You know, I sometimes get to a point in my day or week or wherever I may be that I just wonder: Why do I not feel like I’m fulfilling my purpose in life? Why is it that I don’t feel satisfied with what I’m doing? Well, I think it’s probably because I’m just not trying to be better than I was yesterday. I’m not really putting any effort into accessing a free gift that was given to me: The gift of the Atonement of Jesus Christ.
So now my question is: How do I access the Atonement?
If you’ve ever heard of the Addiction Recovery Program or the 12-step Program, this will sound familiar to you because that’s where I’m getting the outline of this. But let me tell you that that program really isn’t just for people with addictions. It’s for people who want to be better by overcoming their weaknesses and do so by drawing closer to their Savior, Jesus Christ. So in essence, it’s really for anyone looking to access the full spectrum of His Atonement in the way it was intended for us to use it.
The first step we have to take in order to access the healing power of the Atonement is honesty. This sometimes is the most difficult part because it’s admitting to ourselves, to others and to the Lord that we have made mistakes, committed sins or even just that we have weaknesses. Sometimes it causes us to feel guilt, shame, embarrassment or other similar feelings. It can be very painful to admit these things – we’re human and humans don’t generally like change. Changing who we are is never going to be easy.
I’ve talked about prayer a lot before and I’m going to share my story again because it is very relevant in this particular instance. During the last five months of my mission, I learned the importance of prayer – sincere, genuine, humbling prayer. I had a companion who locked herself in the bathroom with the fan on every night in order to say her nightly prayers aloud. So I started doing the same. At first, they were the same prayers I’d always said, only now it was out loud. Over time, I came to understand that Heavenly Father doesn’t want to just hear me thank Him for what He’s given me and ask for things I or others I care about need. My Father in Heaven wanted to know about everything that I was thinking about, everything I was feeling, and everything I was in need of. He may already know all of that – God doesn’t need our prayers. WE need prayer. The more I opened up to Him, the greater understanding I gained of who He really is. I came to know better His grace and love, but more importantly, because of that knowledge I was able to open up to Him in ways I didn’t even want to open up to myself. I could admit to myself what my weaknesses were and I could find ways to overcome them.
How can you fix a problem or improve yourself if you don’t know what the problem is or what you need to improve on? By being honest with yourself and with the Lord.
So what is honesty? President James E. Faust said:
“We all need to know what it means to be honest. Honesty is more than not lying. It is truth telling, truth speaking, truth living, and truth loving… I wish to speak to you frankly about being honest. Honesty is a moral compass to guide us in our lives. You young [people] are under great pressure to learn the technology that is expanding and will continue to expand so rapidly. However, the tremendous push to excel in secular learning sometimes tempts people to compromise that which is more important—their honesty and integrity. In reality, we are only in competition with ourselves. Others can challenge and motivate us, but we must reach down deep into our souls and call forth our God-given intelligence and capabilities. We cannot do this when we depend on the efforts of someone else. Honesty is a principle, and we have our moral agency to determine how we will apply this principle. We have the agency to make choices, but ultimately we will be accountable for each choice we make. We may deceive others, but there is One we will never deceive…I am confident the Lord will continue to bless us as we remain honest, faithful, and true to ourselves and to this great cause…”
There’s a lot in that paragraph. So I want you to think about it. Think about what it means for you. What is honesty? Think about your own honesty. Are there things in your life that you are too afraid or embarrassed to think about or to admit? They may not even need to be mistakes or sins. It might just be a simple thought like “I’m so angry with God right now, but I know I’m not supposed to be so I’ll just brush it away and not feel it.” No. Don’t do that. Don’t act like it’s not there. Be honest in EVERYTHING you think and feel, whether you’re “supposed” to feel it or not. It will only sit and fester if you ignore it instead of acknowledge it and try to overcome it.
What will you do to overcome those things that are keeping you from being honest? I recommend to start with prayer. Start this week by changing the way you pray – have a CONVERSATION with your Heavenly Father, not just a list of things to pray for. Take time to think about all the things that are weighing on your mind, the things that are keeping you from becoming a better you. Then tell Him. Tell Him everything that comes, even if it scares you, even if it might not exactly be the most Christ-like thought or feeling, even if it’s anger, sadness, humiliation, or embarrassment. Open yourself up more than you ever have before and pour out your whole soul to God. Then take more than a few seconds to LISTEN and to FEEL. If you are honest with God, God will be honest with you.
I promise that you will be changed if you do this and whatever else you feel is necessary to have a more open channel of communication with the Lord. I promise that if you are completely honest with yourself and with God, miracles will happen in your life. You will be more able to see the good in the world. You will be happier. You will be more willing to humble yourself and change your habits. And best of all, you will come to know without a shadow of a doubt that there is a God. And not just any God, but a God who is your Father, who loves you no matter what you might do, say or think and no matter what you are feeling; a God who knows you and wants only the very best for you.
When you know that, you will find comfort, peace and joy whichever way you turn because you will always be able to see your Savior standing nearby.