Trusting God

September 28, 2006 | 26 comments
By

During my senior year of college, my life fell apart. Depression had entered my life months before, and I had been trying to ignore its growing bleakness, hoping that it would go away if I pretended it wasn’t there. All I knew how to do with negative emotions was to avoid them, but this time around, my trusted coping strategy was not working. I turned to God, asking him to relieve me of this most unwanted trial. As things steadily got worse, and as God continued to tell me, “this is something you are going to have to learn how to deal with long-term,� I became angry. I wanted to know how God could allow my easy, happy life turn into a dark morass of despair and hopelessness.

I don’t think I can begin to accurately express the depths I reached that year. Even now, eight years later, I only have very vague memories of that time period in my life. It’s as if my mind has covered over everything with a gray mist. I remember the facts of what happened. The medication I initially started initially made me suicidal (it would take two years for me and my psychiatrists to figure out I had bipolar disorder), and it was all I could do to make it out of bed most days. I had to quit everything except school (my job, two church callings, a leadership position in a campus organization), and I ended up with incompletes in all of my classes because I couldn’t even manage those. I remember telling my mother (after she expressed that she wanted to see me happy again) that if only I could wake up every day and have things be tolerable rather than horrible, I would be okay with that.

Meanwhile, I was angry at God. His methods for dealing with what was happening (which was, essentially, for me to work through it rather than have him remove it), was not what I had in mind. However, despite my anger, I do not think I can remember time period in my life when I was more convinced of God’s love for me. It was difficult for me to actually feel that love (depression messes up your ability to feel anything), but somehow, I knew that He loved me. Also, despite my anger and my stubbornness, God gave me specific guidance about how to deal with the disaster that was my life. It was hard advice to follow, I ignored it at first, and it took years before I began to feel the long-term effects of it, but looking back now, I realize that by taking His advice, my life has become richer, and I have become stronger.

I think I will constantly struggle with my version of pride: believing that I know what’s best for my life (and rejecting advice from others, including God, who tell me otherwise). God, luckily, has been kind and patient. For example, when He wants to inform me of something He wants me to do that He knows I’ll initially resist, He typically warns me far enough in advance so that I can get used to the idea by the time events roll around to the point that I need to act on them. I have increasingly learned to trust Him: both His love for me, and the knowledge that if I act on His guidance my life will be enriched in ways that I cannot envision.

Right now I am learning to trust that God wants me to be a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, and that the perspective I have of the church is not only acceptable but something I can use in the service of others. My years in graduate school have not always been kind to my testimony. My growing liberalism, my increasing ties to feminism, and the increasing number of unanswered questions I have about the church and the gospel have put a strain on my beliefs. However, as my certainty about a variety of matters has shrunk, my trust and faith in God has increased; my willingness to wait patiently for answers has increased; and my belief that God wants me to commit myself wholeheartedly to this church has increased. When I look back on the last decade of my life, I must acknowledge God’s wisdom. While there is much I do not understand, I do understand that my life has been richly blessed by keeping the covenants and commandments central to this religion. As my experience with depression vividly illustrated to me, God has a wisdom that exceeds mine; I hope that if nothing else in my life makes sense to me, I can continue to trust both His wisdom and His love.

26 Responses to Trusting God

  1. Bookslinger on September 28, 2006 at 3:22 pm

    Thanks for your post. It encourages me in my struggles to face and work through the challenges I’ve been handed.

    It is very easy for me to fall in the trap of second-guessing God and assuming I know what’s best for my life. It can be very scary to take that step into the darkness before the light catches up. But “the voice” to take that step at times becomes unmistakeable. I feel like the mountain-climber, in an oft-told parable, where he fell down the mountain and is clinging to the end of a rope, in total absolute darkness. A voice tells him to let go the rope, but he doesn’t. It isn’t until the dawn, that it’s known that he was only a few feet above ground.
    (That’s a fractured version of the parable.)

