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.