Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Finding Hope in Despair

I have learned some valuable lessons about fighting the good fight with despair over the past 4 months. Pursuant to some comments about how we get through when we feel forsaken, left alone, and silence from heaven, I thought I would share some of what I have learned personally about these subjects.

First, I think everyone gets to a point in their lives where they feel forsaken. For some this comes early in life. For others it may not be until they are in their last days of life on earth. But I personally believe that it will come for all of us. Perhaps for many of us it comes more than once, maybe even multiple times.

These "forsaken" moments are defining opportunities in our existence. They are the most authentic test of our faith. It is easy to stay strong in the faith when we are surrounded by the love of the Lord. It is much more difficult if we are suffering and it seems are prayers go unanswered and we feel only silence from heaven.

Forsaken moments are not a sign of unrighteousness. Some of my greatest heroes had these moments. Nephi in the Book of Mormon when his father died had one of these I believe. Joseph Smith had some of these very dark times in Liberty Jail. And even the Savior felt forsaken as he performed the great and last atoning sacrifice.

The key in these moments is to hold fast to the iron rod or the word of God and stay true to our faith. Even in the darkness and silence we must hold on to our faith with a hope that the darkness will indeed end and light will come again. Sometimes it is nearly impossible to find this hope in the midst of despair. 

I should note here- I am not addressing the illness of depression. That is something with which I am not personally familiar. I have been depressed but have never suffered the illness of depression. I know there is a difference and those suffering from the illness should seek the medical help they deem appropriate to help them in that affliction.  

But if that is not your situation, and you find yourself feeling forsaken and in despair, may I offer one insight that has come to me through this trial of losing Camille. As you can imagine, I have had some pretty dark hours through this. I had faced these "forsaken" moments before this, but I have experienced a whole new level of despair and "forsaken" moments through this. 

One truth that has become apparent to me is how difficult it is to hear the Lord or feel His love or support when we are in the depths of despair. I think it is still there. But I think we are unable to feel it without faith and hope in our hearts. I have thought back on all the "forsaken" moments in my life and noticed a pattern of hopelessness in them. I did have desire to hear from heaven in these moments, but honestly I was too far into self pity, or despair to really have hope or faith in my heart. 

Perhaps this is just true for me. But I feel I have to have hope and faith in my heart to feel the support from heaven that I believe the Lord unfailingly sends me. Since coming to this enlightening, I have tried in my dark hours to keep my mind firmly planted in faith that heaven is near. Each time, I have felt peace in the silence of my empty nursery. I have felt words come to my mind of support and encouragement from armies of kindred spirits sent to buoy me up with understanding companionship.

In one of my lowest hours, definitely the lowest after leaving the hospital, I felt complete despair and felt forsaken. I had no faith that the Lord would answer my prayers or help me in my time of need. In this hopeless state I prayed and felt the silence. (This was before I had the epiphany that I needed hope to hear the help.) At this point, I reached out for my life preserver here on earth. I called my parents. My mother pointed out how richly my life was blessed. At the time, her words rang on nearly deaf ears. I could not see my blessings at that point. Or at least I could not see any of them continuing. 

I believe my parents began to pray for me this day. They were not in town and thus could not rush over to my aid. But they used their faith in praying for me when my own faith was so lacking. I pulled myself step by step out of my closet and down to my children. I turned on Hello Dolly to fill our house with cheerful music. By the end of the day, the storm had lifted. The Lord provided to me a small sign of his love and support to me and my family and my faith was once again restored.

When we are in despair too deep to pull ourselves out, we must reach out to our earthly life preservers, whoever they may be. A sister, a friend, a parent, a sibling, a relief society president, a bishop, a visiting teacher, a stranger on a blog. We all need earthly life preservers to pray in faith for us when our faith is so low we cannot not hear the answers to our own prayers.

I hope these thoughts are helpful to someone out there. I think there were many good talks in General Conference on hope. I loved Elder Uchtdorf's advice to serve others in an effort to find hope. Those are all talks I will be reviewing in the coming months.

