The one-word answer that came into my mind was one I would never have thought of or considered on my own. I was standing in front of a portrait of the Savior when the answer to my heartfelt question sailed into my head and changed my life.
A Review of the Account of the People of Alma and their Deliverance from Bondage
About a month ago, I wrote an article on the people of Alma as discussed in the scriptures in Mosiah 24. This passage is about Alma the Elder and his followers who were under the power of Amulon (a former high priest of King Noah, and Alma’s deadly enemy). They carried great and heavy burdens, even though they were righteous and had committed themselves to the Lord through baptism.
Things had come to such a crisis that they were forbidden to pray under penalty of death. They staggered under heavy burdens, and continued to petition the Lord in their hearts for their relief.
In Alma 24:13-16, we read this message that was imparted by the Lord unto the sufferers:
13 And it acame to pass that the voice of the Lord came to them in their afflictions, saying: Lift up your heads and be of good comfort, for I know of the covenant which ye have made unto me; and I will covenant with my people and deliver them out of bondage.
14 And I will also ease the aburdens which are put upon your shoulders, that even you cannot feel them upon your backs, even while you are in bondage; and this will I do that ye may stand as bwitnesses for me hereafter, and that ye may know of a surety that I, the Lord God, do visit my people in theircafflictions.
15 And now it came to pass that the burdens which were laid upon Alma and his brethren were made light; yea, the Lord didastrengthen them that they could bear up their bburdens with ease, and they did submit cheerfully and with cpatience to all the will of the Lord.
16 And it came to pass that so great was their faith and their patience that the voice of the Lord came unto them again, saying: Be of good comfort, for on the morrow I will deliver you out of bondage.
What this Account Reveals to Us about the Purposes of the Lord
Why, if, as the Lord promised, He was going to deliver them, didn’t He do it then? Why did they have to endure a period of struggling with those heavy burdens? So that they could witness something that only the Lord could do — making those burdens miraculously light on their backs. (“I the Lord God do visit my people in their afflictions).
Learning of the Lord in this way, the People of Alma developed a closer relationship with Him and His power. Their faith and their patience were strengthened until the people were strong enough to have the faith to be delivered completely. This is an answer to all of us who carry heavy burdens: 1.) The Lord will strengthen us so we will not feel them on our backs, and 2.) He will eventually deliver us as we develop sufficient faith, whether in this life or the next.
About 5½ years ago, I was dramatically healed, through faith and medication, from bi-polar disorder that had kept me in bondage for almost half my life. However, there was at least a score of things — traumas in my life — that caused me to continue to live with a severe case of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. For five years, the Lord made the burden of those traumas light on my back. I had no flashbacks or panic attacks.
Then events transpired in the winter of this year to throw me back into the “Lion’s Lair.” I began to feel the traumas as though they were happening today, and I became less and less able to function in a normal way. I was being torn apart emotionally by the voices of my abusers that were somehow woven into my cognitions. There seemed no way to get rid of these voices. I was told by two therapists that people as severely abused as I was almost never got better.
Then, a week ago, I was climbing my staircase. On the landing is a Minerva Teichert painting of the Savior rescuing a black sheep. I don’t remember consciously looking at the painting, but as I passed it on the landing, I noticed that, as usual, my insides were tied in knots. For the first time, I thought to cry, “Why is this happening? Where does all this anxiety come from?”
Before I had reached the top of the staircase, the answer flew into my head. It was one word, and I never, ever would have arrived at it on my own. The word was: guilt. Light dawned. I had done absolutely nothing to merit this heavy load of guilt that was my constant companion, that always told me I wasn’t good enough, that I could never achieve because I wasn’t smart enough, or worthy enough, in every area of my life. I was carrying my abuser’s voice in my cerebral cortex and it was part of every thought, every decision. Inside I was nothing more than a frightened little girl holding up a big mask.
I had studied cognitive therapy intensively, and knew that voice was lying. I knew furthermore that it didn’t belong in my head and that its perpetrator was long dead. A clear vision, in my mind and heart, reduced that loud and frightening voice to a little tiny white pill, the size of an aspirin. I pictured it on the sidewalk somewhere, and I brought the metaphorical boot of my faith down on it, gleefully crushing it into millions of pieces. It would never rule me again.
The change in me was so marked that my husband and friends all noticed it almost immediately. However, I saw a long road ahead of me, tracing faulty cognitions about who I was and then forging new paths in my brain with healthy cognitions. This is usually the work of years.
However, for the next seven days I was exhausted with all the projects I needed to finish. But at the end of the day I slept hard. Once I woke because of a horrible flashback. The Lord sent the Holy Ghost immediately, slapping that memory out of my life and replacing it with the warm and loving presence of the Spirit. That is when I realized that the Lord was healing and redirecting my neuro-pathways while I slept. I got a sore throat, so during the weekend I slept the clock around, and yesterday, Monday, I woke up literally a new woman with a new countenance and a properly functioning brain. The years of work I saw before me had been accomplished while I slept. What remains is my own unique and true personality.
I tell you this so that you will know that sometimes we just don’t ask the right questions. As with the people of Alma, the Lord wanted me to recognize that the changes in my brain were wrought by Him through His power and great glory. I consider myself living in a state of grace now.
My Father in Heaven is a real father to me, and my Savior is the advocate through which I am enabled to call on my Father.
It goes without saying, but I must testify that the power of our Heavenly Father is great beyond measure, and is working with each of us, allowing us to struggle with our burdens until such time, in this life or the next, He sees fit to remove them according to our faith. (see below)
G.G. Vandagriff has been a Meridian columnist since the magazine’s inception. She is a best-selling, award-winning author, her latest book being The Only Way to Paradise. Visit her interactive blog (http://ggvandagriff.com/blog) and hear from great people of faith from all over the world.