  2. Robert C. on September 28, 2006 at 3:35 pm

    “as my certainty about a variety of matters has shrunk, my trust and faith in God has increased”

    This is a very profound and quotable quote, thanks!

  3. mullingandmusing (m&m) on September 28, 2006 at 3:48 pm

    Thank you for sharing this.

  4. DavidH on September 28, 2006 at 4:52 pm

    “Right now I am learning to trust that God wants me to be a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, and that the perspective I have of the church is not only acceptable but something I can use in the service of others.”

    My feelings as well. Thanks for sharing.

  5. Kaimi Wenger on September 28, 2006 at 5:11 pm

    Thanks for this post, S. It’s a brave, thoughtful post that resonates in many ways with me. I don’t always know or understand God’s plans for me, but I have learned that God loves me, and that I can be happy as I find ways to develop myself spiritually, both as an individual and as a member of a family and a community. Thanks for being this open. It’s very frightening to open up like this; I’m often terrified to do anything similar.

    Let me (gently) push a little. It’s (relatively) easy to say, trust God, know that God loves you. How do you make the leap from “trust God” to “the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is right for me”? Is it simply that the _things_ God has asked you to trust him in have been Mormon-related things? Or is there some way that your sense of trust in God is itself bound up in Mormon doctrine? (Or is it something else altogether?) I’m curious to your views here, if you’re comfortable sharing them.

  6. Kaimi Wenger on September 28, 2006 at 5:13 pm

    p.s. Don’t forget the hyphen! The “Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints” (no hyphen) is actually the name of the splinter sect led by James Strang (which owns some rights in the non-hyphenated name, and which uses that name as its formal title).

    I’m assuming you’re not using this post to come out of the schismatic closet and reveal your true identity as a Strangite. ;)

  7. Ronan on September 28, 2006 at 5:29 pm

    Kaimi,
    I’m a Strangite.

  8. Kaimi Wenger on September 28, 2006 at 5:33 pm

    Ronan,

    This explains much about the editorial content at BCC.

  9. Ronan on September 28, 2006 at 5:36 pm

    And now leaving his holiness James Strang aside, I don’t think S. is making the leap you are suggesting. She says, “I am learning to trust that God wants me to be a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.” Learning to trust sounds like a process to me, not a leap.

    I think this is spot on, though: “Is there some way that your sense of trust in God is itself bound up in Mormon doctrine?” Most of us have learned God through Mormon lenses; when God speaks to us, then, he does so through Mormonism.

  10. S. Snyder on September 28, 2006 at 6:18 pm

    Bookslinger, yeah, the whole working through things was a difficult lesson for me, but one I’ve come to value. And I like the parables about that moment when you have to let go (take a leap, etc.) and let faith take over. I think we’ve all experienced those terrifying moments.

    Kaimi, how my vision of God relates to my Mormonism is complicated. As Ronan pointed out, I’ve “learned God through Mormon lenses”–wherever my life journey takes me, I don’t think I’ll ever escape that. But, I’ve come to appreciate the vision of God I’ve found through that Mormon lens (I love the embodied, emotional, complex God that I’ve encountered in this religious tradition). At the same time, things God has asked me to do have been very bound up with Mormon religious practice. For example, it was God’s idea for me to go through the temple when I did (I was still in college and not thinking about going on a mission)–at the time I wasn’t too happy about it. And while He hasn’t given me any intellectual answers to my feminist concerns, the answers I have gotten to all of my praying have come in two ways 1) a feeling of peace and that everything will somehow work out in the end; 2) God wants me to be Mormon, and if that means being a feminist Mormon, then that’s okay (actually, not only that it’s okay, but that He recognizes that’s who I am and He values that).

    And Kaimi, you’ve figured me out–I’m a feminist Mormon Strangite.

  11. Wacky Hermit on September 28, 2006 at 6:57 pm

    We recently had a talk in Stake Conference that had an interesting insight on this. I didn’t catch but a snippet of the talk (kids etc.) but the idea was that the loads we have to carry give us the traction to get moving. Interesting analogy with heavy sandbags in the back of a vehicle.

