I was asked to speak in Church today. My remarks were based on the talk “The Atonement Covers All Pain.”
Often times when we think of the Atonement we think of the gift of repentance. This is an important and critical aspect of the Atonement, but sin isn’t the only pain we suffer in this life. Elder Richards said “Much of our suffering is not necessarily our fault. Unexpected events, contradicting or disappointing circumstances, interrupting illness, and even death surround us and penetrate our mortal experiences. Additionally we may suffer afflictions because of the actions of others.” Christ knows intimately of our pains and our burdens. “Many carry heavy burdens. Some have lost a loved on to death or care for one who is disabled. Some have been wounded by divorce. Others yearn for an eternal marriage. Some are caught in the grip of addictive substances or practices like alcohol, tobacco, drugs, or pornography. Others have crippling physical or mental impairments. Some have terrible feelings of depression or inadequacy” Elder Oaks said. We all face pain in this life and may wonder, Why? Why must we suffer this pain. Is there really a purpose to this pain? Elder Hales said “Pain brings you to a humility that allows you to ponder.” People cope with pain in many different ways. Some turn away from God with anger in their hearts, and others turn to God and through the suffering draw closer to Him. In a religion class when I was at Ricks (now BYU-I) my professor shared this quote by Sister Chieko Okazaki,
“Well, my dear sisters, the gospel is the good news that can free us from guilt. We know that Jesus experienced the totality of mortal existence in Gethsemane. It’s our faith that he experienced everything- absolutely everything. Sometimes we don’t think through the implications of that belief. We talk in great generalities about the sins of all humankind, about the suffering of the entire human family. But we don’t experience pain in generalities. We experience it individually. That means he knows what it felt like when your mother died of cancer- how it was for your mother, how it still is for you. He knows what if felt like to lose the student body election. He knows that moment when the brakes locked and the car started to skid. He experienced the slave ship sailing from Ghana toward Virginia. He experienced the gas chambers at Dachau. He experienced Napalm in Vietnam. He knows about drug addiction and alcoholism. Let me go further. There is nothing you have experienced as a woman that he does not also know and recognize. On a profound lever, he understands the hunger to hold your baby that sustains you through pregnancy. He understands both the physical pain of giving birth and the immense joy. He knows about PMS and cramps and menopause. He understands about rape and infertility and abortion. His last recorded words to his disciples were, ‘And, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.’ (Matt 28:20) He understands your mother-pain when your 5 year old leaves for kindergarten, when a bully picks on your 5th grader, when your daughters calls to say that the new baby has Down Syndrome. He know your mother-rage when a trusted babysitter sexually abuses your 2 year old, when someone gives your 13 year old drugs, when someone seduces your 17 year old. He know the pain you live with when you come home to a quiet apartment where the only children are visitors, when you hear that your former husband and his new wife were sealed in the temple las week, when your 50th wedding anniversary rolls around and your husband has been dead for two years. He knows all that, He’s been there, He’s been lower than all that. He’s not waiting for us to be perfect. Perfect people don’t need a Savior. He came to save his people in their imperfections. He’s the Lord of the living, and the living make mistakes. He’s not embarrassed by us, angry at us or shocked. He wants us in our brokenness, in our unhappiness, in our guilt and our grief.”
When we are reeling in pain or anger or grief or loneliness the Savior is there with his arms ope for us. What ever our pain or burden, relief and healing come through Jesus Christ. In Matt 11:28-30, the Savior invites us “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
As we seek the peace He brings, we sometimes can’t see how that relief will come. During a time of immense pain and darkness, I was trying to solve the problems myself. Although I was praying, I was expecting that there was something I would or could do that would heal me. It wasn’t until I was humble enough to plead to the Lord that I couldn’t solve this heartache and pain. I needed Him. I was willing to do anything Christ asked me to do, or so I thought. So when I was prompted to do something that I couldn’t see how that would bring the comfort I sought, I struggled. The Savior had patience with me, and gently led me. Over time the relief did come, the pain was gone. I know the Savior understands our pains and that he is there to heal us. He loves us and His arms are stretched out still.