“I took a day to search for God, and found Him not, but as I trod by rocky ledge, through woods untamed, just where one scarlet lily flamed, I saw His footprint in the sod. Then suddenly, all unaware, far off in the deep shadows, where a solitary hermit thrush sang through the holy twilight hush, I heard his voice upon the air. And even as I marveled how God gives us heaven here and now, in a stir of wind that hardly shook the poplar leaves beside the brook His hand was light upon my brow. At last with evening, as I turned Homeward and thought what I had learned and all that there was still to probe, I caught the glory of His robe where the last fires of sunset burned. Back to the world with a quickening start I looked and longed for any part in making, saving beauty be. And from that kindling ecstasy, I knew God dwelt within my heart.”
These are the lyrics to a song called “Vestigia” which was performed by the BYU Women’s Chorus on Friday night. The theme for that concert was titled “God gives us heaven here and now”. As I sang on Friday with that theme in mind, I was almost overwhelmed by the truth of that statement. I thought of the times I’ve been pretty low and down in the depths of despair. I thought of the times where I felt alone and miserable and like all I wanted to do is run away and stop having to think about what’s right or wrong anymore. But then I listened to the words and to the music itself and was reminded quite vividly that I am not alone, nor are any of us. Angels surround us daily, the Spirit speaks to us constantly and the Lord is always there to take our hands. All we have to do is recognize that and accept it.
I want you to close your eyes and imagine the darkest time in your life. How did you feel? Afraid? Confused? Alone? What were you afraid of during that time? What were you desperate for? Relief? Comfort? Peace? Love? Now imagine this: What was the Savior’s darkest time of His life? What was it like for Him in the Garden of Gethsemane as He took on the pain of the world? How did it feel for Him when one of His disciples betrayed Him for 30 pieces of silver? How did it feel for Him as He carried His own cross to Golgotha, then had the nails driven through his hands, wrists and feet and was lifted up to die? Was He afraid? Did He feel alone? What was He desperate for? Probably the same things as you.
Except for one thing.
At your darkest time, you most likely wanted relief from your troubles, comfort to know you weren’t alone, peace to know everything would be okay and love to know that you mattered. At Christ’s darkest time, He wanted you to be relieved from your troubles. He wanted you to find comfort and know you’re not alone. He was desperate for you to find peace and realize everything would be okay. And He was and is desperate for you to feel love so that you can see how much you matter to Him and to your Father in Heaven.
As Jesus Christ suffered in the Garden of Gethsemane and on the cross at Golgotha, His only thoughts were of you and of me and of every single one of us. He wanted nothing more than to be able to take your pain away or at least to know how to comfort you whenever the pain of life becomes too much for you to bear.
One of my favorite hymns is “A Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief” because of the journey it takes you through, and because it clearly speaks of the Savior. As you read, I want you to focus on times when either you’ve been helped or you have helped someone else in need and perhaps how you would have acted differently had you known those people who needed your help were really the Savior.
Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief:
1. A poor, wayfaring Man of grief hath often crossed me on my way, who sued so humbly for relief that I could never answer nay. I had not power to ask his name, whereto he went or whence he came; yet there was something in his eye that won my love; I knew not why.
2. Once, when my scanty meal was spread, he entered; not a word he spake, just perishing for want of bread, I gave him all; he blessed it, brake, and ate, but gave me part again. Mine was an angel’s portion then, for while I fed with eager haste, the crust was manna to my taste.
3. I spied him where a fountain burst clear from the rock; his strength was gone. The heedless water mocked his thirst; He heard it, saw it hurrying on. I ran and raised the sufferer up; Thrice from the stream he drained my cup, dipped and returned it running o’er; I drank and never thirsted more.
4. ‘Twas night; the floods were out; it blew a winter hurricane aloof. I heard his voice abroad and flew to bid him welcome to my roof. I warmed and clothed and cheered my guest and laid him on my couch to rest, then made the earth my bed and seemed in Eden’s garden while I dreamed.
5. Stript, wounded, beaten nigh to death, I found him by the highway side. I roused his pulse, brought back his breath, revived his spirit, and supplied wine, oil, refreshment – he was healed. I had myself a wound concealed, but from that hour forgot the smart, and peace bound up my broken heart.
6. In pris’n I saw him next, condemned to meet a traitor’s doom at morn. The tide of lying tongues I stemmed, and honored him ‘mid shame and scorn. My friendship’s utmost zeal to try, He asked if I for him would die. The flesh was weak; my blood ran chilled, but my free spirit cried, “I will!”
7. Then in a moment to my view the stranger started from disguise. The tokens in his hands I knew; the Savior stood before mine eyes. He spake, and my poor name he named, “of me thou hast not been ashamed. These deeds shall thy memorial be; Fear not, thou didst them unto me.”
Has there ever been a time in your life where someone served you and you knew without a doubt that they were heaven sent during your time of need? Have you ever had a time in your life where YOU have been the one heaven sent to someone else in their time of need? The more that we serve others and allow them to serve us, the closer we come to our Savior. And as we come closer to Jesus Christ, it becomes easier and easier to recognize Him in every day and in every person we meet, including ourselves. Jesus Christ is the center of the Gospel and because of His Atonement that we celebrate today, we can become like Him! We can live again as He does. He will lift us in our trials and He will claim us as His.
Now I want you to imagine one more thing: After witnessing a rather horrifying death of your dearest friend, mentor and brother, you go to visit his grave and realize he isn’t there. You sit there, torn by grief and not knowing what to do or how to overcome this. You’re confused and afraid and you’ve never felt so alone. You don’t know how you can possibly move on without him. You’re desperate for relief from this nightmare, desperate for comfort, for peace, for love. As you sit wondering what to do, how to handle your grief, you hear footsteps softly coming up behind you and a voice asking if you’re okay. Without turning, you simply express your greatest desire: That you want your loved one back. And then you hear it. A single word, spoken with such love and compassion that there is no mistaking who it is as He speaks your name.
If there is one message I want you to get from what I’ve shared today it’s this: That He LIVES! And that our Savior, Jesus Christ, is the one who can bring us the relief, comfort, peace and love that we are so desperate for in our darkest times of life. I wait anxiously and a little impatiently for that day when I can see Him again and hear Him say my name. I know He lives and I know that because He lives, I can live again too. I say these things in His sacred name, even Jesus Christ, amen.
When I gave this talk today, I also performed the piano solo version of this piece by Jon Schmidt as a follow-up and additional testimony that I know my Savior lives: Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief by Jon Schmidt