  12. sarebear on September 28, 2006 at 9:24 pm

    I think perhaps God has been doing some of this same, long ahead of time/advance “warning” softening up thingie with me this last year. At least, I hope so cause my frustrations with myself about not being able to do what he’s asked no matter how hard I try, pray, do what’s right, etc., make me wonder. Then again, maybe it’s more about the trying hard, praying, doing what’s right, than it is about what I feel he’s asked me to do. As well, the little I was able to do, before I fell off in emotional exhaustion, helped me feel that HEY, HE knows I’m going to GET there, and so He can ask it of me, and if it be years that it take before I arrive there, well, those are but a moment to Him. As long as I’m not just sitting on my duff, but rather am trying, in fits and starts as is the only way I’m able to work on about anything, then all is well.

    I hope. Anyway.

    Thanks for this post. You probably know my story by now I probably talk too much about it.

    At least, when I can even vaguely have any sense of the Lord’s guidance and direction at all, instead of it just being my reckless, manic euphoria. Or drowned by depression.

  13. Bookslinger on September 28, 2006 at 10:11 pm

    Ronan and Kaimi,

    re: learned God through Mormon lenses

    That’s why converts need to tell you our/their testimony. Us convert frogs did not grow up as tadpoles in the Mormon pond. We hopped in from the outside. I received my page 38 testimony (Chapter 7, pg 38 of Gospel Principles, 3 paragraphs starting with “The convincing power of the Holy Ghost…) before joining the church. I didn’t pass out, but it was akin to Lamoni and his father. I know dis is da place.

    At the surface level, there are some things about the institutional church, things about Mormon culture, and many individual Mormons that I just plain don’t like. Had I taken a long drawn out time to investigate before getting a Lamoni-type testimony, I could have discovered plenty of reasons not to join.

    Frinstance, “you people” are just plain weird, and some of ya’ll are even weirder than that! There are some namby-pamby-goody-two-shoes types, typical of most churches, who are so treacly sweet it makes me gag. There are some belch-in-your-face-fart-right-in-front-of-you-bad-boy-bully-hell-raiser types who I would prefer to avoid at all costs. There are plenty of Pollyanas who focus so much on the “ideal,” that they essentially “lie” by leaving out unpleasant but important truths.

    Having investigated and studied other churches, I’ve never heard a member of another church bear testimony of their church. Many sincere believers of all religions bear testimony of God and Jesus. And a few religions, like Jehovah’s Witnesses, Seventh Day Adventists, and Catholics do make the claim that their church is true. But I’ve never heard or read any of them say that the Spirit bore witness of that to them. They all use man’s reasoning, human logic and scriptural interpretation to arrive at the conclusion of their church being right. Mormons are basically the only ones who say their church is right “because God told me so.”

    Ronan, Kaimi, I’m currently on the outside looking in (still an ex-member), but I have to say that 24 years ago God told me, with no uncertainty, that the Jesus of the Book of Mormon is the same Jesus of the Bible, and that Joseph Smith’s first vision really happened. At times, I’ve wanted to stop knowing that. I wanted to disbelieve. But knowledge is knowledge. You can stop believing a belief, but you can’t stop knowing what you know once the Holy Ghost has woven it, and literally burned it into every fiber of your being.

    And remember, it’s capital “L,” hyphen and lower “d”: Latter-day, as displayed in the browser title bar, and in the main paragraph at http://www.mormon.org.

  14. tyler on September 28, 2006 at 10:59 pm

    Snyder–

    As you intimate, I think sometimes our deepest experiences with god are actually so with Him, but waiting for Him. Something about the trust required to know He will fulfill His promises though it does not seem He is doing so now burnishes our faith in Him and convinces a very deep part of us that He is who He says He is.

  15. Blain on September 29, 2006 at 1:12 am

    Feminist Mormon Strangites.

    I can see that on a T-shirt that would only make sense to a small portion of bloggernaclians.

