Ep. 24 - Overcoming Anxiety
Hi everyone. Welcome to the Latter-Day Disciples podcast. I’m excited to be joined today by Julie Hawkes. Julie is a creator and owner of Life Balance and is a mentor, speaker and energy coach. She has helped hundreds of people reconnect to their hearts and God, have better relationships, manage anxiety and depression, and reach their goals.
She’s passionate about what she does and gets so excited about the changes clients see in just a short time after working with her.
Julie’s deep love of the scriptures began 20 years ago when she got called to be the gospel doctrine teacher and panicked because she didn’t know or understand what she was required to teach. When it was time to teach the Old Testament she stood in front of the class and asked them to pray for her because she felt like reading the Old Testament was like trying to read and understand Russian. She didn’t understand any of it. As she studied, she learned so much and felt so much peace that it fundamentally changed her life and created a lifelong love of the scriptures and the answers that can be found within.
Julie was raised in southeast Idaho and she has seven children and one grandson. She met her husband at the local grocery store and was tricked into going out with him. What a happy trick. They have been married almost 31 years now. Julie loves sushi, chocolate, and mountain biking, which sounds like the perfect combination to me.
Julie: It is. It’s a lot of fun. I like to have fun.
Meghan: Well, Julie, thank you so much for joining us today. So I wanted to invite you on to talk about the topic of anxiety, we live in a day when mental health is something that is almost universally experienced and there are so many challenges surrounding it, obviously. I think there are a lot of challenges with the topic of anxiety as it pertains to the last days and to preparing for the Savior and a lot of the hard things that are going to happen beforehand. So can you start us off by giving a little bit of your background and what your life experience has been in regards to anxiety?
Julie: I’ll start with when I first got diagnosed with anxiety. I think I dealt with anxiety most of my life, but I didn’t really know it. When I was in my twenties, my brother passed away in an accident. He was out sailing with my dad and he fell out of the boat and he drowned and his wife was expecting their first baby. He was only 23 years old. And I just couldn’t wrap my brain around why something could–why, like why would God let something like that happen? And at the same time, we were struggling, my husband and I financially, we had some big challenges that way happening. And I had four small children. They were ages 9, 7, 5, and 2. And all of these things, it was just like this big catalyst, losing my brother and everything just fell apart all at once and I became so overwhelmed with so much anxiety that I couldn’t function through my day. So we have this–in my living room, we have a fireplace and it has a stone ledge, and I would sit on the little ledge of the fireplace and I would just cry all day. I was so afraid of what might happen. And so afraid of what might go wrong, and I had all of this anxiety. I didn’t know what to do with it. And one day it was shortly after my brother passed away– it was my daughter’s birthday–and I remember her coming up to me and tugging on my pants and saying, “Mama, because Matt died, does that mean I don’t get a birthday?”
And it shattered my heart. I felt so bad because I was in no way, shape or form in any way able to put on a birthday party for her. But I felt like it wasn’t fair for her to miss her birthday and so I planned the birthday party, but then I couldn’t do it. So my friend came over and she ran the birthday party and she played the games and she gave them cake and they opened presents. And I just sat on my little fireplace and cried through the whole thing.
And my mom said to me one day, “Julie, You have to get better. Your kids need you.” And I knew that she was right, and I knew that I needed to, but I didn’t know how and I didn’t know what to do. And so I started to get help. I decided right then that I was going to do whatever it took so that I could do better, so I could feel better so I could take care of my kids. And so I went to the doctor and I got diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder. I got on some medication. I started some therapy. And those things helped. They did. And I started to be more functional and I started to be able to take care of my kids. But the challenge was that while it helped a little bit, I still felt scared inside all the time, and I still worried all the time, and I was still just one step away from feeling like I was going to fall apart again.
And so I spent the next 17 years studying anxiety, learning everything I could about it, trying all the different things, figuring out what worked and what didn’t. And I came across some things that actually really work to help manage those worries, to help manage some of that stuff that’s happening inside of us so that we can feel better, so that we can have peace, and so that we can fulfill our mission and purpose in life.
And so one of the biggest fundamental changes that happened for me is when I learned how to access the Atonement of our Savior, Jesus Christ so that I could have his power to help me to get through the day and to do the things that I couldn’t do by myself.
