5 Truths Therapy Has Taught Me about the Atonement



About a year ago I found myself at the bottom of a figurative pit. Life had been throwing me significant trials one after another, never allowing me enough time to recover. That, coupled with the buried hurt of my abusive childhood, was now crashing down and leaving me in this dark place with seemingly no way out. I tried to deny it. I tried to fight it. But the reality was that I had depression.

I didn’t know what to do. I felt ashamed and embarrassed. But I was also desperate for relief from these destructive thoughts and feelings. I turned to the scriptures, conference talks, and prayer hoping for direction. I soon found my answer from Elder Richard G. Scott: “Healing may begin with a thoughtful bishop or stake president or a wise professional counselor. If you had a broken leg, you wouldn’t decide to fix it yourself. Serious abuse can also benefit from professional help. There are many ways to begin healing, but remember that a full cure comes through the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, our Master and Redeemer. Have faith that with effort His perfect, eternal, infinite Atonement can heal your suffering from the consequences of abuse.”

I knew I needed to seek professional help as my first step. I timidly approached my husband with my thoughts and feelings and he supported me in this decision. I then met with my bishop who was able to connect me with an appropriate therapist. After the initial visit with my psychologist, I felt hope for the first time in a long time. It has been a long hard road, but as I reflect upon this last year I have recognized five truths that therapy has taught me about the Atonement.



1.       You must be the one to seek for the blessings of the Atonement

At first I was worried that seeing a psychologist meant that I didn’t understand the Atonement or how to use it in my life. And I was worried that others would have this view of me and think lesser of me. President Dieter F. Uchtdoft said that, “spiritual light rarely comes to those who merely sit in the darkness waiting for someone to flip the switch.” I then realized that I was taking an important step towards my healing and this professional help would allow me to access the Atonement in a deeper and more meaningful way. Elder Scott also helped me to understand that much of my progress would be dependent on me and that it was going to take time. He said, “Healing can occur in the act, yet more often it occurs over a period of time determined by the faith and obedience of the individual and the will of the Lord. I feel that the pace is generally set by the individual, not by the Lord. He expects you to use other resources available, including competent professional help when indicated; then He provides the balance needed according to His will.”

During a lesson in Relief Society one Sunday, the teacher said something about us (our spirits) being made of spiritual matter. I had forgotten that. It reminded me that we are more capable of doing and understanding things beyond our physical bodies. But it’s something that just isn’t going to happen on its own – you have to let in more light.

2.       Blessed are they that mourn

“Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.” (Matthew 5:4)

This is a scripture that I didn’t fully understand. For the people who mourn – whose hearts ache and who struggle with grief and depression and other ailments – how could that be a good thing? How does that make you a blessed person?

Because of my “mourning” I have gained a new understanding of the Atonement and the real meaning of comfort and healing that comes only through Christ. I am blessed because I have had sacred experiences with the Holy Ghost and have received some grand insights into spiritual things that many people may not get to experience. When I pay attention, I can see how the Lord’s loving hand is in the details of my life.

3.       I can trust in Him

One spring we had some birds build a nest in our backyard. The spot they chose was close enough for us to keep a daily watch and our family quickly became fascinated at this personal experience with nature.  Two eggs were laid and we watched as mother and father bird took turns staying in the nest. Soon they hatched and we watched as the babies were fed and cared for. Eventually, the baby birds grew bigger and stronger and when they were ready, the young fledglings left the nest. The whole process was beautiful and everything worked as it needed to. However, during these weeks as we watched in wonder, I filled my head with worried thoughts: “The nest looks too flimsy. Is it in a safe place? Momma bird has been away for too long...is she going to come back? The babies don’t look big enough to fly yet.” It then dawned on me that I had some deep issues with trust – or rather, not being able to trust.



As I reflected back on this I began to see a pattern of distrust that had hindered not only my emotional development, but my spiritual development as well. I remember thinking to myself, “How can you learn to trust when you’ve spent most of your life not trusting? And when you try to trust you end up getting hurt again.”

