Part Ten of the Series: Exploring Options for the Treatment of Depression
This series has explored many options for preventing, diminishing, and treating depression. Peggy said, “Our thesis was that “all things are spiritual,” (D&C 29:34, 34) and every article has been “spiritual” in nature, with the purpose of helping us to increase the vibration or degree of light and intelligence in our thoughts, beliefs, diet, and emotions.”
As a brief review, here is a list of the title of the entire series:
Part I: Exploring Options for the Treatment of Depression
Part II: Learning to Know Our True Nature
Part III: Series Overview and The Transformative Power of the Mind-Body Connection
Part IV: “Be Still and Know:” Changing the Internal View Through Breathing and “Mindfulness”
Part V: Light or Energy Based Therapies for Treatment of Depression
Part VI: Let There Be Light: Applying the Emotional Freedom Technique
Part VII: Increasing Light in Our Mind-Body System with Nutrition and Supplements
Part VIII: A Palace of Possibilities- We Create Our Lives With Our Beliefs
Part IX: Putting the Pieces Together: True Stories of Overcoming Depression
Part X: The Atonement and The Power of Deliverance from Depression
When all is said and done, our foundational premise has been that the balm in Gilead is the Atonement of Christ and His promise to heal the broken hearted. All the light and intelligence which we receive in this life comes through the grace and power of His Atonement. Moreover, He is the ultimate source of our healing, the “author and finisher of our faith” (Hebrews 12:1,2). Elder Richard G. Scott said, “Yet no matter what the source of difficulty and no matter how you begin to obtain relief-through a qualified professional therapist, doctor, priesthood leader, friend, concerned parent, or loved one- no matter how you begin, those solutions will never provide a complete answer. The final healing comes through faith in Jesus Christ and His teachings, with a broken heart and a contrite spirit and obedience to His commandments.” (Richard G. Scott, Ensign, May, 1994, p. 7)
I am not one whose depression is strictly physically based. I am one of the many who find physical solutions only part of the puzzle. I discover most of my other puzzle pieces in continual repentance and spiritual refreshment.
The Atonement Heals Emotional Wounds
Whenever I start again on the downward spiral toward depression, one way I recover my perspective is through remembering quotes such as the following: “The Atonement not only pays for our sins, it heals our wounds-the self-inflicted ones and those inflicted from sources beyond our control. . . It is the ultimate source of our forgiveness, our perfection, and our peace of mind.” (Bruce C. Hafen, The Broken Heart, Deseret Book, 1989, p. 29.)
When trials seem to be connected to my own shortcomings, I find comfort in Elder Hafen’s words: “It is natural to assume that when we don’t appear to be doing excellently’ the perfection process is not working. But the exact opposite may be true. Our moments of greatest stress and difficulty are often the times when the refiner’s fire is doing its most purifying work.” (Broken Heart, 97)
I’m currently experiencing a new level of refiner’s fire in regard to my health, and am recognizing the emotional and spiritual components. It helps to remember that I will someday remember this current challenge, as well as the years that lie behind me, only as the path that led to a new life. My inability to “do” is compelling me to change most of my “Do-ing” goals to “Be-ing” goals. I’ve simplified those goals to two basics: seek to love with true charity and take the Spirit as my guide.
When George A. Smith was very ill, he was visited by his cousin, the Prophet Joseph Smith. The afflicted man reported: “He [the Prophet] told me I should never get discouraged, whatever difficulties might surround me. If I were sunk into the lowest pit of Nova Scotia and all the Rocky Mountains piled on top of me, I ought not to be discouraged, but hang on, exercise faith, and keep up good courage, and I should come out on the top of the heap.” (George A. Smith Family, comp. Zora Smith Jarvis, Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University Press, 1962, 54)
The Lord told the Prophet Joseph Smith: “Thine adversity and thine afflictions shall be but a small moment; And then, if thou endure it well, God shall exalt thee on high” (D&C 121:7-8). President Benson said, “There are times when you simply have to righteously hang on and outlast the devil until his depressive spirit leaves you . . . Pressing on in noble endeavors, even while surrounded by a cloud of depression, will eventually bring you out on top into the sunshine.” (Ezra Taft Benson, “Do Not Despair,” Ensign, Oct. 1986.)
I can’t count the number of times that I have found my only solace in pressing on in spite of the cloud of depression, believing, knowing that it wouldn’t last forever. I have so often found solace in the scriptural words “It came to pass.” Hardly anything “comes to stay” and fortunately, discouraging feelings are in that category. I know that if I do my part and ask for the Lord’s help and endure, these feelings will surely pass. Feelings are not facts, and the fact is that God and right will ultimately prevail.
We Can’t Do It By Ourselves
All of us face emotional and spiritual Goliaths which we can’t conquer with our own power. When David was about to fight Goliath he said to him, “The battle is the Lord’s and he will give you into our hands” (1 Samuel 17). In Doctrine and Covenants 105:14 we read, “I will fight your battles.” D&C 104:82 summarizes this principle well: “Inasmuch as you are humble and faithful and call upon my name, behold, I will give you the victory.” And finally, in Moroni 7:33, we read, “And Christ hath said, If you will have faith in me you will have power to do whatsoever thing is expedient in me.” God doesn’t expect us to win our spiritual battles by ourselves, because it is impossible to do so.