Meghan: Wow. Thank you so much for sharing that. It’s one of those things that you’re hearing and it’s devastating what you and your family went through, and I don’t think that anyone could say that they would react differently in that sort of situation. It seems very natural to turn inward and to have some of these mental disorders emerge as a result of a traumatic experience like that. I think that a lot of people can relate to that. So let’s talk a little bit more about what you just said about finding out how to access the Atonement of Jesus Christ and let that be the power that carried you throughout your day. What did you find? What did that look like? And then what was the process of applying it so that you had the strength you needed?
Julie: One of the things that was really challenging for me is–and I think this is challenging for a lot of people that struggle with anxiety or depression–we have a lot of thoughts that go through our head and they run away. I can go from zero to 60 in about 10 seconds of what I’m worried about or what can go wrong. And because we were financially struggling, I could imagine in my mind that we were going to live in our car. We were going to run out of money, we were going to lose our house and we were going to live in our car. And so I would just worry all day long, “What if we live in our car? Where will I put the food and how will we go to the bathroom?”
And so just playing these scenarios over and over in my mind. So what I learned to do is when I felt like my brain wouldn’t work or I couldn’t think–and those of you who struggled, know what I’m talking about, that brain fog where you just like, it’s like moving through molasses–I would pull out my scriptures and I would look at my scriptures and I would focus on just a few verses and just read them over and over again until I could understand what they were saying. And so that brought me a lot of peace. But I do want to say one thing about the scriptures. A lot of times people misunderstand and they say, “Well, if you just read your scriptures and said your prayers, then you wouldn’t have anxiety or you wouldn’t have depression.” And anybody who has suffered from it knows that’s not true. In fact, if it was true, everyone would read their scriptures and no one would have anxiety or depression, right? So there’s that part of it. But on the other side of it, within the scriptures lies great peace and great answers, and also formulas and other people who’ve gone through what we’ve gone through. And so as I applied this in my life–what I did was I looked for patterns, I looked for people who were suffering like I was, and I looked for how the Lord could help people and what the promises were. So I guess the first thing that I looked for was promises.
Meghan: Let’s dive into that a little bit. Can you give us an example of someone in the scriptures that struggled with anxiety, or what are some of the patterns that you found to help you cope with this?
Julie: So let’s start with Zeezrom. He’s a really good guy. The reason I like Zeezrom is because Zeezrom started out as a bad guy and then he ended up as a good guy. And so in Alma chapter 15 we’re following up. So remember, he was an anti-Christ and he was talking bad about Jesus Christ. And Alma came and set him straight. Then Alma and Amulek took off and somehow Zeezrom got in his mind that they had died and it was his fault. So let me just read you a couple of these verses and I want you to look for similarities that you might be feeling. So this is verse three of chapter 15 in Alma, “And also Zeezrom lay sick at Sidom, with a burning fever, which was caused by the great tribulations of his mind…”
When we feel anxiety or when we’re overly burdened with worries or we’re struggling with a trial or we’re feeling super discouraged, don’t we have great tribulations of our mind? “…on account of his wickedness…” So he was thinking about all the things he had done wrong, and we see that with ourselves over and over again. We feel like we have this massive standard we have to hold ourselves up to, and then we feel we fall short, and then we get in our heads and think that we’re not good. So he had that. “…for he supposed that Alma and Amulek were no more; and he supposed that they had been slain because of his iniquity. And this great sin, and his many others sins, did harrow up his mind..” So harrow means, it’s a farm tool that like digs things up and cuts things up. “…until it did become exceedingly sore, having no deliverance; therefore he began to be scorched with a burning heat.” So this guy was so worried and so upset by mistakes he had made, by things that he thought were wrong, and assumptions that he had made that it made him physically ill. He was in bed. And so many probably listening know exactly how that feels.
If we skip ahead and we see verse five, “…and his mind also was exceedingly sore.” So again, we’re seeing the same thing again. But somebody came and said, “Don’t you worry, Alma and Amulek are still alive.” And so his heart began to take courage, we see that in verse four. And so Alma and Amulek were called and they came. They come to Zeezrom and he’s laying in bed and he’s so distraught and he thinks he’s maybe going to die. And so here’s the formula we’re looking for. First we’re seeing similarities that we’re like Zeezrom, right? And then second, Alma shows up and he says to him in verse six, he said, “And it came to pass that Alma said unto him, taking him by the hand: Believest thou in the power of Christ into salvation?” So our first step is we need to believe, we need to believe that the Savior can deliver us and he can help us. And so one of the ways we can do that is go to the scriptures and find the promises. Because the promises speak to all of us and they can be applied to any of us.