The answers to these concerns came one evening after kneeling in prayer. A thought came into my mind that I could trust Him. When others would fail me, He would not. I had no one to protect me as a child and when these feelings would surface, He would be my defender, advocate, and comforter. I can turn to my Savior because he knows what I am feeling and, therefore, knows how to comfort me and how I can find comfort. As I learned to trust in Him, I saw how that began to generalize into other aspects of my life in a positive way.

4.       Healing comes in different ways

A major turning point on my healing journey came as I read a quote from Elder Dallin H. Oaks that said, “Healing blessings come in many ways, each suited to our individual needs, as known to Him who loves us best. Sometimes a ‘healing’ cures our illness or lifts our burden. But sometimes we are ‘healed’ by being given strength or understanding or patience to bear the burdens placed upon us.”

It became very clear to me that even though I desperately wanted all of my burdens to be lifted and for these hurting feelings to go away, my personal healing would come by being given the extra strength and understanding to continue to carry this load. Before I came to Earth, Heavenly Father knew the trials I would have. Some feelings I will have to fight through my whole life, but I will know what to do during those times. I can’t change what happened in the past, but one day all will be made right.




5.       Christ can rebuild and repair you

There is a large old house in our neighborhood that was destroyed by arson shortly after it had finished undergoing a complete restoration. It’s an awful sight that leaves you feeling saddened at the loss of someone’s beautiful and grand creation. The damage is so great that it leaves you wondering if that house will ever be as lovely as it once was.

Sometimes I feel like that burnt house. I was born into this world whole and pure, but years of damaging circumstances have left me feeling broken. I struggle with self-worth. I often feel that I am behind in life. I always thought that if I had had a better family life, if someone had mentored me in my passions, if I had made different choices – that I would be better than I am now. If I hadn’t been stifled by the hurt of childhood abuse, what amazing accomplishments could I have achieved by now?

Another key piece of my understanding of the Atonement came to me as I was sitting in Sunday school one morning. The teacher talked about how trials can bring us down and break us into pieces, but the Lord, the greatest architect, can rebuild you better than you were before – if you allow Him.

I don’t have to continue with that discouraging way of thinking anymore. I don’t have to live with the feeling of always being behind. Because the Lord can build me up in a way that will be different and probably better than my own ideas of what is valuable and successful. So I’m being rebuilt again – with a solid foundation and with unique architectural and engineering features that come from a divine design.

References:

1. To Be Healed, by Richard G. Scott
https://www.lds.org/general-conference/1994/04/to-be-healed?lang=eng

2. The Hope of God's Light, by Dieter F. Uchtdorf
https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2013/04/the-hope-of-gods-light?lang=eng

3. He Heals the Heavy Laden, by Dallin H. Oaks
https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2006/10/he-heals-the-heavy-laden?lang=eng


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This post was contributed by an anonymous author.

3 comments

  1. Thank you so much for sharing your story--it was if it was written just for me. I struggle with mental health issues and has e often been worried about what others may think if they knew. I feel like I have been in a dark place for a very long time. Recently I had a very special witness of the Spirit that I had been released form the darkness. I will always have the mental illness but I can now finally feel the light of my Savior and Heavenly Father. Your paragraph, Sometimes I feel like that burnt house. I was born into this world whole and pure, but years of damaging circumstances have left me feeling broken. I struggle with self-worth. I often feel that I am behind in life. I always thought that if I had had a better family life, if someone had mentored me in my passions, if I had made different choices – that I would be better than I am now. If I hadn’t been stifled by the hurt of childhood abuse, what amazing accomplishments could I have achieved by now?" was the specific tender mercy for me. I have really been struggling with the feeling that I am so far behind. Once again, thank you so much for sharing our story.

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  2. Your story was shared in a very tender and loving way. I am a therapist who has seen this work in the lives of many. Focus on the moment and understand that the Lord has your back.

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  3. Thank you for this truthful and candid way of dealing with the really hard aspects of sexual abuse and healing through the Atonement. I have struggled for decades to find peace over this tragedy. This article brings light to so many deeply dark places that I felt trapped in. I also think this is great for spouses, to begin to understand.and be a partner in healing.

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