DEPRESSION, BIPOLAR & ANXIETY - LIVING AS A LATTER-DAY SAINT, LDS

Episode #194 - Angels & Ordinary Lives

September 03, 2023 Damon Socha Season 1 Episode 194
DEPRESSION, BIPOLAR & ANXIETY - LIVING AS A LATTER-DAY SAINT, LDS
Episode #194 - Angels & Ordinary Lives
Show Notes Transcript

You might be surprised to know just how often the Lord comes to those with Ordinary Lives and just how often the angels from beyond the veil visit us to offer comfort and hope.

Episodes #194 – Angels & Ordinary Lives.  Before I begin talking about his idea, I want you to understand that I feel myself very ordinary in almost every way.  I have had some wonderful experiences and obviously some difficult trials.  But I have always felt middle of the pack ordinary.  There exists no real outstanding achievement in my life scholastically, socially or through my career.  I have wonderful extraordinary children and yet from the world’s standard that are also quite normal and ordinary.   It is also important to understand that most of us feel this way.  We feel very ordinary or because our illness lessens our capacity and our capability we may feel less than ordinary.  Feeling ordinary in a society where comparison is the mode of operation is actually very human.  Our brain by its very set-up and nature uses comparisons all the time.  We are wired to think in comparisons.  The problem with comparisons that we make is that we regularly make them without all the information needed to make informed comparisons.  So our mind works on faulty information comparing our lives to those around us and we then seem ordinary or even subpar most of the time.  The problem is only amplified when we use social media for those comparisons. Because then we are comparing our entire life with all its mistakes, errors and sin to a modified online life showing only the sunny mistake free days.  We post the good on our social media pages but we generally don’t post those moments that led us to those good days.  All the trial, error, frustration, mistakes that led to our success tends to be private, as if by acknowledging it we somehow lessen the perfect sunny days.  Sunny beautiful days don’t come without experiencing the cold rainy ones.   We know how wonderful that perfect sunny day is because we have experienced moments that have allowed us to see just how many mistake filled rainy days it takes to get to one sunny one.  Just how few those sunny days are and the multitude of rainy ones gives us understanding and perspective.  Ordinary lives that come from ordinary days, ordinary weeks and ordinary months allow us to enjoy the extra ordinary ones and find great joy in them.  Joy is much sweeter once you know the painful reality of unhappiness.  With that idea, I think it is important to show how Christ felt about ordinary lives who have learned difficult lessons.

There is a story many of us know well in the New Testament.  As Christ is beginning his mission or at least in the early stages of it.  He travels north to Galilee and instead of taking the long route which would have kept him in Jewish territory, he specifically chose to travel through Samaria.  A land the Jew felt was unclean.  We find that he had a purpose in his decision as he always did.  As he traveled, he and the disciples stopped outside of a town close to Jacob’s well.  His disciples left to find food and he was left alone at the well.  While there a Samaritan women approached the well to obtain water.  Initially we know very little about her as the Savior begins a conversation and then provides a witness of his divinity.  In the end, we find her life is not in a good place.  She has struggled through relationships and was currently living outside of marriage.  Being that she is alone at the well, it is also possible that life has left her without many friends or family to help.  Certainly she must be lonely and given what was about to happen in her life, I assume that her day had not gone well.  In fact, she might have been having one of those weeks.  And now some stranger is asking her questions and then revealing her intimate life to her.  I could imagine her saying, “Could this day get any better?”  I find it hopeful and encouraging that the Savior chose this wonderful woman to be the first witness in Samaria of his ministry and mission.  Her life was a mess.  She probably felt like the last person the Christ would visit and give her a witness of his divine mission and to testify of him.  I am certain that walking to the well she had probably given up all hope.  She was the black sheep of the black sheep family.  Samaritans at this time were consider worse than Romans, unclean, unfit and their mixed blood was of no value to the Jewish kingdom of heaven. It seems that Christ shows up in these moments in life when we have found that our trials whether by outside forces or our own choices have broken us down to the very core.  We feel lost, broken, confused and hopeless. We feel like we are unfit, unworthy, and of little value to the kingdom.  It is even true that we may feel that the Savior does not even care that God does not exist and we have found hell even though we are doubting that heaven exists.  There she was broken and beaten by life walking to a well as she had done so many times before not even knowing what she was about to experience.  