So if we look at Mosiah chapter– we’re going to pull a promise really fast–and it is in Mosiah chapter 25:10 “And again, when they thought…” –and we’re going to get to that in a second– “when they thought of the immediate goodness of God, and his power in delivering Alma his brethren out of the hands of the Lamanites and out of bondage, they did raise their voices and give thanks to God.” So the promise that they understood was that God’s goodness was immediate, and that he would help them in the moment that they needed it. And that gave them the courage to keep moving forward. So that’s a promise.
But there’s so many, like we could spend all night just talking about the promises that are in the Book of Mormon that teach us about what God will do for us and how he’ll help us.
So that was the first step for Zeezrom, he needed to believe. The second part was he said, “And he answered and said,” in verse seven, “Yea, I believe all the words that thou has taught. And Alma said, If thou believest in the redemption of Christ thou canst be healed. And he said, Yea, I believe, according to thy words. And then Alma cried unto the Lord, saying: O Lord our God have mercy on this man, and heal him according to his faith which is in Christ. And when Alma had said these words, Zeezrom leaped upon his feet, and began to walk…” So as we look into the scriptures, we’re looking for patterns, and we see a pattern. We see, first he believed in Jesus Christ, second, he had faith and then third, there was a prayer said asking for the help that he needed. And then fourth, we see that he received results.
Meghan: That’s so interesting. I’ve never thought of the story of Zeezrom through this context before. I love Zeezrom because I feel like Alma must have loved Zeezrom because Alma used to be Zeezrom. And so I feel they had this challenging moment and I wonder if at some point Alma was just like, “You remind me of someone.” And to get him to see, to go through this transformation. And then obviously Zeezrom joins him and they have a really unique and special partnership and friendship after that point. I’m so glad that you’re narrowing in on this particular, this scenario, and I find it very telling that this was included in the scriptures because Moroni, in consolidating everything could have just said that Zeezrom repented and he changed his ways, but he did go into the detail. One thing that I noticed and I don’t want to wreck the pattern, I hope I can contribute to the pattern without wrecking the pattern, but one thing that I noticed that you said is before even getting to the point where Alma asked do you believe the thing that happened before that is that Zeezrom’s assumptions that he had made, that you mentioned, were challenged, they were challenged by other people saying “Alma and Amulek are alive”. And that was a big assumption that he had taken on himself, that kind of started rolling the rock down the hill, right? Of like, “I killed them and now I’m going to hell and their families and like all of this is on me.” And it took someone else saying “No, that’s not real. This is not a true thought.” I have family members who struggle with anxiety and they’ve found a lot of relatability in the series, The Hunger Games. This is in the last book in Mockingjay and Pita, who’s one of the main characters, he’d been brainwashed, he’d been through these torturous situations where they basically altered his memories and altered his thoughts, which I think is completely relevant to the state of anxiety. You’re in an untrue reality, sometimes your mind goes to that place, and through part of his healing process, one of the things that he did was he would stop and ask the people around him if what he was thinking was real or not real. And that’s something that I have family members who have to do that too, and they have found so much benefit from just stopping and looking for an opportunity for their assumptions to be challenged. Because what happened when Zeezrom’s assumptions were challenged? He took courage. And you have to have courage to do the rest of those steps, to believe and to have faith and to call down the powers of heaven. You can’t do any of that unless you’ve been given that piece of courage.
