I have often been encouraged and enlightened by reader comments, and received some especially helpful ones to my most recent article about faith as a decision when we find ourselves in spiritual slumps. I want to pass two of the best responses on to you.
“You Already Know”
A reader who chose to remain anonymous said, “This article puts into words the experiences that I have had. My feelings, too, can be affected by many outside factors. But my testimony is steady and stable. I remember particularly one very difficult time in my life when I had a huge choice to make that would unalterably affect my whole family. I cried to feel Heavenly Father’s comfort, to feel his arms around me as I had many times before. I sat on the floor in tears, begging to feel his love for me. What came instead surprised me. I had the thought: You’ve felt His love regularly. You know He loves you. Get up and get to work. I dried my eyes and went to work, and although I didn’t feel any warm fuzzies at that moment, I did feel peace from remembering that I know that He loves me and is mindful of me in every moment. And the warm fuzzies did come again, many, many times. Still . sometimes we just have to remember what we know and get busy doing what we know is right.”
The Profound Power of Gratitude
Robert Williams suggests that one of the things we need to do is choose to express gratitude to the Lord. I believe that the special key Brother Williams uses to get back in touch with the Spirit is valid and profoundly important. He said, “Darla Isackson’s recent article on dealing with spiritual slumps echoed much of my own study in this regard. Twenty-five years after a powerful spiritual conversion, I had to learn to be satisfied with much less than I had initially experienced. I realize now this initial outpouring was a special witness connected with my conversion, but it threw me for a loop for a while [not to be able to maintain that level of spirituality. My experience since then] taught me something special that has assisted me in dealing with this all-too-common affliction [of spiritual slumps].
“When the Spirit seems distant, and the usual routines do not bring relief, I have found a very special key. I go to a secluded place. I kneel down and begin a prayer of pure thanksgiving. I begin with my earliest spiritual memories and run through the whole list, thanking the Lord for everything I can possibly remember with which He has blessed me. It takes quite awhile. Truly my cup runneth over. It is then that the Spirit cannot be restrained, and it flows unrestrained once again. It is marvelous to behold. Just as the Spirit cannot willingly abide the presence of sin, neither can it resist abiding where pure gratitude exists with no thought for request or personal gain.
“I am profoundly grateful for this special key. It has helped me through some of the darkest moments of my life. I deeply love the gift of the Holy Ghost, and hope everyone may seek more fully the laws by which it operates.”
Becoming Aware of Patterns
Robert has expressed a principle that is deep and eternal. I was tempted to save it for Thanksgiving, but it is so important that I decided to share it now. The power of gratitude is well documented and scripturally sound.
In my own experience, gratitude and trust in the Lord are inseparably bound. Only when I am coming from a place of trust can I keep the Lord’s commandment to “thank the Lord in all things” (D&C 59:7). As Robert pointed out above, to a truly grateful heart the Spirit cannot be restrained.
When I honestly examine the times I have been unable to feel the Spirit, the pattern is clear: my mind is usually focusing on the great discrepancies between how things are and how I want them to be – I am lamenting my weaknesses, my illnesses, my limitations. Or I am obsessing on family patterns I want to change or things I wish others would change. Or I am mourning losses and having a hard time reconciling myself with “what is.” What I am not doing is pouring my heart out in gratitude to the Lord for His blessings, mercy, and grace. What I am not doing is thanking Him in all things, trusting Him implicitly, remembering His words, “Let your hearts be comforted; for all things shall work together for good to them that walk uprightly” (D&C 100:15).
The “Nevertheless Principle”
I’m not implying that there is no appropriate time and place to lament our losses or honestly admit the discrepancies between how things are and how we want them to be. Nephi set the pattern in that regard. In what many call “the Psalm of Nephi” (2 Nephi 4), Nephi honestly tells the Lord how wretched he feels about his weaknesses and how difficult his life is at the moment. Then, wisely, he immediately switches his focus to gratitude – he rehearses the many times the Lord has blessed and helped him. I call it the “nevertheless principle.” He states how he feels, then says, “Nevertheless, I know in whom I have trusted,” and reminds himself of all the good reasons for that trust.
So I have the pattern. I honestly state my doubts, fears, feelings of inadequacy when I feel them. But I don’t stop there; I don’t dwell on them. Immediately I go to the “nevertheless” part, reminding myself of the countless times the Lord has been there for me, has lifted me up, has interceded in my behalf, has comforted and reassured me, has guided and led me, has given me peace. As I focus on these things I am immersed in the spirit of gratitude, and it becomes easy to continue. I can tell the Lord how much it means to me to recognize His caring, His love, His individual concern for each of His children. I can remember vividly the times I have felt wrapped in that love and know that those feelings will surely return. Expressing pure gratitude is one of the surest paths to closeness to the Spirit. I feel good even writing about it.
I am grateful to my readers and their insights and encouragement. I feel boundless gratitude to the Lord for all the blessings of my life. The fog is lifting, good feelings are returning, and I’m ready to sally forth out of my spiritual slump!