And yet he chose her to be his first witness.  The person that no one would ever expect.  A walking set of weaknesses, faults and even perhaps illnesses that certainly could barely provide for its own life much less be something the Savior could use.  And yet she stood before the Savior of the world.  Many, a great many righteous individuals, would have given anything to be where she was at that moment, alone with the Savior, obtaining a person witness of his divinity.  She is in some ways a hero to me.  Someone in whom I can see myself at times.  The idea that the Savior would come to her and make her his witness fills me with greater hope.

I admit to reading a great deal of church books.  I enjoy the doctrine of the church and I listen and read regularly.  However, I have always struggled with the biographies of church leaders.  I have struggled deeply to identify with them.  I have rarely finished a biography of one of the major church leaders.  My life in the sense of what I have accomplished professionally and even spiritually does not compare very well to theirs.  And when I say not very well, I mean not hardly at all.  I only made it through about half of Elder Oaks biography before I couldn’t read any further.  He had done more by the time he was thirty years old than I will accomplish in my life.  

Now I get it.  I know the doctrine of the church.  I know what the Savior has said.  We shouldn’t compare ourselves to others.  We should judge righteous judgment and that includes ourselves.  We shouldn’t attempt to see how we are doing in life by seeing how much others have accomplished.  I know this.  I understand it and yet I can’t finish a biography.  You see our minds are set up to compare.  This is how we judge ourselves.  We need a standard.  Someone that we can look to and say.  Yeah I think that I am doing just fine.  We need someone to identify with that we can say to ourselves if the Lord is pleased with them, then I have a shot at celestial life.  Whether wrong or right we tend to look to living standards when we want to know if we are going to be able to obtain exaltation.  We also need someone that has experienced something similar to ourselves.  So we need two things to feel as though we may have a chance of eternal life and we are consistently attempting to find them subconsciously or consciously.  We need someone like ourselves with similar experiences and we need to feel like they have a good chance of making it to celestial life and exaltation.  Something akin to if she can be exalted then I feel like I might have a chance.  That is why we tend to look to the general authorities and officers of the church.  Whether true or not we tend to think that they are going to make it.  And so it gives us great hope when we can see someone just like us who has had similar life experience and is serving in such a position.  

I think that this is probably my difficulty with biographies of general church leaders.  I struggle to see their lives as anything like mine.  So often they appear so accomplished, motivated, educated and different from my life.  I admit that I struggle to see myself in the same kingdom.  The reason I say this is because I feel that many of us do feel this way.  It is a part of our lives and yes we understand that we shouldn’t compare but I admit that it would be nice to see at least one general authority who has struggled through a lifetime of mental health challenges and other limiting factors.  

I think that is why I love the New Testament so much.  The woman at the well, the fishermen disciples, the children the Savior loved so much, the lepers, the blind and halt.  He seemed to be consistently with these individuals lifting them up.  Caring for them.  Weeping with them.  I have always liked to think and have often even stated that I believe that the administration of the church the Lord leaves to his Spirit and the Brethren on this side of the veil and the other.  The Lord himself chooses to minister to women and men such as this Samaritan woman, those of us who suffer deeply in this life and even the next.  I can’t imagine him doing anything else.  

Now we logically know that he cannot be with every person all the time.  So I have a personal theory that tends to hold some credibility within the doctrine of the church.  When the Lord cannot be there himself, he sends others from both sides of the veil.  These are not strangers but those who love us deeply and care for us.  I really think that one of the major ideas the Savior wanted to teach to us about the woman at the well is that he comes for us and ministers to us when our lives have been broken, beat, busted and battered.  He came to this woman in her need, traveling an uncommon route to get to her.  She was out of his way but not out of his reach.  I have had this impressed upon me recently with a personal experience.  He sends others regularly from the other side of the veil to comfort us, teach us and yes hold us while we suffer and grieve.  When the storms of life are at their most violent, he seems to come to rescue, restore and lift us.

