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

Episode #206 - A Mission to Fulfill

December 04, 2023 Damon Socha Season 1 Episode 206
DEPRESSION, BIPOLAR & ANXIETY - LIVING AS A LATTER-DAY SAINT, LDS
Episode #206 - A Mission to Fulfill
Show Notes Transcript

You have a mission to fulfill in this life.  While you might have difficulties and disadvantages the Lord knows you and can most certainly make up the difference.

Episode #206 – A Mission to Fulfill.  One of my favorite songs this time of year is called “A strange way to save the world.”  It attempts to express what Joseph might have been thinking during the birth of the Savior.  The first verse and chorus express something that I wanted to focus on today.

“A Strange Way to Save the World”

I’m sure he must have been surprised at where this road had taken him.

Cause never in a million lives would he dreamed of Bethlehem.

And standing at the manger he saw with his own eyes.

The message from the angel come to life and Joseph said

Why me, I’m just a simple man of trade.

Why Him with all the rulers in the world

Why here inside this stable filled with hay

Why her, she’s just an ordinary girl

Now I’m not one to second guess what angels have to say

But this is such a strange way to save the world.

 

When you look at Joseph and his calling as the mortal step-father of the Savior, you almost have to declare, why him?  Why would the Lord cause so many disadvantages and weaknesses to occur in his life, if before this life he had been called as the step-father of the Savior.  We know that he was called before the earth was created or at least during that process.  He was given a mission to perform.  And yet the Lord threw significant obstacles in his path that caused serious difficulties for him personally and as a father to the Savior.  Why would the lord do such a thing?  If you are going to give someone a difficult assignment, providing serious weaknesses and stumbling blocks doesn’t make a great deal of sense.  The task is already difficult.  If the Lord is truly supportive, kind, merciful and loving, he could certainly have shown it a little differently with Joseph.  When you consider the birth of the Savior, the attempts at his life even when young, the poverty of Mary & Joseph, and the circumstances surrounding his birth, it doesn’t appear that Father in Heaven is being very supportive.  From the world’s perspective, this isn’t love, mercy or kindness.  It almost appears as though the Father gave the assignment and then left to go work somewhere else in his universe, leaving Joseph to work it out on his own.

What is also interesting is that he did the same thing with Joseph the son of Jacob, Enoch, Moses, Peter, Alma, Joseph Smith and almost every leader mentioned in the scriptures.  Personally, when I am given an assignment at work or I am given an assignment or calling at church, I expect that the person giving the assignment will provide everything needed to accomplish the task and will certainly try to avoid throwing in a few “gotchas” and “stumbling blocks.”  Yet the Lord does not appear to work in that manner.  The Lord appears to prefer weakness, stumbling blocks, and individuals lacking significant skills. It causes me regularly to ask what the individual did in the song.  This is such as strange way to save the world.

We were all formally called to a specific mission before we came into mortality.  Exactly when that occurred isn’t entirely explained in the scriptures but we know that it did take place.  Here are a couple of scriptures denoting our calling.

D&C 138:55-56

55 I observed that they were also among the anoble and great ones who were bchosen in the beginning to be rulers in the Church of God.

56 Even before they were born, they, with many others, received their first alessons in the world of spirits and were bprepared to come forth in the due ctime of the Lord to labor in his dvineyard for the salvation of the souls of men.

 

Abraham 3:22-23

22 Now the Lord had shown unto me, Abraham, the aintelligences that were organized before the world was; and among all these there were many of the bnoble and great ones;

23 And God saw these souls that they were good, and he stood in the midst of them, and he said: These I will make my rulers; for he stood among those that were spirits, and he saw that they were good; and he said unto me: Abraham, thou art one of them; thou wast achosen before thou wast born.

 

We know that we received a calling pre-mortality.  We also know that individuals were called to set up countries and governments including the U.S. for the gospel to flourish.  So our calling likely extends beyond what we might refer to a spiritual things.  Our calling can and does include what might be termed more temporary endeavors such as being a teacher, counselor, doctor or whatever your profession and ambition might entail.  We also know that we developed talents and were trained before this earth life so that we could complete our callings and missions.  We were provided all the tools, training and experience necessary to complete our missions.  Strikingly the Lord also included our various weaknesses in our calling.  He not only trained us in all the tools, information and knowledge we needed to complete our calling, but he provided all of the conditions under which that calling would occur.  Meaning quite simply that he provided for our weaknesses, the conditions under which we were born, our access to education and other temporal advantages.  He saw everything that would occur in our lives and provided an environment in which we could accomplish our mission.  The Lord has dictated every detail.  Although we are not likely to see things as he does.  Our weaknesses genetic, traumatic and otherwise that have caused our mental health challenges were all foreseen by the Lord.  He knew exactly what would occur in our lives to a high level of detail and yet even foreseeing our disadvantages he called us to specific missions.  He knew ultimately that he could make up the difference, no matter our disadvantages and difficulties.

