Friday, September 11, 2009

Cast Not Away Your Confidence

I am still in the midst of a very difficult part of my life. Unlike most difficulties in my past, this is not short-lived, nor will it simply disappear in time. Part of what makes it difficult is that I am very prone to putting myself in another's place, and of feeling deeply another's pain. One might say this is no vice, but it means that others' opinions of me matter far more than my own, and that I constantly doubt myself and who I am before God. For the past year or so, I have come to realize that God is not susceptable to others' opinions of Him. Therefore, I see that the gift of empathy in me has become rather corrupted, modeling an attribute that is not of God and serves to give the Adversary a wedge to drive between me and my Maker.

Only last night, after I struggled to communicate what I am feeling without sabotaging another's opportunities, and feeling as if I failed miserably, I surrendered to painful self-reflection. I realized that I am separated from my God right now by a keen lack of confidence in myself before Him. Although I can logically look at my life, and see that I have done right in the sight of God, I have been emotionally damaged to the point where I have trouble believing it, and find myself seeking others' validation. I spent a sleepless night pondering my place in His eyes, and pleading with Him to help me understand whatever it is I am not understanding. I felt prompted to read my scriptures in the middle of the night, and was directed to Hebrews 10 and 11.

"Cast not away therefore your confidence, which hath great recompence of reward. For ye have need of patience that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise."

This was painful to me, because it is exactly what I fear: that I have not done the will of God despite all my attempts to do so, that somehow in the end all my efforts will not be enough.

I read on to chapter 11, which speaks of faith as the substance of things hoped for, etc. This is a very familiar passage to me, but this time I noticed several breaks in the usual narrative. The first was that "without faith it is impossible to please [God]: for he that cometh to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him."

The power of this verse struck me deeply. I may not be right, I may not have done everything the way I might wish to have done it, there is no way for me to know for sure. Yet one thing I know: that I have done my best to seek God and His will. It does not say that God rewards those who are perfect, it says that he rewards those who seek Him. The promises that He has made to me, which now seem like dust, are not dead as I fear. I am in His hands. My life is in His hands. My struggle to forgive as new wounds are inflicted is known to Him. He has seen me struggle to feed my children and make ends meet, He has seen me try my best to turn the other cheek and not revile again, He has seen my pain as those in authority are blinded by rationalization. He has seen how much work and effort I put in to make things in my life work the way they were supposed to work, and has guided me through learning that it is time to take another path.

The scripture says later that Sarah, Abraham's wife, had Isaac because she "judged him faithful who had promised." In other words, God had promised rich blessings, as He has to me, and I have worked hard to make myself the sort of person who can receive those blessings. It is in Him to make it happen. It speaks of Abraham's seed who "confess themselves strangers and pilgrims on the earth," as I have often felt, because they seek "a better country . . . a heavenly [country]." Because Abraham believed the Lord, he went to sacrifice his only son, believing that God would raise him again because God had promised that in him Abraham would have his seed.

Chapter twelve begins with a final poignant thought for me, "Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, (rather as I am,) let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us." In other words, set aside the worries and cares, and do not let yourself be separated from God. "And let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith . . . . For consider Him that endured such contradiction of sinners against Himself, let ye be wearied and faint in your minds. Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin. And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord . . . for whom the Lord loveth, He chasteneth . . . ." And if you endure chastening, you belong to God.

It does not matter that, despite the truth of my claims, the evidence of which will likely never be reviewed by those who matter, and the infamy of the opposition, they seem to be believed. I know the truth. They know the truth. Most importantly, God knows the truth, and I can keep my confidence in Him who has promised.


  1. SilverRain, thank you for sharing your struggles and especially for showing your faith in dealing with them.

    The other scripture that comes to mind is D&C 121: Let thy bowels be full of charity toward all men...and let virtue garnish thy thoughts unceasingly, then shall thy confidence wax strong in the presence of God...

    Hang in there SilverRain and know that God's love for you and all of us is infinite.

  2. I thought you'd be talking about Elder Holland's talk about this.

    He has two others that may be good for you. "No matter how long and hard the road" and "for times of trouble" which I have oftened listened to for comfort and support.

  3. Thank you for your beautiful post and thoughts.

    I would really implore you to read the talk entitled Believing Christ by Stephen Robinson

    Also, another great talk by Elder Holland is his most recent And None Were With Him talk which I also think is helpful and inspiring.

    All the best

    Daniel Ortner

  4. You beautifully express my own struggles. I just want to turn my back on the nagging of the adversary and the deception of the world and press forward with confidence that Heavenly Father loves me and I'm doing a good job. I'm certain you are acceptable--He wants you to trust in His unconditional love.

