There is a lot of talk on the Church about our duty and responsibility to reach out to others, to help and serve and show love. We emphasize our need to assist our brothers and sisters in their afflictions and suffering and their situations. Yet, where is the counsel to those who are themselves feeling down, those who find themselves in situations where they need a shoulder to lean on? With so much said about helping others, we who need help ourselves often feel guilty for needing help and not being in a position to offer help.
I try to be positive and upbeat most of the time. I try to be a good example of the joy that is found in the gospel of Christ. But there are times, and they are more frequent after the death of my brother about a year and a half ago, where I am not the good home teacher I wish I were, to reach out and help others with their problems because I have problems of my own that I am dealing with.
I do believe in the gospel of Jesus Christ and I understand my role and responsibility as a holder of the Holy Priesthood of God, but there are times when I fall short, when I doubt and when I do not do those things I should or could do for others. How do I ask for help or convey my need for some additional spiritual strength without coming off as weak or deficient or unrighteous? And how do I convey a need for help without seeming selfish, especially as I do not reach out to help others as often as I feel I need help myself?
There are days when I barely have enough faith just to make it to Church. But I go because I know that is where I am supposed to be. I have just enough spiritual or emotional strength to get dressed, drive to Church, ans sit in the pew, hoping that more strength will come as I hear the hymns, and listen to the talks and lessons. And when I get there I am expected to also have a responsibility over others who may be struggling with faith. I feel inadequate, that I cannot reach out to my home teaching families or other members when I am not in a strong spiritual place myself.
But, since I do come to Church every Sunday other members assume I am an active member, and I am, but there are still days when I do not feel it as strongly.
Lately, I have also been more keenly aware of mental health issues, especially my own. I have ADHD, diagnosed as a child though I have not been medicated for it in about 15 years. I have lately seen a re-emergence of some of my ADHD symptoms and other mental health issues, like an almost overwhelming, consuming anxiety and an extreme dislike of social situations or talking to people I don’t really know. I doubt my ability to do what I am asked to do, I fear that I am not capable enough to help as I am needed to, I worry that I should be doing more to help others, but I need help myself. And, since I have a gripping fear of talking to people I do not know, I cannot reach out and ask for help when I need it. And so I sit, internally stewing in my thoughts and fears and anxieties, which only compound upon themselves, making it worse.
With these thoughts, I listened (though today I did not feel strong enough to actively participate) to an Elder’s Quorum lesson based on the talk from President Dieter F. Uchtdorf in April 2017 General Conference, “Perfect Love Casteth Out Fear.” It was a good discussion of fear and anxiety and how we can overcome those feelings, and how we do not want to be the ones ever using fear to manipulate others or causing fear in others. The end of President Uchtdorf’s talk struck me:
“My beloved friends, my dear brothers and sisters in Christ, if we ever find ourselves living in fear or anxiety, or if we ever find that our own words, attitudes, or actions are causing fear in others, I pray with all the strength of my soul that we may become liberated from this fear by the divinely appointed antidote to fear: the pure love of Christ, for “perfect love casteth out fear.”
Christ’s perfect love overcomes temptations to harm, coerce, bully, or oppress.
Christ’s perfect love allows us to walk with humility, dignity, and a bold confidence as followers of our beloved Savior. Christ’s perfect love gives us the confidence to press through our fears and place our complete trust in the power and goodness of our Heavenly Father and of His Son, Jesus Christ.
In our homes, in our places of business, in our Church callings, in our hearts, let us replace fear with Christ’s perfect love. Christ’s love will replace fear with faith!”
The answer I found was to focus less on myself, but not in a “forget yourself and get to work” sort of way. Rather, I need to focus more on Jesus Christ. I need remember Him always and allow any pain and sorrow and shortcomings to be swallowed up in the Atonement of Jesus Christ. Once all things he meekly bore, he has descended below all things and he comprehends all things related to the human experience. All sorrow, all grief, all that is unfair or not right can be and will be swallowed up in the joy of the gospel of Jesus Christ, even if it does not happen immediately. He knows me and he knows what he has asked of me and he knows what I can and ought to become as I turn to him and learn of him and emulate him.
He said “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matt 11:29) He is the source of all light and happiness. Look to Him and we can live.
There will still be hard days, bad days, difficult days. There will be times when you feel like you cannot succeed, cannot survive, cannot be happy. Remember that He loves you and wants so much more for you than you may realize. God is our Father, a perfect, loving Father. His plan for us is rightly called the Plan of Happiness, as it is the only way we can find true, lasting happiness in this life or in the world to come. That Plan is Jesus Christ.
When the dark days come, when the overwhelming moments become too much, when you feel that you have not done enough, that you are not good enough, that you are not worthy of God’s great love remember that “God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.” “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another.” “Perfect love casteth out fear.”