Author’s Note: This was originally written as an oratorical, congregant-led sermon (except the last few lines which were delivered extemporaneously during my talk ). Thus, in a battle between grammatical accuracy and auditory appeal, the sound rules the day. Be patient with me and please, enjoy the lesson and leave your input below!
Good afternoon brothers and sisters. My name is Tiffany Osborn, and I’m grateful for the opportunity I have to speak to you. My thoughts today differ somewhat from many of the lessons we typically hear.
We frequently hear about the common cycle of temptation, hard-heartedness, sin, repentance, gratitude and the resulting peace and happiness we feel as we become perfected through the Atonement of Jesus Christ.
Today, however, I wish to speak candidly about what happens when, through no fault of our own, we find ourselves devoid of the peace and happiness that normally accompany the pursuit of living a righteous life.
It’s important that we distinguish the difference between the unsettled, unhappy nature of sin and the legitimate trial of mental and emotional sickness.
There is a dangerous misconception that if we are unhappy it is always because we are sinning. Certainly it’s important to take a brutally honest inventory of where we are in relation to where we ought to be, and how we can more fully live after the manner of happiness but I want to be clear about what we should do in cases where we’ve done nothing wrong and we still experience a heavy heart.
Today, I want to look at the heart and the mind and what happens when they don’t work synergistically with one another. It is my prayer that my message today can be a conduit through which the Spirit can clearly communicate with you truths about how to live with and love those who struggle.
Elder Holland explained that the heart is: “…the figurative center of our faith, the poetic location of our loyalties and our values.” In other words, the heart is the center of who we truly are.
So, when people are depressed, anxious, or suicidal, does that mean that their heavy heart is a result of some self-inflicted heart disease? Absolutely not! It’s much more likely that they are the victims of a convincing and lying mind. One that tells them that their struggles make them flawed or broken. A mind that tells them that their heart is far removed from the divinity that is inherently theirs.
What complicates things more is that when people are victims of this oppressive state of mind for too long, it can cause the heart to figuratively break, further confusing the real state of a person’s value.
So, the question becomes: how does someone untangle the lies and sift through the darkness, fear, and hopelessness to ultimately find happiness or at the very least, some sense of peace? I don’t pretend to have all the answers to this complex question, but I can share some of the wisdom I’ve garnered along the way.
This limited wisdom is the result of years of personal experience, the experiences of loved ones, research, counseling (both giving and receiving) and the byproduct of speaking on the issue to over a thousand people in a non-religious platform.
The way to traverse mental illness is through multiple avenues. Because we are eternal beings, it is important that we address both the spiritual and medicinal avenues that should work in conjunction with one another to find the most healing we can.
While I can’t speak with much authority about the medicinal avenue, I can advocate strongly for it. Our merciful Heavenly Father has blessed mankind with tools that enable His children to limit their suffering; we should learn how to drop the stigma and embrace that blessing. Proper medical attention can be a game changer. Please take full advantage of these options as you determine fit.
My purpose today, is to primarily address the spiritual avenue. I hope you’ll stick with me then as I metaphorically blur the line for a moment.
I love studying the human mind and what an incredibly powerful machine it is. I work in advocacy and every day I get to witness the profound resiliency a person has, even power they didn’t know they had. But, the mind is also fallible.
The same mechanisms that create neurological pathways in our brains that allow us to survive in spiritual and physical crisis are the same synapses that can misfire when mental health disorders teach our minds to go rogue.
Our mind has a memory. And when it remembers how to feel depressed, anxious and hopeless, it can become easy to find ourselves in the same rut over and over again. What I have learned though, is that the heart also has a memory.
Our hearts, at the most fundamental level, remember that we’re children of God. It remembers that there’s a Savior who lived and died for us. That we have the tools to leave hopelessness by the wayside as we embrace our eternal destinies. That all pain and sorrow will be washed away. That unfathomable happiness awaits us. That better is coming and all of God’s promises will be fulfilled.
But that knowledge is locked away in the deepest, most sacred recesses of our hearts. If we allow our hearts to become hardened we lock up that beautiful message. When our minds are feeble, it is imperative that our hearts are pure.
If our hearts are pure, we allow the great artist to fix all that has been broken. One poet described what can be done when we fall or break:
“He gently swept up every piece
And begins to show His expertise
Making a new masterful design
Heats the fire and starts to refine
Pouring into a new complex mold
A new story that’d never been told
Soon the work is close to done
The fall is all but overcome”
You see, individuals who suffer from mental health disorders and the people who care enough to ‘mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort’, can be enabled to transform their broken shards of glass to become stunning new masterpieces. And when the world looks through those windows, they can see the world in a new way. There is strength that can be found in suffering, if we make it so.
Arthur R Basset explained in an Ensign article, “Perhaps what the world needs most during the trials of life is fewer “Job’s comforters,” with their patented rational explanations, and more men and women with the Job-like faith that can still cry out from the depths of anguish, “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him. …””
Even still, enduring our trials, especially those as pervasive and consuming as depression and anxiety can be a monumental task.
Scriptures that say things like, “My son, peace be unto thy soul; thine adversity and thine afflictions shall be but a small moment; and then, if thou endure it well, God shall exalt thee on high; thou shalt triumph over all thy foes,” can come as little consolation in the depths of our trials. But again, this is when it is so vital that our hearts are soft and that those words can strike a chord in our eternal center, to remind us that all of God’s promises will be fulfilled.
When life presents us with sorrow, it would be well for us to use the last drops of our energy to lift our heads and look meekly heavenward.
Jesus Christ truly did suffer for all of our afflictions. We are never truly alone when we remember that He knows exactly what we have felt.
As Jeffrey R Holland Taught, “Hope is never lost. If those miracles do not come soon or fully or seemingly at all, remember the Savior’s own anguished example: if the bitter cup does not pass, drink it and be strong, trusting in happier days ahead.”
Brothers and sisters, no matter how bleak your world may become, I have a sure knowledge that you are strong enough to bear those burdens through the Atonement of Jesus Christ. I know this from personal experience. You are stronger than you know and He is closer than He seems.
In our moments of weakness it is my prayer that we will feel compelled to cry out:
“Jesus sought me when a stranger
Wondering from the fold of God
He, to rescue me from danger
Interposed His precious blood
O to grace how great a debtor daily I’m constrained to be!
Let thy goodness like a fetter, bind my wandering heart to thee
Prone to wander Lord I feel it, prone to leave the God I love
Here’s my heart, O take and seal it, seal it for thy courts above”
How wonderful it is that we have the power to bind our wandering hearts, and especially our wandering minds to He who can make us whole.
God is aware of His children. He loves us. He will fulfill all of His promises, including the ones that promise our eternal exaltation and joy. Our Savior truly did suffer for our pains and afflictions and is waiting to succor His people. He has the power to help us overcome our adversities or become strong enough to bear them. The church of Jesus Christ has been restored to the earth. What a blessing that has been in my life, and can be in the lives of all who embrace it. That is my prayer, in the name of He who can make us whole, even Jesus Christ, Amen.
Would you like to read a related post? Check out Commandments Hold Me Back here.