Now you might be thinking that this feels a great deal like destiny, that the Lord has dictated everything in our lives and yet we as a church do not believe in destiny because it negates our agency to choose.  I admit it can feel that way.  However, our agency is not forfeited because we are able to choose to opt in or out of our mission.  We have the ability to choose how and when we opt in and how fully we participate in our earthly missions.  Once we opt in we accept the conditions proposed before this earth including all weaknesses, limitations and requirements we were to meet.  This is basically what we do when we make our covenants including baptism, confirmation, the priesthood and the temple covenants which include the law of consecration found in the endowment.  When we accepted the covenant of baptism we had most certainly accepted our mission that must be performed.  When we get married we opt into our companions mission and to support their mission.  When we have children we opt into their missions and part of our mission is to help others see and complete their own personal missions.  Not only are we called to specific missions but we are called to help others with their missions.  Missions are rarely given as independent callings.  Think of Joseph without Emma.  Or perhaps Mary without Joseph.  Think of Nephi without Sam or Laman and Lemuel.  Generally speaking our missions are in nearly every circumstance woven into the fabric of the lives of those who surround us.

Our missions will be very specific as to timing, place, events, weaknesses, relationships and every detail is planned by the Lord.  Nothing is left out.  Naturally our missions will always include the relationships of those with whom we associate throughout our lives.  More importantly our missions include our family relationships and their missions.  A mother and father naturally have the tutoring and training of their children within their mission upon the earth.  Our family in the sense of our brothers and sisters, our parents, our spouse and our children are always the primary mission.  And yet each of us will have many more responsibilities to accomplish beyond these relationships.  So often we speak of missions from a more global perspective, from a high level.  And yet even for those high level missions to be accomplished the Lord has to be deep into the details.  The Lord must know and direct the details of our lives in order to provide the necessary pathways to complete his work.  The Lord works by small and simple means to bring about the larger purposes in our lives.

You have a mission to fulfill.  You have a calling.  I have felt many times that my mental health challenges may have in some way been a hinderance to my earthly mission.  That somehow because of my challenges, the Lord has caused another to fill my shoes.  And yet I have been told almost as many times as I have doubted that the mental health challenges were already in the plan.  They were not an obstacle to my mission but in some strange way a part of my mission.  I have also too often perceived my earthly mission in a more church calling type of vision.  That the Lord was not necessarily concerned with my career or other pursuits such as this podcast and advocacy for various important causes.  However, what I have found is that the Lord is very interested in all our pursuits including our hobbies, our causes and our worthy pursuits.  The Lord has regularly directed where I should spend my time, even on more earthly pursuits.  Without such inspiration, I would never have pursued working as a high school referee or umpire.  I would never have taken up painting and art.  I would not likely have pursued playing the piano.  While the Lord will most certainly give us latitude with what we desire to pursuit, he also wants to be involved.  And it is more than simple involvement.  The Lord wants to direct and help augment our building of necessary skills and gifts through personal revelation.

So your mission includes the entirety of your life, not just your church callings.  The Lord wants to reveal those gifts you possess to you and to help you develop them so that you might benefit others.  Often the way that he helps us develop our gifts is through our trials and weaknesses.  When something is easy for us, we tend not to work at it.  When it is a challenge, we will put more time and effort into learning the basic and more advanced skills.  When psychologist and science has studied experts in their fields of pursuit, they have found that natural talent and ability does not predict we will become and expert.  Actually, they have found a 10,000 hour rule.  Meaning individuals who work at their skill and gift are far more likely to become professionals and experts rather than a naturally talented and gifted person.  So when our pursuits are difficult, we should take it as a sign that the Lord is involved.

One of the main ways we can manage our mental health is the pursuit of worthy goals and hobbies.  When we have a goal and something we love to pursue in our lives, it can provide meaning especially if we share our gifts with others.  Now having said all of those wonderful things about our earthly missions, I realize how difficult it can be to have worthy pursuits, goals, hobbies and to have our mental health intervene and cause us to have little to no desire to accomplish them.  I know how difficult it is to hold a church calling always wondering if you will ever be able to fulfill it.  I know the pain of looking at an empty canvas and not really feeling any desire to paint.  I know the feeling as a father suffering through an episode of depression or anxiety and unable to really help my wife or my children with their concerns.  I know those darker moments when you feel helpless and hopeless.

