace in meekness and lowliness of heart. They can’t help but bless us. They have to. It is their nature. That is why Joseph Smith gave those lectures on faith, so we would understand the nature of godliness and in the process have enough confidence to come unto Christ and find peace to our souls. There is not a single loophole or curveball or open trench to fall into for the man or woman who walks the path that Christ walks. When he says, “Come, follow me” (Luke 18:22), he means that he knows where the quicksand is and where the thorns are and the best way to handle the slippery slope near the summit of our personal mountains. He knows it all, and he knows the way. He is the way.”
(Elder Jeffrey R Holland, Come Unto Me, Ensign, April 1998)
I don’t know whether there is eternal need for Christ’s Atonement to cover our emotional pains and sorrows – it is the effects of sin and physical death we so desperately need rescuing from in an eternal sense. But He loved us enough to suffer everything for us; so that He can come to us in our hour of need, He can be with us, He can succour us, He can comfort us. He suffered it all because He loves us – truly we stand all amazed at the love Jesus offers us, knowing that, in the words of Elder Wirthlin, and as Mary experienced, Sunday will come.