Finding Relief from Heavy Burdens

47tips-heavy-burden

A Special Message of Faith

In December of 2012 I was asked to speak during my congregation’s sacrament meeting. This is one thing that is common throughout my church worldwide: that members are given opportunities to teach each other about the gospel, and how they are learning to apply it in their lives.

Here’s the message I shared:

When we realized back in 2006 that we had purchased too much real estate at the wrong time, sometimes all we could do to calm the raging storm was to turn off the lights, close our eyes, and let “Peace Like a River” CD soothe our troubled and fearful hearts.

We tried to focus on the Savior, and let Him assure us that in the eternal scheme of things, everything was going to turn out okay if we fixed our faith upon Him.

He showed us that no matter how heavy the burden, he had the power to do for us what He had done for Alma’s people as described in Mosiah chapter 24 when he told them:

“I will … ease the burdens which are put upon your shoulders, that … you cannot feel them upon your backs, even while you are in bondage; and this will I do that ye may stand as witnesses for me hereafter, and that ye may know of a surety that I, the Lord God, do visit my people in their afflictions.”

The Bible tells us to have faith in Jesus Christ, and to love one another. But until recently, I never really recognized an important connection between these two directives, and how it relates to the lift of our burdens.

At the time, I considered the peace I ultimately discovered to be a tremendous personal victory. We were still in a mess, but He taught us peace in spite of it. That all of that could be happening and that we could find peace anyway was a miracle to me.

As our difficulty stretched on, I felt that I could relate in a small way to the man who had been a part of the fateful Martin Handcart company who said, “‘I… pulled my handcart when I was so weak and weary … that I could hardly put one foot ahead of the other. I have looked ahead and … said, I can go only that far and there I must give up…’ ” He continued: ” ‘I have gone on to that sand and when I reached it, the cart began pushing me. I have looked back many times to see who was pushing my cart, but my eyes saw no one. I knew then that the angels of God were there… The price we paid to become acquainted with God was a privilege to pay, and I am thankful that I was privileged to come in the Martin Handcart Company.'”

As hard as it was for us over those last few years, I wouldn’t give up the testimony we gained through it – that God lives and is mindful of us and gives us strength.

However, while it’s true, that when things appear to be falling apart, a return to the Savior (pondering his life’s example, repenting of our mistakes, finding gratitude, and imagining his steady and unconditional friendship) always brings peace, sometimes it can be really hard to set aside personal challenges enough to be able to think about helping someone else.

But what I’ve been learning is that our needs are cared for when we focus on others.

This is probably a more complete and true exercise of faith in Christ. Not just believing that He is real and finding peace in our challenges, but taking it one step further… do we really believe that our needs will be met if we forget ourselves? Do we really trust that the Lord will carry us through our problems if we lose ourselves in the service of others?

I remember back several years when my husband and I were trying to be anxiously engaged in a good cause, but our investment problems were screaming so loudly that it seemed nearly impossible to carry on.

We had come to the end of all of our visible resources – our savings were entirely depleted, our credit was completely exhausted, and with only $200 in the bank and no paycheck in sight (with another $15,000 in bills due in the coming 2 weeks), the moment we had tried so hard to avoid was finally upon us.

It was our anniversary weekend, and so with no other solution in sight, we decided to at least enjoy a dinner together and try to rekindle our hope in the future, and our faith in Christ. During our conversation, it dawned on us that even though we were at rock bottom, we were still alive, still breathing, and still able to help others.

We asked ourselves, if we were homeless, could we still teach? Could we still help others? Would we? Of course we could, and would. So that’s when our conversation shifted. Instead of focusing on our immediate needs, we projected our minds forward and imagined where we saw ourselves in 10 years. Did we think we’d be back on our feet by then? Would we have figured things out and put our lives back together by then? That seemed easy enough to believe. So then our focus shifted, and we brainstormed on the things we could do right away to serve others better, and made those plans.

By the end of dinner, we felt hope again. We felt the Spirit confirm to us that although we were in a pretty ugly mess of our own, we were on the right track.

So we paid the bill and just as my husband was opening my car door, the waiter came running out to the parking lot after us with a voided receipt yelling,

“Since it’s your anniversary, the meal’s on us!”

