I listened with great intent to Elder Jeffrey R. Holland’s talk “Lord, I Believe”. Just the topic struck my interest. When I was struggling with anxiety while praying I often said to myself and the Lord over and over “help thou my unbelief.” Because it brought me great comfort to know that the Lord would accept me where I was at now.
President Dieter F. Uchtdorf in his talk “The Hope of God’s Light” said “how do we open our eyes to the light of Christ? First start where you are.” He continued to explain “in fact the heavens begin to part and the blessings of heaven begin to distill upon us with the very first steps we take towards the light.” As I read this statement here on this post I start to cry, with the very first setps. “The perfect place to begin is exactly where you are right now… The very moment you begin to seek your Heavenly Father in that moment the hope of his light will begin awaking, and enliven and ennoble your soul. The darkness may not dissipate all at once, but as surly as night always gives way to dawn the light will come.”
Here in these last two posts I am talking as though these events are quite in my past. But from an onlooker I am sure they would see that it is very much still part of my present. It is a process, and I am moving in a direction, and I am looking back at what is recently behind me. Very recently. For perspective, it was just yesterday morning that I commented to my husband “guess what?” I told him “I don’t feel anxiety any more when I pray now.” Indeed this is my very recent past.
It use to be that just thinking of praying made me feel panic, fear and dread. Why you may ask? Well, lets just talk about why in general I have been struggling with the church. My father was taught me a corrupted gospel. I can not think to write much more then that, for I am even now being overcome with anxiety as I start to think of it. In addition to that I remembered a time when I was twelve and I prayed mightily to the Lord to be rescued from my father by the L.D.S. Church. I had a meeting with the Steak President and it was a disaster, I was not rescued. Now in my adult life as I process these memories my faith and testimony were greatly rocked. Of course they were rocked… no that is not strong enough, they were shattered on the sharp rocks of horrible memories. Because of this and many other things I can not write, I feared prayer.
From the moment I thought of prayer my brain fogged up because it buzzed with anxiety. As I knelt down to pray my breathing increased and my chest burnt from fear. Once I started to pray I was so overcome by anxiety I could not think straight. The longer I prayed the more I heard my fathers abusive teachings play over and over in my head. Or I cried inside and asked the Lord why he abandoned me when I was twelve. Most prayers ended with me doubled over and crying, or slumping in exhaustion and despair. I wondered what was wrong with me, why could I not pray.
To this day I see a counselor on a regular basis, his name is Fred. He is also LDS, though he does not ever preach to me about religion. During these hard times, and even now still, he reminds me to patiently continue to confront my fears and eventually the anxiety will decrease and these things will become easier. But I did not start out the hero. For months I avoided praying, and figured praying was for other people that I was defective and I could not pray. Then eventually I chose to try to tackle prayer.
I started out by making my prayer as short as possible. As soon as I thought of praying, rather then moving slowly through the actions I would quickly start my prayer. Then I would say the shortest prayer possible, at first just one sentence and then bring the prayer to a quick end. I still felt great anxiety, I still felt totally overcome with dizziness, but the duration was shorter. After that I presume that eventually it got easier to say more then one sentence, and grew until praying was comfortable again. I don’t remember the specifics in between. I remember the beginning and doubting I would ever feel at peace with prayer again. But it must have worked, for now I find myself, with surprise, praying again.
My experience has been very much like what Dieter F. Uchtdorf said. “yes from time to time our lives may seem… to be touched by or even wrapped by darkness. Sometimes the night that surrounds us will appear oppressive disheartening and frightening. My heart grieves and sorrows for the trials some of you face, for the painful loneliness and worrisome fears that you may be experiencing. Never the less I bear witness that our living hope is in Jesus Christ he is the true pure and powerful entrance to divine enlightenment I testify that with Christ darkness can not succeed. Darkness will not gain victory over the light of Christ. I bear witness that darkness can not stand before the brilliant light of the sun of living God.