Julie: I love that. In fact, exactly what you’re saying is also another pattern in another spot in the scriptures. So let’s go build on what you’re teaching. So if we go to Alma chapter 36, this is Alma telling his story about how he was in torment and how the angel came and what his pattern is and what’s happening to him. And just exactly what you said is exactly what happened. So if we look at Alma chapter 36 and we start in verse 17, it says, “And it came to pass that I was thus racked with torment, while I was harrowed…”–we see that word again– “harrowed up by the memory of my many sins” –so we see again, just like Zeezrom, right? He’s thinking about all the things that are wrong. “…behold, I remembered also to have heard my father prophesy unto the people concerning the coming of one Jesus Christ…” I thought it was really interesting that he said, “one Jesus Christ…” because he’s like, “I heard of this guy, I didn’t really know who he was, but it was this one guy…”
And so it’s like he’d had no relationship with him, but he remembered that his dad had talked about it. So again, he’s stuck in all of this pain of what his thinking is telling him and he remembers or he’s remembering what his dad said, which is challenging his assumptions, right? Just like what you said and then he said, “…unto the people concerning the coming of one Jesus Christ, a Son of God, to atone for the sins of the world. Now, as my mind caught hold upon this thought…” That’s right where the power is, right? He gets this thought and then all of a sudden he takes courage because now he has hope for a moment that things are different than what he thinks they are. “Now, as my mind caught hold upon this thought, I cried with my heart: O Jesus, thou Son of God have mercy on me, who am in the gall of bitterness, and am encircled about by the everlasting chains of death.” I think anyone who has ever been in that space of anxiety, that space of depression, that’s exactly what it feels like. It’s like your own personal hell. And it’s such a painful space to be in. And so much of it has to do with our thinking, our assumptions, that the ‘not reality’ we’re believing or living in because we’re believing lies and here’s a formula for overcoming that. It’s remembering, it’s checking our thoughts and then praying and asking for help, and then here’s the result. “And now, behold, when I thought this…”–so it’s not like he spent days and days repenting and changing his ways, all he did was think a thought– “..I could remember my pains no more.:” So he thought about Jesus Christ as a possibility and as a hope, then he called on Jesus Christ and said, “Help.” And when he thought about Jesus Christ, he could see his pains no more. “…yea, I was harrowed up by the memory of my sins no more. And oh, what joy, and what marvelous light I did behold; yea, my soul was filled with joy as exceeding as was my pain.”
Meghan: I love it. That’s the famous chiasmus chapter of him recounting the pains of death and hell, and then he remembers Jesus and it’s this turning point. And yeah, you see it so clearly there, that pattern of challenging our assumptions, challenging our thoughts, believing, exercising faith, calling out to God, and then that deliverance that comes.
Let’s talk about those steps in a little bit more detail, because I want to spell out what are the actionable things? Like how do we actually do these things? What does it take, because we can list all these things and I think, maybe we have a high level understanding of what they are, but putting them into action can take a little bit more.
Julie: Yes. Let’s actually go to Jacob chapter four. It’s so fun because you can find the answers that you’re looking for in the scriptures. And so if we’re looking to challenge our assumptions or our beliefs, remember I talked about how I was afraid I was going to have to live in my car?
Was that reality? No. I had family, I had friends, we had all the support. There was no way we were ever going to live in our car. But I believed that lie. And when I started to challenge and shift out of that, that’s when I could find some relief. So there’s actually a pattern in Jacob chapter four that teaches us how to do that.
So the first thing, so we’re talking about real life steps; what can we do? And the first one is in Jacob chapter four, verse six, and it says, “Wherefore, we search the prophets and we have many revelations and the spirit of prophecy; and having all these witnesses, we obtain a hope, and our faith becometh unshaken, insomuch that we truly can command in the name of Jesus and the very trees obey us, or the mountains, or the waves of the sea.” So what’s beautiful about the scripture is that when we study or we learn the words of Christ, the words of God, whether that’s in the scriptures or that’s from general conference talks or what our prophets are teaching us, then we can accept or set into ourselves that hope. So our first step to challenge our thoughts is to learn true doctrine through studying the word of God.
Meghan: I want to expand on that because you reminded me, first and foremost of that scripture about how the study of the scriptures will change behavior more than the study of behavior will change behavior. I think that this is a hundred percent applicable to that. If you have anxious thoughts, anxious behaviors, the study of true doctrine is going to do more to change them even than just studying anxiety. I know you said you spend a lot of time studying anxiety. I think that’s important to understand the symptoms and the conditions and the side effects and all the different things that you might be experiencing. But in terms of conquering it, I love that, that it is true doctrine.
The other thing that it made me think of is, how our prophet has asked us to study the covenants that the Lord has made to his people in scripture, and why does he want us to do that? I think there are two reasons. One, I think it’s because we live in a time when these covenants are going to be fulfilled and we need to be able to recognize the hand of the Lord in the things that are happening. But the other thing that I think he wants us to understand is that the God that we worship is one who perfectly keeps his promises. He is perfectly faithful and everything that he has ever done for any child of God throughout history, any sacrifice he made, any comfort that he offered, he will do the same for you.