In that moment, we experienced a little bit of what the Lord had taught his apostles. He had tried to assure them that as long as they would feed his sheep, their true needs would be met. We’ve heard it so many times: “Consider the lilies of the field…” “…trust the Lord with all thine heart” “…fear not…” but how it is possible?

To explain, let me share it the way Elder Jeffrey R. Holland described it:

After Christ was no longer with his apostles, in effect, Peter said: “Brethren, it has been a glorious three years. …But [it] is over. He has finished His work, and He has risen from the tomb. He has worked out His salvation and ours. So … ‘What do we do now?’ I don’t know more to tell you than to return to your former life, rejoicing. I intend to ‘go a fishing.’”

But, … the fishing wasn’t very good. Their first night back on the lake, they caught nothing—not a single fish. With the first rays of dawn, they disappointedly turned toward the shore, where they saw in the distance a figure who called out to them,

“Cast the net on the right side of the ship, and ye shall find,” —and with those simple words, recognition begins to flood over them. Just three years earlier these very men had been fishing on this very sea. On that occasion too they had “toiled all the night, and [had] taken nothing,”…. But a fellow Galilean on the shore had called out to them to let down their nets, and they drew “a great multitude of fishes,” enough that their nets broke, the catch filling two boats so heavily they had begun to sink.

Now it was happening again. [They] eagerly lowered their net, and “they were not able to draw it for the multitude of fishes.”

After a joyful reunion… Looking at their battered little boats, … and a stunning pile of 153 fish, Jesus said … three times, “Peter, do you love me more than you love all this?” Peter said, “Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee.”

To which Jesus responded …perhaps saying something like: “Then Peter, why are you here? Why are we back on this same shore, by these same nets, having this same conversation? Wasn’t it obvious then and isn’t it obvious now that if I want fish, I can get fish?

“What I need, Peter, are disciples—and I need them forever. I need someone to feed my sheep and save my lambs. I need someone to preach my gospel and defend my faith. I need someone who loves me, truly, truly loves me, and loves what our Father in Heaven has commissioned me to do.

“Ours is not a feeble message. … It is the work of Almighty God, and it is to change the world. So, Peter, for the second and presumably the last time, I am asking you to leave all this and to go teach and testify, labor and serve loyally…”

“If ye love me, keep my commandments,” Jesus said. So we have neighbors to bless, children to protect, the poor to lift up, and the truth to defend. We have wrongs to make right, truths to share, and good to do. In short, we have a life of devoted discipleship to give in demonstrating our love of the Lord. We can’t quit and we can’t go back…

To those who have not yet joined with us in this great final cause of Christ, we say, “Please come.” To those who were once with us but have retreated, preferring to pick and choose a few cultural hors d’oeuvres from the smorgasbord of the Restoration [of the gospel of Jesus Christ] and leave the rest of the feast, I say that I fear you face a lot of long nights and empty nets. The call is to come back, to stay true, to love God, and to lend a hand.” – Elder Jeffrey Holland

Now, on Christmas we were blessed to spend some time on the phone with our missionary son Jacob, and I asked him: What can we do for you? What can we do to help you?

He replied, emotionally, “I just want you guys to love each other. I want you to do your best to get along with each other. It’s so true that you don’t know what you have until it’s gone. I just want you guys to also stay in touch with me, keep writing letters, keep emailing me, keep me posted with what’s going on in your lives, the good and the bad…”

Our Father in Heaven – during our separation from Him – wants us to love each other, and stay in touch with Him through prayer. He wants us to go to him with the good and the bad, and let Him be a central part of our life.

And when we have burdens too heavy and worries too consuming to think outside of ourselves, I testify that we can put our trust in the Lord, hand him our burdens, …and as we focus on helping someone else, everything will work out just as it should.

I have a special journal dedicated to this – for when I have a concern or a need that seems to be more than I can handle, I’ll write “What I needed” on the left side, and then on the right side I write “How He helped”. After all, He has asked us to acknowledge his hand in all things – and this is one way I’m trying to do it.

