For 18 months, I was in an abusive marriage. I’m not going to talk about the details but I would have you know the impact it had on me. The marriage was so bad that 3 months into it I was already admitting to myself that I wanted a divorce. But I stayed. The reason was because of a deep respect and love for my God and the covenants I had made in the temple.
Everyday, little by little, my armor was chipped away at until I was in the depths of depression. I withdrew from everyone, I repressed all the pain, my self-worth was in shambles and my happiness was a light in the distant past I could no longer reach. I had never felt so alone in my life and the hole in my soul kept, painfully, ripping wider and wider with each passing day.
My only comfort in all of this was that I remained temple worthy and one day, after I was wrestling with my covenants again, my friend invited me to attend a session with her. Throughout the session I was at war with myself. I couldn’t stay in my marriage. I couldn’t break my covenants. Then, a presence brightened my dark thoughts and told me “it’s okay, really, I don’t want to see you hurt anymore.” Heavenly Father gave me the gift of His spirit then. He hugged and enveloped me in it and warmed and comforted my broken heart. He stayed with me longer than He ever had before and let me know that covenants were not one person’s responsibility. It took two. The next day I planned on how I was going to leave my situation.
Now let me interject here by saying, the Atonement isn’t a cure-all. We still have our agency. It took a lot of work for me, and I personally believe it took 15 months to feel okay about leaving because Heavenly Father waited until I had tried everything and given my very best effort to stay and make it work. If you are in a trial that seems unending, ask yourself: what more can I give to this? What haven’t I tried yet? God doesn’t do this to be cruel. For me, it was to teach me what I could endure. I am stronger as a person and in my faith because of it. There is effort that is required of us. But the atonement gives us the strength to make those efforts and the comfort to heal from our circumstances.
Leaving my marriage wasn’t easy. In fact, it was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. But thanks to a loving Heavenly Father I escaped the situation and started mending my wounded soul. The wounds were hard to heal. Though I was no longer in that situation, flashbacks of the abuse I suffered haunted me. And every time the flashbacks occurred, my heart would ache as if experiencing the 18 months in one moment. I would become nearly incapacitated with fear and pain. I was afraid of everything, I trusted no one. I was a down right hot mess.
And then came that most precious voice again. “I don’t want to see you hurt anymore.” And then it continued. “I took this pain upon me too. Let me alone bare it.” According to Alma speaking of Christ, “He shall go forth suffering pain and affliction of every kind” Dalling H. Oaks in his latest talk asks the question why? Why would He do this? Weren’t our sins enough? Now He is taking the rest of our sorrows too. Why? Here was his answer: “Our Savior experienced and suffered the fullness of all mortal challenges according to the flesh so that he would know how to succor (which means to give relief or aid to) His people according to their infirmities. He therefore knows our struggles, our heartaches, our temptations, and our suffering, for He willingly experienced them all as an essential part of the atonement. And because of this, His atonement empowers Him to succor us – to give us the strength to bear it all.”
My Savior knows perfectly every hurt I bore, every tear I cried, and every battle I fought because He bore those same wounds, He cried those same tears and he fought those same battles, and He’s done it for you as well. He suffered in Gethsemane so that He would know perfectly. If anyone has compassion on us and our daily and yearly struggles it is our elder brother Jesus Christ.
With time, and especially with the atonement of Christ I was able to rise above my circumstances and give myself a new inner strength I didn’t know I was capable of. I’m not 100 percent. I still have the memories and I always will, but I don’t feel the pain anymore. And that gift has been priceless in my life and for my future happiness. Our Savior loves us. He will never abandon us by the wayside to shrink. Always He is trying to lift us on His shoulders so we can stand tall. Always He is pleading with us to turn to Him so that He can heal us and make us whole. Not patched up and hanging in there, but whole and thriving. “Earth has no sorrow that heav’n cannot cure.” “What cures us is our Savior and the atonement.”
In my profession, I work with children who are taken away from their parents because they have been physically, sexually, or emotionally abused, have suffered extreme neglect or are not having their basic needs met such as food, clean water, or a place to sleep. Everyday I pray that the atonement can, at some point, enter into their lives because I know, the Atonement of Christ has the power to heal a soul that has suffered through the most traumatic of circumstances. For example: my little brothers.
My two little brothers were adopted into my family out of the foster care system. They were taken into care because their parents were selling them for sexual favors in order to finance their drug problem. I don’t know everything that they had to go through, but I do know that without the atonement the problems that they had when they first came into my family would still be plaguing them. Now, in my eyes, they are perfect. You couldn’t tell anything about their horrible past because of the sweet, whole spirits they are today. I see the difference the atonement has made in their lives compared to the lives of the children who I work with who have yet to learn of it and therefore feel they must bare their pain alone. I testify that the atonement is real and that it works. Another example is my angel sister who lost her precious child, my lovely niece, just 3 months ago. The atonement is there for that pain too.
The Savior’s grace is endless and His power is sure. We can’t always help our circumstances, but we don’t have to live with the pain some circumstances cause us. A lot of circumstances can cause us pain, not only the extreme ones I’ve mentioned. The daily pains of a mortal life add up over time. As well as the pain of a deteriorating human body. The Savior is there for those pains too.
We need the Savior’s comfort often and frequently, but we have to ask for it. From Dallin H. Oaks, “Because of His atoning experience in mortality, our Savior is able to comfort, heal, and strengthen all men and women everywhere, but I believe He does so only for those who seek Him and ask for His help. The Apostle James taught ‘Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord and He shall lift you up.’ We qualify for that blessing when we believe in Him and pray for His help.”
If you are struggling with some pain, some unseen wound, go to the Savior, for he doesn’t want to see you hurting anymore. We should be using His atonement weekly if not daily, for He suffered and died so that He could bare all things. Not just the big stuff. He bore our pains so we wouldn’t have to. He took upon us more than just our sins. He knows us perfectly. He is our dearest confidant and our most loyal friend. “Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet,” though your wounds be wide, “they shall be as white as snow,” they shall be whole.
My testimony of Christ can be heard in the words of my favorite hymn: “Where can I turn for peace? Where is my solace when other sources cease to make me whole? When with a wounded heart, anger, or malice I draw myself apart searching my soul?
Where when my aching grows? Where when I languish? Where is my need to know, where can I run? Where is the quiet hand to calm my anguish? Who, who can understand? He, only one.
He answers privately, reaches my reaching in MY Gethsemane, Savior and Friend. Gentle the peace he friends for my beseeching. Constant he is and kind, love without end.