Julie: I love that. And that promise, those promises are what give us the courage. So if we go back to what you were saying; first, it’s addressing the assumptions that we’re feeling and recognizing that it’s not truth. And then that gives us courage. The courage can come from when we understand the doctrine and we can apply those promises, we can understand that those promises are going to help us and to move us forward.
And then the next step after that is to watch our words. If we look back at Jacob chapter four verse nine, it says, “For behold, by the power of his word man came upon the face of the earth, which earth was created by the power of his word. Wherefore, if God being able to speak and the world was, and to speak and man was created, O then, why not be able to command the earth, or the workmanship of his hands upon the face of it, according to his will and pleasure?” So our next step is that we need to really watch the words that are coming out of our mouth because that’s how God creates and that’s how we create. And so we are creating with our thinking and with our words, and as we choose faith, or we focus on the promises and the power of the Lord, then that can give us the courage to choose new thinking patterns and new words that can lead us to that hope and peace.
Meghan: It made me think, and this is not a complete thought, so maybe you can help me fill in the ellipses here, but the word of God is also a title for the Savior. So I’m trying to consider how does that connect to our words? Is it a challenge? Is it an invitation to use language in a way that elicits Christ and his power and his Atonement?
Is that possible or are our words something else?
Julie: What a fun way to look at it. Let’s think about that. If we were to use our words to elicit feelings or praise towards Christ or hope in Christ, then what would that look like in real life? That would look like encouragement, that would look like praise, gratitude. It would look like some of those things rather than focusing on what’s wrong in this situation or focusing on what’s not working or focusing on problems or focusing on pain. In fact, can we jump to another scripture that builds on what you’re saying?
Meghan: Yes, we can. And I have another thought. I have a thought that came to me based on what you said. So let’s read your scripture and then we’ll see if it holds up.
Julie: Okay. In Mormon chapter nine, what’s really interesting in this–the background is that Moroni and Mormon are talking about all the horrible things that are happening on the earth. And this really applies to us right now, right? There’s murders and there’s so much iniquity and so much sorrow, and so much grief, and so much horror, and they’ve just had a huge conversation about everything that’s going wrong in the world and when that happens, then there’s some counsel given. And here’s the counsel that goes along with speaking words of Christ to create that peace and that power that you’re talking about. And this is what it is, Moroni 9:25,26. “My son, be faithful in Christ; and may not the things which I have written grieve thee to weigh thee down unto death…” So they’re talking about all this pain, all these bad things, and he’s like, ‘don’t worry about it.’ “…but may Christ lift thee up, and may his sufferings and death, and the showing of his body unto our fathers, and his mercy and long-suffering, in the hope of his glory and of eternal life, rest in your mind forever.” So what’s happening in your mind? Instead of focusing on the pain of what’s happening around you, it’s focusing on the Savior and his power to deliver. “And may the grace of God the Father whose throne is high in the heavens, and our Lord Jesus Christ, who sitteth on the right hand of his power, until all things shall become subject unto him, be, and abide with you forever.”
The power comes when we shift our words, we shift our thinking into a space that’s focused on our Savior, Jesus Christ.
Meghan: Really interesting. And the thought that I had too is, okay, so we obviously have our agency and the word of God is our Savior. If we’re trying to be like God, then that means that our words need to be eliciting our Savior. And like you said, what does that look like? That looks like encouragement and praise. It looks like worship. It looks like speaking forgiveness and kindness, granting mercy to others and to ourselves. But we have our agency and so our words, we can also choose to elicit something else. We can choose to elicit the adversary with our words too, and it made me think of murmuring and how the Lord is displeased when we murmur and we talk about how that has to do with the fact that we are expressing ingratitude and I think that’s certainly true, but from this perspective, it seems like it’s much bigger than that. It’s almost as though, I feel like you could almost relate it to taking the name of the Lord in vain. Our words are supposed to be eliciting the Savior and his power, his grace, and instead we’re using our words in such a way that denies his power and his grace when we’re choosing to murmur, choosing to be negative, choosing to express the things that give Satan power over us. That’s denying the power of the Atonement in Christ in our life.