I have had the experience recently with a couple of family members struggling through deep trials.  When this has occurred, it seems those who have passed on have come to minister and love.  These people still hold us dear and suffer when we do.  So often it is our family that comes to us from the other side.  They cry with us. Listen to our struggles. And do what is in their power to provide comfort, peace and understanding.  My wife’s mother has often visited us in times of need as she passed away several years ago along with my wife’s brother.  I have often felt my great-grandparents, and my grandmother standing beside me in those moments when life seems to deal those crushing blows.

I suppose that some refer to these moments as guardian angel moments but I prefer the term ministering angels.  Angels come to ordinary people regularly, especially when we suffer deeply.  I feel that this is an important concept when we suffer with mental illness.  To say that we are alone is simply not true.  When we suffer, the Lord sends his angels or comes himself.  Like this woman at the well, who likely felt she would be the last person the Savior would visit or even care about, we find that the Savior cares for us immensely and continues his ministry albeit in a more subtle way.  He is there beside us always, whether himself or another who is close to us.  Part of the mission of those who have passed on is to continue to minster to those who remain.  These moments are often sacred ones when we feel and know that they are present in the room with us and the Spirit speaks those words that they are there ministering to our needs.

Now I would like to move to a different by related topic.  I have been somewhat of a fan of the television show “The Chosen”.  I have returned to a moment in those episodes time and time again as I have watched them.  I have a favorite story in the New Testament.  It is the healing of the man at the pool of Bethesda.  This man who had been paralyzed for many years was in many ways similar to the Samaritan woman.  He had no thought that his day would come.  That the Savior of the world would minister personally to him.  It was just another day at this frustrating pool.  No doubt like this woman, his life felt worthless to him.  He was of little value to a Jewish society that so often marginalized those who had flaws.  And it was likely that the day Jesus arrived to minister was not a good one.  And yet in a moment of time and without expectation, the Savior was standing in front of him.  I have always enjoyed the conversation between the Savior and this man in the series.  There is one moment during their conversation where the Savior and this man talk about the water and what it really means.  The man talks about the water as his source of hope and yet he knows deep down that the water holds only false hope.  And yet he remains by the water because even false hope is better than no hope.  The Savior’s response to him has caused me to think about what those waters might be in my life.  The Savior stated in that portion of the movie something profound.  He said to the man.  “You know that those waters hold nothing for you.  And yet you are still here?  Why?”  The man replies almost crying out. “I don’t know.”  Sometimes when the storms of life have blown over us like a hurricane, destroying everything we have in our lives, we hold onto anything that gives us hope, even a false hope.  

When our lives have been beaten by our illness and we have been led down difficult roads, it seems that when hope is lost, the Savior suddenly appears and he gives us true hope and encouragement.  He helps us see our true value and worth.  He picks us up from our false hopes and shattered dreams and gives us new hope and new dreams to dream.  He sends angels from the other side and when the time is right he himself comes to us and heals us of those seemingly endless moments of doubt, distrust, loneliness and isolation.  He does know us and will go out of his way to find us.  The key to it all is that we must be willing to receive him when he comes.  We must be willing to let go of false hopes and place our trust and hope in him.  That is no easy task when we have been ostracized and feel transparent to those around us.  And when our illness drags us down to the gulf of misery.  Yet of all the important things that Savior probably needed to do at that moment, he visited a lonely and downtrodden woman, walking to a well having no idea that today was her day.  He visited a man whose only hope was now superstitious bubbles in a well.  Their lives had not gone as they expected or hoped.  Both were lost in a sea of doubt, defeat and resignation to their fate.  However, in a moment, when they least expected it, he was there offering his healing witness and his power to them.

 

The Lord does choose the weak things of this earth to break down the might and strong ones.  Until then, we should know that we are as worthy as they are for admittance into the kingdom of heaven.  Mental and emotional illness does not bar us from celestial life.  I think in the end we might find that it provided means by which we were able to obtain it.  Until then may those angels from the other side of the veil find you frequently.  Until next week.  Do you part so that the Lord can do his.