(The following section is an excerpt from a letter I wrote to a friend, giving more details on this new journal tool.)

I felt the Lord inspired me to do something I hadn’t done before, when things were terribly overwhelming to me. The Spirit nagged me for 2 days until I did it… and that is this:

I got a notebook or journal that was specifically to be for one purpose. On the left side of the page, I wrote: “What I needed”, and I listed the things I needed to turn over to the Lord. I imagined angels being given permission to get to work on those items for me, because I was physically, mentally, emotionally unable to handle them myself at that time.  On the right side of the page I wrote: “How He helped” because I thoroughly expected Him to handle some of those things for me, and I wanted to document His hand in the process.

Within 20 minutes, I got a phone call that answered one of the pleas listed on the left.  Over time, it seems that all of them have been either checked off or making good progress. To me, it’s working better than a vision board ever did, because it’s more of a system for the purpose of fulfilling my life’s mission, and for handling the distractions that slow me down as well.

Once I put something on the “what I needed” side, I let it go and I get busy on something that I CAN make progress with, knowing that the other items are being handled.

And now, verily I say unto you, and what I say unto one I say unto all, be of good cheer, little children; for I am in your midst, and I have not forsaken you; (D&C 61:36)

Related: Do the Problems Go Away?

(Back now, to my talk at church…)

I know that God lives, that Jesus Christ is with us, He’s mindful of our heartaches, and ready to help. He is merciful. He loves us. He loves you. He knows what you’re going through; it’s not pointless.

May we exercise our faith in Christ not just by believing He is real, but also by trusting him – literally – to handle our burdens that feel too big, while we look instead for opportunities to feed his sheep.

This is my prayer for all of us.

Originally published on December 18, 2013

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Stop the World – I want to Get Off!

‘I’m in a hurry to get things done, I’m… rushing, rushing till life’s no fun.’

Does that phrase (from Alabama’s song) sound familiar? Has life become so fast paced that you’ve gotten sucked up into the whirlwind of it all, feeling totally out of control?

Do you feel like you can’t afford to stop long enough to catch your breath, and do you continue to race on the treadmill of life that often seems to be going nowhere?

At some point you have to ask yourself, “What’s the point??”

Even if you have a pretty good sense of what life is all about, and you are confident about its purpose, you can fall into the trap of living frantically day in and day out to meet deadlines, obligations, and expectations.

When you’ve had enough of that, and something inside you says, “You were born for something greater than this… there’s a more significant contribution you were meant to make during your time here,” or, “Why does peace and happiness always seem to be just one more task away?…”

What do you do?

First of all, it’s healthy to recognize those impressions within yourself. It is true, you WERE meant for more than this. You wouldn’t be having those feelings unless something greater was beckoning you to come do your part, make a difference, or quit waiting for whatever-it-is before you can be happy. You know it, but where and how do you begin?

Here’s how you begin: Today, do the things you have committed to do, giving it your best. You see, if you want to change your ‘space’, or your world, and escape the bondage of whatever kind it is that you feel, you must live the life you’re IN with completeness. You must more than ‘fill your place’. When you have ‘filled your place’, you become bigger than where you are, and circumstances must change, just to be able to continue holding you.

As James Allen describes in “As a Man Thinketh”, when a man completely and genuinely alters his thoughts about his [problem], and discovers the true perspective that God intends for him to adopt, it will “become so out of harmony with his mentality that it falls out of his life as a garment is cast aside, and, with the growth of opportunities, which fit the scope of his expanding powers, he passes out of it forever.”

I like the way Wallace D. Wattles put it: “You can advance only by more than filling your present place.”

Don’t wait until you have the time to start something new and grandiose. Be grandiose where you are. In other words, be a spectacular you, right where you are, in just the very thing you are already doing.

If you want to have a better job, be bigger than the job you already have. Do it better than you ever have before… enjoy the feeling that comes from doing well, and before long, it will not be able to contain you any longer. Old circumstances will fall away and new ones will present themselves which will give you more opportunity for growth.

Do I mean, be a superperson and get 10 times as much done as the next person? NO. I simply mean, be present. If you are completing a task, allow yourself the pleasure of enjoying the task. Do it carefully and well, but most importantly, choose to enjoy it.