Julie: I love that. I had never thought about it in that way before. Oh my gosh. That is powerful. So let’s take a second and look at what we can do instead. So if we flip over to 1 Nephi, chapter four, this is the story of somebody who could not stop complaining, right? We have Laman and Lemuel who had just had an angel come and say, “Stop beating your brother, everything’s going to work out fine.” And then as soon as the angel leaves, then they’re like, “Yeah, we don’t think this is going to work, and this is stupid and we don’t want to do it anymore.” In fact, in 1 Nephi 3:31, “And after the angel had departed, Laman and Lemuel again began to murmur…” Right? They’re denying the power of Christ. I had never thought about it this way. I love this, Meghan! This is so good. “…[and they] began to murmur saying; How is it possible that the Lord will deliver Laban into our hands? Behold, he is a mighty man and he can command fifty, yea even he can slay fifty; then why not us?” So they’re looking at it from a logical perspective; they’ve tried a lot of things. They haven’t worked. The angels said that it’s going to work, but they have no guarantee. They don’t have a plan, they don’t have details. They just have a promise. And how many times does that happen for us, right? We have a promise, but we don’t know when. We don’t know how, we don’t have the details. And so we get all worked up and worried, but then watch what Nephi does with his words to elicit the Savior and the Atonement. In chapter four, verse one, this is what Nephi said, “Let us go up again unto Jerusalem, and let us be faithful in keeping the commandments of the Lord; for behold he is mightier than all the earth, then why not mightier than Laban and his fifty, yea, or even than his tens of thousands? Therefore, let us go up; let us be strong like unto Moses; for he truly spake unto the waters of the Red Sea and they divided hither and thither and our fathers came through out of captivity, on dry ground, and the armies of Pharaoh did follow and were drowned in the waters of the Red Sea. Now behold you know that this is true; and ye also know that an angel hath spoken unto you; wherefore, can ye doubt? …the Lord is able to deliver us…” That’s speaking exactly what you just said, right?
Meghan: Well, and he’s building off of what we said before that, which is that he knew true doctrine; he had studied the scriptures, he knew the covenants of the Lord which, covenant is to deliver his people. And he had an example of that in the past and he took it to apply it to himself in the situation today, and now we’re applying it again right now. It’s crazy.
Julie: It’s so awesome. And then the next step is so beautiful because remember, Nephi still doesn’t have any answers of how to move forward. And that is so often in our life; whether we’re facing a problem in our relationship or with one of our children or a health problem. There’s so many challenges and we’re like, “I don’t know what to do. I don’t know what the answer is.” And that’s when we fall into some of those assumptions and some of those worries. And then if we can use our words to create and use this doctrine, then this is what Nephi did next. And this is where faith comes into play and comes into action. In verse six, he said, “And I was led by the Spirit, not knowing beforehand the things which I should do. Nevertheless, I went forth.” You move forward trusting the Lord, trusting the promises, trusting your Savior, leaping with faith, scared out of your mind, and knowing that when you fall, the Lord will catch you.
Meghan: Faith is not knowledge. It just reminded me of that because I was talking to a coworker of mine a couple weeks ago and he’s a, I think he’s a Protestant, and he was asking a lot of really good questions. He’s very open-minded and he really had a lot of questions about us and our faith and I ended up sending him Alma 32, because we were talking about faith. And he pointed out that one line and he was like, “Faith is not a knowledge, it is not to have a perfect knowledge of things. I love that.” I’m like, “Yeah, you’re not alone. I’m like, we all point that out, but putting it into action Is much harder.” But look at the foundation that we’ve laid already to exercise faith, throughout these processes.
First off, we’ve challenged our assumptions; we have sought to understand what is true and what is not true. Maybe even bringing in outside sources to testify whether or not what we are experiencing is true or not. Then from there, we start to speak it into existence by eliciting our Savior, Jesus Christ, his promises, his covenants, his doctrine. So we’ve already laid this really strong foundation to then say, “Okay, I have this. This is enough for me to move right now. And let the Lord guide me from there.”