May we all find the hope and faith necessary to find the light at the end of the tunnel of our forsaken moments.


Tiffany said...

What an absolutely wonderful and truly inspired post. I loved every single word and agree with you whole heartedly. Stephanie, you have helped me from the very beginning and I just want you to know that I am so grateful for you. Thank you Stephanie. Loves, Tif

Steffani Dastrup said...

You don't know me, and I hope you don't mind me reading your blog, but I want you to know what hope I receive by reading your words. I can't imagine what it would be like to lose a child, but I do know that life can be hard! Thank you for your words of encouragement and your simple testimony.

mckenna said...

I had one particular experience with despair (my circumstance may, in hindsight, not have been as devastating as I perceived it to be as a teenager, however, I felt that despair deeply) that I have thought on over the years. I was angry with God in those moments. I questioned His existence. My faith was so weak then. As I have looked back on that day since, I have had trouble putting solid words and thoughts to what I was experiencing. Your insight has helped me tremendously in understanding that day in the past. I feel that that understanding will allow me to seek forgiveness, as well as forgive myself, for that day, and move on knowing that in future moments of despair my faith can push me to reach from it and hold to whatever life preserves the Lord placed around me for these specific times. Thank you for this insight.

Court and Britt said...

I continue to be so impressed with your amazing testimony and ability to share it in such a moving way! You are blessing SO MANY lifes. It is interesting how you can become peoples friends (in a way) through a blog. So although I don't know you personally, your words touch me and I feel like I was lead to your blog because Heavenly Father is using you as a mouth peice for things so many of us need to hear! I admire your strength and courage, you are in my prayers!! Thank you for being a wonderful sister in the gospel:)

Kathryn_m said...

Dear Stephanie:

I hope you know that you, "a stranger in a blog", continue to be a life preserver for many. Whether openly intentioned or not, you have served others in YOUR time of despair. I so admire people who truly "walk the walk" especially when experiencing one of life's greatest trials.

I also believe that Heavenly Father answers each & every prayer. It may not be the answer we are seeking but, in His infinate wisdom, is what is best for us in the "bigger picture". I have been blessed with a truly awesome example of this and it is a blessing for which I offer Him humble gratitude with my every prayer. During this time of great despair, I could not "see" that He was listening & had responded. I know it will be of no surprise to you to know that His answer was far superior to my "solution". When I am feeling better, I would love to share this experience with you privately.

With love & deep admiration,

Michele said...

Thanks, Stephanie, for putting into words what I have been feeling now for quite a while - praying and "feeling the silence." It is hard to remember the love our Heavenly Father has for each of us when for His own purposes He withholds answers or great measures of comfort. It's true what you said, though, that the despair will often lift just enough to let you get a breath now and then. It's a scary time. I know, though, that it is definitely a huge defining moment.
Thanks again. Love and tender mercies to you every day!
-Michele Wilcut

Kathy said...

I don't know you and I just happened upon your blog. I am truly so so sorry for your lose. As a mom it's so hard to imagine the greif of loosing a child. I don't know you but I can't stop crying reading about all you've been through and your faith and strength that is pulling you through these difficult times. Thank you for your sharing your strength and faith with me, a perfect stranger. May our heavenly father continue to bless you and your family.

Kelli said...

Thank you Stephanie, I needed that today.

Shanan said...

Steph - you're awesome! ;) And don't ever forget that!!

Susan Anderson said...

I agree 100%. Thanks for saying it so well.

Anonymous said...

I want to tell you how much I appreciate your thoughts. I have not had to deal with losing a child and I hope that I never have to know that pain. I am grateful though for your thoughts because they can also be applied to other issues that are seemingly overwhelming. May the Lord bless you and your family.

Melinda said...

Thanks for posting this encouraging, insightful post.
Your message of hope is inspiring.
This was so insightful. It is amazing how our utter despair puts us in a place where we feel completely alone. You did a great job showing how we can lift ourselves just enough to feel Heavenly Father's love for us. Bless you.

a.k.a. Jack said...