There exists a Lucifer trap with our missions and those worthy pursuits that I will call the guilt corral.  When we come to know portions of our earthly missions, and we have worth goals and efforts to pursue but our mental health gets in the way, we can feel guilty about our weakness and inability to contribute.  We can feel terrible about saying “no” or “I can’t” to a service opportunity.  We can get ourselves into this endless guilt corral where we are consistently feeling that we are letting the Lord down in our lives.  We never feel like we are ever enough, ever doing enough or ever good enough for the Lord.  We just keep a consistent level of guilt.  Naturally depression and anxiety only heightens the effect of guilt.  And so we spend our days hoping to be something that we are not.  We live in a fantasy world where we want to accomplish great many things and be engaged in life and see ourselves fulfilling our calling and magnifying our efforts.  We consistently compare ourselves to this fantasy life, where we compare what we believe we should be doing to what we really can and are doing.  We do not see the obstacles we are overcoming just to accomplish the work we are doing.  We never recognize the good work we are doing despite the disadvantages of our illness.  We only focus what we can’t do.  We focus so consistently on what we are not doing that the guilt erases every moment of joy we could experience.  We don’t allow ourselves to say that we have done enough, or perhaps better said allow the Lord to say “Well done thou good and faithful servant.  You have been faithful over few things, I will make thee ruler over many things.”  We are essential putting words in the Lord’s mouth saying.  “You have not well done. You have failed to accomplish so many things, that I can’t let you rule over anything.”  

I do understand, we are taught to lengthen our stride and to go the extra mile.  When the prophets and Lord dictated that command he was referring to those who had the extra capacity, who had the gifts and the talents but had simply not chosen to develop them.  Remember the woman at the treasury who cast in two shekels.  The Lord accepted the two shekels stating that the woman had gone the second mile with those shekels.  The Lord could have given any resource to this wonderful woman.  He could have made her rich like the others but he didn’t and her sacrifice was accepted as though she had given a significant some.  It is not the quantity of the gift or the sacrifice, it is the quality that is important.  Quality takes into account our effort when compared to our capacity.  Our small gifts when we suffered debilitating illness are counted as though we had given a great quantity of gifts.  The Lord is not concerned with the quantity because it is the quality of the gift, our faith, our efforts compared to our capacity that matter to the Lord.  The Lord is omnipotent and has command of the universe. He can most certainly make up any difference that is caused by our illness.

So why did the Lord allow for Joseph to have so many weaknesses and limitations.  Because the Lord could make up the difference and in so doing bring forth miracles.  So often miracles come because we have limited capacity but we do our part anyway, no matter how small or insignificant it is.  The miracle is the Lord’s part and he enjoys providing miracles.  There exists no miracle counter where you will run out of miracles.  The Lord desires us to have them, to seek them out and to find him in the process.  The reality of miracles is that is how the Lord draws us to him.  When we realize our weaknesses and limitations, and then do what we can, the Lord can show us his power and we can find greater faith in him.

So the next time your illness drags you through the mire and you are circling the guilt corral remember that is not where the Lord wants you to be.  If you are doing your part and doing what you can he accepts the sacrifice.  I realize that defining “doing your part and doing what you can” may be problematic and a little vague.  I realize that the question is always present in our minds asking if we are doing enough, if we are doing fully our part.  The answer to that question is easy.  The Lord is merciful.  As you work to understand your limitations and fulfill your mission, the Lord will quietly say well done though good and faithful servant.  That includes even when we might not put in all the effort we should have.  Sure the Lord may tell us that we could have done a little more, but he will always be grateful for the sacrifice.  However, the Lord will never place us in the guilt corral chained and running in circles never really feeling whole and valuable.  I am most certain that the woman who gave the shekels did not feel valuable at the time she gave, especially considering the great sums others were giving.  But she did know that the Lord cared for her.  I have always hoped that the Savior later ministered to her, thanking her for her sacrifice and letting her know just how much he valued her offering and how much he loved her for her service.  Celestial life will not be full of individuals who had great capacity and gave much, the reality is that most of those who will obtain celestial life will be those who were disadvantaged, limited and incapacitated by weakness and illness and who gave what they could even though it seemed very meager at the time.  Whatever your mission, whatever your calling, seek it out and enjoy doing what you can.  The Lord accepts our efforts and he know our capacity to give.  May the Lord bless you this week and keep you safely in his arms.  Until next week do your part so that the Lord can do his.