Julie: You sum it up so beautifully and it’s a beautiful pattern of how we can move forward when we’re scared. I want to add one more thing to that. So many times we hear over the pulpit that fear and faith can’t be in the same place and so then we have some sort of guilt or shame that we’re fearful that must mean we don’t have enough faith, when it’s a paradox, the reality is that before we can have faith, their first has to be a space of fear. When we have fear, that’s when we have a need for faith. And so in that fear space is when we get to use our agency, to say, “Oh, I believe because of this experience or because of what I read in the scriptures.” And that’s where we pull up our doctrine that builds our courage and our hope to move forward, even though we feel fear. Let’s not believe for one minute that the people who are managing their lives and handling things really well don’t feel fear. We all feel fear. It’s that when we feel that fear, what are we going to do with it?
Meghan: I love that painting that you just made as fear being the catalyst for faith. This is the law of opposition in all things. And you’re right, we spend so much time pitting fear and faith against each other that we don’t realize that fear enables faith. Without fear we wouldn’t have room to exercise faith; that’s a part of God’s equation, that we feel fear, but then we’re not paralyzed by it, we move through it. I think there are so many versions of–it’s probably cliche by now but–the thought that courage is not the absence of fear, but it’s doing something anyway. It’s doing something in spite of the fear. I think that’s what faith is. Faith is not the absence of fear. Faith is moving through the fear anyway.
Julie: I love that. I love that.
Meghan: All right, what’s next? We did belief, faith, we’ve got to pray.
Julie: Pray. Yeah. So belief and faith and prayer. In fact, let’s go look at a prayer. Let’s find a pattern of prayer, right? This is what’s so exciting about the scriptures, it’s all here! Let’s go to Helaman, chapter five.
And we’re going to read about a group of people that had so much anxiety that they were physically paralyzed. In Helaman chapter five, this is the other Nephi and Lehi and they’ve been put in prison by the bad guys and while they are in prison everyone is gathered around and is watching what’s going on. And in verse 34, it’s really interesting because it says, “And it came to pass that the Lamanites could not flee because of the cloud of darkness, which did overshadow them; yea, and also, they were immovable because of the fear which did come upon them.”
I think we’ve all had these experiences where we’re so overcome by fear, we’re paralyzed, like literally physically, emotionally, we can’t move forward. And this cloud of darkness is actually very symbolic of the cloud of darkness that we feel emotionally and mentally when we’re facing some of these challenges. And so then we say, “Okay, well, cloud of darkness, can’t move, stuck, what do we do next? And so as we look ahead, we see that Aminadab, he’s this sort of kind of member of the church. He comes out, he sees what’s happening in this whole story–and I’m making it super brief, you’ll want to go back and reread the whole thing–but he says, “Oh wait, there’s a solution. There’s something you can do.” And this is a formula for overcoming the spiritual darkness that we feel in our own lives.
And so if we look to verse 39, it says, “Now the man’s name was Aminadab. And Aminadab said unto them…” –He’s telling everybody that Nephi and Lehi are conversing with angels of God– “And it came to pass that the Lamanites said unto him: What shall we do, that this cloud of darkness may be removed from overshadowing us? And Aminadab said unto them: You must repent, and cry unto the voice, even until ye shall have faith in Christ, who was taught unto you by Alma, and Amulek, and Zeezrom; and when you shall do this, the cloud of darkness shall be removed from overshadowing you.” Isn’t that fun? It’s right there. So we pray, and what do we pray? We pray two things. We pray and ask for repentance, right? We want to change our thinking, we want to change our words. And so we ask for help to do that. And then we pray until we have faith. When you’ve had a lot of trauma or you’ve had a lot of really painful experiences, or you’re going through something that’s really really hard, sometimes it’s hard to believe that the Lord is there and that he’s really going to help us through it. And so we have those moments of doubt, and in those moments of doubt, we can pray until we have faith. And then if we look ahead to see what the results were, “And it came to pass that they all did begin to cry unto the voice of him who had shaken the earth; yea, they did cry even until the cloud of darkness was dispersed.” So first the darkness went away. “And it came to pass that when they cast their eyes about, and saw that the cloud of darkness was dispersed…behold, they saw they were encircled about, yea every soul, by a pillar of fire.” And then if we skip ahead, …”they were filled with joy which is unspeakable and full of glory.”
And then in verse 47, the voice came and said, “Peace, peace be unto to you because of your faith in my Well-Beloved, who was from the foundation of the world.”
So when we have those prayers, when we call out to the Lord in our lack of faith and our desperation, and our fear and our pain, then the reward for that is peace.
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