If you’re busy getting a lot of things done, and simply cannot slow down, you CAN do the same things you are already doing with a calm spirit. Much of the time we get all worked up and frantic about our deadlines and pressures, but we have to remember that the things that we do and the things that are happening around us are nothing more than events. We’re the ones that add the ‘stress element’ to the equation. In fact, if we can go about our day calmly, we will accomplish more than if we try to force things to happen faster. Force negates. What you push will push back. That’s one of those laws.

So much of what needs to happen is out of your control, so quit trying to control it! It’s not your job. Your job is to do the things that YOU can do, and trust God to handle the rest. If you are calm, He will. If you are frantic, He seems to step back and let you try to handle it on your own, so that maybe you’ll learn a lesson. At least that’s my interpretation of how He seems to have handled me. I finally had to ask, ‘How many times must I experience that feeling of abandonment before I learn that I CAN’T do it on my own anyway??’

I’m learning to calm down, and trust. Let’s resign as Manager of the Universe. Let’s have faith that by keeping a calm spirit, we will be in the right ‘vibration’ to allow the blessings to flow our way. Keeping a frantic spirit prevents the blessings from flowing. We cut ourself off from the Source of all good when we demonstrate our doubt through our stress. A faithful heart has no place for stress and worry.

I started reading the book of Mark in the Bible again recently. I think I’ve made it through about 7 chapters so far. Perhaps this is the first time I’ve really tried to picture myself there, taking the time to think about witnessing the miracles happen for myself. It would be a hard thing to read through all of those chapters without feeling a little more confident that something good could happen to me, too. Jesus performed miracles for the worthy and unworthy alike. He showed mercy to the broken hearted who hoped for relief.

No matter how you feel about yourself right now, you can be blessed with an abundant life. Need a ‘faith-lift’? Maybe you should read Mark. (Why did I choose Mark? Because it happened to be the shortest one of the 4 gospels, that’s all. If you’re short on time like me, it’s a good one to read.)

I also recommend reading Portal to Genius. You can read the entire prequel and first three chapters for free. Just visit PortalToGenius.com.

Main content originally written July 28, 2005

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Too much Information?

positive thinking tip: Don’t be overwhelmed by Too much good information. stay Focused on your goal, and the information you really need will naturally show up when you’re ready for it.

Do you ever feel overloaded with too many options, too much information, too many people telling you what to do to succeed?

You’re not alone. Here’s an email I received, and my reply on the matter.

Linda said:

I don’t know if you will actually answer this, but I am getting frustrated because I am getting INUNDATED with various “I have the secret YOU need to be successful in life” emails / offers / programs / gimmes!

I certainly can’t do them all simultaneously, and while they may all be worthwhile, it seems to me there is a lot of redundancy. I am STILL trying to work my way through your materials, and I don’t know that I need to get something ELSE while I still have not finished what I HAVE!

…I feel like I am spinning my wheels with a “Lo here” and a “Lo there” … like the poor guy trying to catch the rabbit in the same way the fox / wolf / whatever did! Any words of wisdom you could share would be appreciated. Thanks! Linda

My response to Linda (with a few more little notes):

Breathe, Linda, breathe. 🙂

There’s a lot of noise out there, and you can trust that the RIGHT next step will be there when you’re ready for IT. Just because it’s good, it doesn’t mean you have to jump on it immediately. It will be there again when you’re ready for it, if it really is the right thing for you to do.

I don’t open all my soliciting emails. I only open them if I’m currently seeking an answer to a burning question, and only if the email that shows up seems like it might have the answer to THAT question.

I get information overload if I look at all of them. Sometimes I have to prioritize and say, “I just don’t have the mental bandwidth to wrap my brain around ANYthing else right now” – and then I go forward – at peace taking things at my own pace, knowing that I do not have to run faster than I have mental, emotional, or physical strength.

When the student is ready, the teacher appears. If too many teachers appear, get clarity on your overall objective. Once that is back in focus, the right ones will be obvious – you’ll know it in your gut – and the wrong ones in that moment will no longer have a magnetic pull on you.

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