  16. Eve on September 29, 2006 at 2:39 am

    Thanks, S. I know at times I’ve been very angry at God because it seems that He could so easily fix something causing me ongoing misery. As I think about it, I realize, to my considerable surprise, that I think God actually wants me to bring my rage to Him, and that hard and painful as that is (I hate to talk to people I’m mad at about why I’m mad at them), it’s the beginning of healing, and of an increased sense of God’s very specific understanding of me and love for me.

  17. Idahospud on September 29, 2006 at 10:39 am

    Eve:
    “I think God actually wants me to bring my rage to Him, and that hard and painful as that is (I hate to talk to people I’m mad at about why I’m mad at them), it’s the beginning of healing, and of an increased sense of God’s very specific understanding of me and love for me.”

    Thank you for this. I’ll be thinking about it for a long time.

  18. S. Snyder on September 29, 2006 at 3:17 pm

    Wacky Hermit, I don’t think I’ve ever heard that analogy before, but I like it.

    sarebear, another thing I’ve slowly learned is that God is infinitely more patient than we can imagine. I tend to want things (including myself) to change now, but I’ve had experiences that have impressed upon me that while God wants us to take action now, He is more patient than we often give Him credit for.

    Bookslinger, thanks for offering the perspective of how one comes to understand God when one has not been raised in the church.

    tyler, thanks for that thought.

    Eve, I’m totally in agreement with you here. I struggle understanding how to deal with anger, but I know that God can handle it. And I think it’s important to strive for emotional honesty and authenticity in all our relationships (including our relationship with God).

  19. S. Snyder on September 29, 2006 at 3:17 pm

    oops, I forgot to close an italic tag in my last comment

  20. Tatiana on September 29, 2006 at 11:44 pm

    Yes, I’m a convert too, and I testify that the church is true. It’s not just your upbringing that imbues God with Mormonness. =)

  21. sarebear on September 30, 2006 at 2:43 am

    Thanks, S. Snyder. I appreciate that. I appreciate your post very much, too.

  22. Melinda on September 30, 2006 at 11:51 pm

    S. – this post sounded very familiar to me. I got lost in depression a few years ago, and ended my career and sold my house in the course of coping with it. And I was very very angry with God. I distinctly remember telling myself that I would never be grateful for depression. I softened that a bit to acknowledge that I was grateful for some of the things I’ve learned from depression. And now I’m actually getting to the point where I can almost admit that depression was necessary for me to move me from point A to point B, and teach me what I would need to know here at point B. God did know what he was doing, and in hindsight, I can even see that he helped me, though I refused to recognize it at the time.

    I had a point where I realized that God wanted me to stay a Mormon. And yes, a lot of it was because I’ve come to know God through a Mormon lens. There were other elements to the decision too. I’m not a Mormon out of habit anymore. A lot of the decision to stay was because of the scriptures. I just couldn’t bear to give up some of the spiritual insights in the B of M, D&C and P of GP to try and be a mainstream Christian. I suppose the scriptures are my Mormon lens. So be it.

    I loved Elder Oaks’ talk in Saturday morning conference where he said that if we can’t be healed, the Atonement would give us the strength to bear our trials such as depression. It was a beautiful talk, simply beautiful.

  23. Seraphine on October 1, 2006 at 2:21 pm

    Melinda, I, too, have come to similar realizations. I always say that I think depression itself is bad, but what I’ve learned from dealing with it has been good and even necessary. Thanks for your thoughts.

  24. Seraphine on October 1, 2006 at 2:21 pm

    Melinda, I, too, have come to similar realizations. I always say that I think depression itself is bad, but what I’ve learned from dealing with it has been good and even necessary. Thanks for your thoughts.

    Seraphine/S. Snyder

  25. Seraphine on October 1, 2006 at 2:22 pm

    oops, sorry for the double comment.

  26. Sharon on October 5, 2006 at 12:28 am

    I have been enriched. I am so very deep down in my center glad that I found this website.

WELCOME

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