Stephanie mentioned music. Playing music in our home, really helps me during those times. It's a simple thing to do that almost always has a positive effect (unless your playing horrible music) :)

Anyway, one other thing I have found helpful during "forsaken moments" is praying aloud. It's hard to find a time and place to do this where people won't hear you. I usually choose my closet, but I have noticed a huge difference in the amount of comfort I feel when i pray aloud as opposed to in my mind.

Mindy said...

While reading this, a quote from C.S. Lewis' "The Screwtape Letters" kept coming to mind. For those unfamiliar with the book, it is about an experienced "devil" writing his nephew "devil," giving him advice on how to bring down "his" human. Because it is from a devil's standpoint, the "Enemy" referred to is God. I think it is one of the most beautiful passges on faith and hope, particularly in times of dispair:

"Our cause is never more in danger, than when a human, no longer desiring, but intending to do our Enemy’s will, looks round upon a universe from which every trace of Him seems to have vanished, and asks why he has been forsaken, and still obeys."

Molly Bice-Jackson said...

This was wonderful. Such perfect insights. I have had HOPE today! Even though it marks five months today since Lucy went home, I have hope. I do, I do! Please remind me of this. And thank you for this blog. You are a fighter. As long as you don't give up you are going to win. The reward will be more than any of us could ever dream. I am proud of you.

Rhonda said...

I sure appreciate this post on the whole forsaken concept. I enjoyed it so much. Always, perspective. Always faith in the Lord Jesus Christ is our focus. What a wonderful, wonderful and beautiful plan it all is.... for us, for the asking should we choose to be an active participant. Thanks Stephanie.

Amanda said...

Thank you so much for being so intuned to the spirit. I love your blog and appreciate how true and faithful you are- my life had been blessed by your sweet baby and your faith!! It was so good to see you the other night. I wanted to come and give you a hug but lost you in the crowd. Just know next time you see me I am going to give you a squeeze!!!

Kathryn_m said...

Hi Stephanie:

Today, I finally received a beautiful vase I had ordered. It has an elegant simplicity to it - it is plain white with several white roses out-cropping about 2/3rd's the way up. It stands about 15 inches tall and looks gorgeous on my fireplace between two complimenting candlesticks with blueberry candles - those round, chubby ones about 5 inches tall and 3 inches across.

I was feeling a bit better today so I ran out to buy some silk flowers for it -- plus the above candles. My color combo in the livingroom is cranberry & dark blue. I choose a bunch of irises, some cranberry carnations, some awesome baby's breath and four lovely off-white tulips. I told my family that they are my "Camille tulips".

I am not an expert flower arranger but I think it looks mighty nice. I think I'll go back and get some taller but small dusty rose flowers to give it more background.

I wish I had a camera (and knew how to post pics) so I could show you the tulips.

Just wanted you to know...

love 'n hugs,

Gina Lindsay said...

Wow. I just wanted to tell you from another "stranger" reading your blog, that your words have touched my heart today. Thanks for reminding me to have hope in my own despair. I admire you for reaching out to others, including strangers like me, during this time in your life.

Richard and McKenna said...

Thank you very much! Your blog was given to me from a friend and it was really helped. I am going through this experience right now as I am trying to bring our children to our home. In the 14 months we have been trying to have children, I have been pregnant 3 times for a total of 9 months. It has been so hard, and there have been many dark days. But I have come to the same realization recently. It's hard when you have every reason to wallow in despair, but when we have hope and a lack of fear (for my situation, there is a lot of fear) or despair then the Lord can help. Thank you for your words! They have helped me greatly.
(I have a blog specifically about my experiences/thoughts as I go through the trial of miscarriage if you or any one else is interested: http://apersonalcrucible.blogspot.com/)

Anonymous said...

Hi Stephanie, my name is Heather, my daughter passed away October 15th, she would have been two on November 15th. Someone e mailed me a link to your blog. Today I finally started to read your blog and I am finding that it is helping me. She also told me to ask you about your private blog for parents who lost a child. Please contact me if this is so, I am finding strenth in reading your blog. Thanks. heathgio@hotmail.com

Jess... said...

very well written for something that words just can't express.