Steven Cramer tells of his battle to fight the Goliath of pornography in his life. He said that, not understanding this basic principle of getting the Lord to fight our battles, he was ashamed to admit to the Lord that he would fail on his own, ashamed to admit his utter dependence on the Savior’s grace and mercy. He felt he had reached his lowest point when he admitted to the Lord that he simply couldn’t conquer this Goliath in his life by himself. He thought he had tried everything, and still failed miserably. But he hadn’t tried everything–he had not yet turned his life over to the Lord.
He had said, “help me stop this behavior, but he hadn’t said, “Lord, here is my heart, please change it, heal it, transform it, so I will have no more desire to sin, but to serve thee continually.” Once he did, not only was he able to overcome his problem with pornography, but the Lord has used him to greatly influence many others for good.
Examining and Following the Pattern
No matter what circumstances motivate us to come to the Lord with full purpose of heart the turning point is the same. It comes only when we realize that without His help we will surely be lost. When we realize that without the Atonement we can never be healed, find peace, or re-enter God’s presence; that only through faith in Christ can the miracle of the Atonement take place. Only Christ knows how to cover us in the cloak of His tender mercies, to extend His grace and merits to us “unworthy creatures,” to reach into our broken hearts and heal them with His love.
We can’t work ourselves or achieve ourselves there, or serve ourselves there or make ourselves worthy enough to suddenly be washed clean by His blood. No one can work hard enough to create his own mighty change of heart. No one can accomplish the work of cleansing repentance alone without the Savior’s mighty power. Only the Savior knows how to accomplish that process. Only He can do it. The major part of our work is to surrender to our need for Him, to trust that as we do our reasonable best to keep the commandments, He will make up the difference. Most of us remember Stephen Robinson’s bicycle analogy, that if we give all we have-even if it is only 62 cents-He will give the rest.
Turning that whole premise around: the very best antidote to depressing, hopeless thoughts is a focus on the Savior’s promises. The answer is to yoke ourselves with the Lord and receive His power to do His will; otherwise knowing what we should do but trying to do it alone we can simply make us miserable.
Staying on the Path
One of the best ways to maintain our spiritual progress is through a regular, spiritually intense study of the Book of Mormon. Colleen Harrison’s immersion in the Book of Mormon brought about a deepened understanding of the application of the Twelve Steps in her life, chronicled in her book He Did Deliver Me from Bondage. She continues to anchor her soul in the doctrines of that book.
We too can immerse ourselves in the Book of Mormon. We can choose to constantly humble ourselves “because of the word.” We can “get” the main message of the gospel because it is more clearly spelled out in those pages than in any other book.
It matters not whether we come to the position of insatiable desire to experience the Savior’s Atonement in our lives through the desperation of poverty, addiction, or sin, OR through the hunger of the soul for forgiveness, OR through a conscious decision to move to a new level of understanding the doctrines of the Kingdom as best taught in the Book of Mormon. What matters is that we DO it-and keep doing it. One thing we know for sure, the Lord’s purpose for us in mortality is not comfort or ease or freedom from affliction. It is primarily to teach us our need for the Atonement and to bless us with the peace and joy that can come no other way than through accepting Christ’s gifts. Whenever we get the main message of the gospel, it propels us to make the most important choice of our lives: to trust in God no matter what.
The Mercy of God Will Bring Victory
In April Conference, Elder Holland told the parable of the laborers from Matthew 20 and gave some comforting and encouraging new perspectives that summarize the mercy of the God. He said, “This is a story about God’s goodness, He patience and forgiveness, and the Atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is a story about generosity and compassion. It is a story about grace.” And, he suggests, a story about the thrill God feels of being merciful, especially to those who don’t expect it and often feel they don’t deserve it. That is the truth in regard to the whole gospel message.
The longer I live and the more I experience and learn of gospel truth, the more astounded I become at the vast redemption of God’s plan, here and hereafter. Only short-sightedness and spiritual blindness can keep us from shouting for joy to be included in it. Joseph Smith, in his amazing inspired discourse recorded in D&C 128: 19-24 summarizes it so well. Oh, that we might review those uplifting, light-giving verses often. Let me quote just a few of the words: “Now what do we hear in the gospel which we have received? A voice of gladness! A voice of mercy from heaven: and a voice of truth out of the earth; glad tidings for the dead; a voice of gladness for the living and the dead; glad tidings of great joy . . . shall we not go on in so great a cause? Go forward and not backward. Courage, brethren, and on, on to the victory!” I bear my personal witness that the Lord Jesus Christ is the great deliverer–from sin, from depression, from all earthly maladies. His voice is the voice of gladness, and He is the Way, the Truth and the Light. Through him we can be victorious.
Darla has a rich background in writing and editing and has been one of Meridian’s most consistent and most-read columnists since 2002. To learn more about Darla and her books, Trust God No Matter What! and After My Son’s Suicide: An LDS Mother Finds Comfort in Christ and Strength to Go On, visit her website: darlaisackson.com. Also check out Barnes and Noble Nook Books and Amazon.com for e-book format.