  5. "exactly what I fear: that I have not done the will of God despite all my attempts to do so, that somehow in the end all my efforts will not be enough."

    Isn't that part of the point of mortality? To understand that our efforts are not enough? That is the reason that Christ is so essential. No matter what we do, it is not enough. In fact, the system is designed that way. We need to recognize this, and submit to it.

    Not that it is some easy thing to do...but the reward at the end is more than we could ever hope for.

  6. I understand this journey to a great extent, and while I know you have to find the confidence from God, know that I read this and nod my head. Learning to really hear and feel and trust God's way and voice and love is such a tremendous journey. And not always so easy, esp with lots of opposition along the way, from within and without.

    To Robin's point, I think that confidence before God is only possible through the Atonement...but Robin, if you read other posts, you will see how much SilverRain understands this, too.

    As you say, though, it is one thing to understand it, it's another thing to live it.

    AND it's yet another thing to do all of that when so many external voices and forces and the messiness of your life seem to be saying that you aren't even worthy of grace. When the voices in your own head have been joined by simply unfair, unjust, unkind situations and voices around.

    Humility is one thing, but self-hatred and doubt and hopelessness are quite another. Sometimes it's actually too easy to think self-punishing guilt is from God. Or that others' criticism is not exactly what God would be saying. To learn to trust Him and hear HIS voice amid all of that is no. small. thing.

    I think Silver knows that she needs to lean on the Lord, but a significant part of that is learning to really discern what voices are speaking truth, to learn to discern light from darkness in all the forces acting on you. To learn to have confidence in the Light.

    Silver, you are doing wonderfully well in this. It's so hard when the learning experience is so painful. But I have confidence in you, and what you share rings so true w/ my own experiences and the truths that are CHANGING my life. Hang in there. Know you are loved.

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  8. I needed this today. Life is overwhelming, I struggle with the same feelings.

    Then I try serve others and the aftermath feels like sandbags tied to my ankles. Am I only serving out of guilt and/or because I care what others think of me? That is a question I need to reflect on very seriously. It is tied to that idea of God not being susceptable to others' opinions of Him.

    Really this post is beautiful, another layer to a common concept, like m&m said. The scriptures you shared are wonderful. I'm glad to "see" you :)

    I do belong to God, I am determined, but I still ask if this cup can be taken from me.

  9. I have been searching for a way to express my appreciation for this post for several days. I think you have struck a chord that resonates with many of us, even if we are not now in the midst of the kind of overwhelming struggle you are experiencing.
    As I was rereading your post just now, and focusing on the confidence in God that you emphasized in your final sentence, the final verse of the song "Pilgrims' Hymn (sung by the Tabernacle Choir in their album "Consider the Lilies") came to my mind:
    Even with darkness sealing us in,
    We breathe thy name.
    And through all the days that follow so fast,
    We trust in thee.
    Endless thy grace, O endless thy grace,
    Beyond all mortal dream.
    Both now and forever,
    And unto ages and ages,

  10. For the past year or so, I have come to realize that God is not susceptable to others' opinions of Him.

    I'm glad that is coming home to you, wish you well in finding meaning and hope.

  11. Oh my goodness, what a wonderful and sensitive post.

    SilverRain, if you can say, "yet one thing I know: that I have done my best to seek God and His will" then all is well with you. There is nothing wrong with you--morally speaking. You are good through and through.

    I've had a similar struggle--and it wasn't until I learned that my problems were rooted in anxiety that I was able to begin to treat it with some positive results. It wasn't too long ago that I was practically living through other people. I had difficulty identifying my own sensibilities at times -- so powerful were the opinions of others in my mind. There was a compulsive element in it -- I had no choice but to act contrary to my own natural biases in order to fulfill those looming expectations. In fact, that's the way I lived my religion for so many years -- under the dreaded weight of compulsion. Just recently, my therapist made it clear to me that I had been struggling with a classic case of OCD -- directed at religion! The great difficulty was that I could not tell the difference between what come from above and the compulsion in my mind -- well there was a difference but I couldn't see that they came from different sources. And it's a terrifying thing when one conflates an anxiety induced compulsion with God's wishes.

    Anyway, perhaps I've said too much. I don't know you and certainly won't pretend that my difficulties are perfectly analogous to yours. But what I can say in all confidence is that you seem to be good -- acceptable to God -- but in the process of managing an enormous burden that has been placed upon you because of difficult circumstances. Don't confuse the two! Your goodness is a manifestation of the real you. The burden induces something that is based in fear and is a lie. I would summarily dismiss anything that causes self doubt or feels compulsive in any degree.

    God is mild and allows a wide swath of good when it comes to how we manage our own lives. You're good. You're freer than you know to creatively express that good.



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