During high school, our school counselor gathered all the juniors into the auditorium to prepare us for the big test that was coming. This test was really important for our future so they wanted to prepare us as much as possible.
I don’t remember any of the tips they shared with us that day, except one. I used this tip on my test. And I actually still use it today. I’d like to share this tip with you all.
The counselor told us to close our eyes and sift through our memories to find a beautiful, peaceful spot in nature that we could recall well. He said to involve all of our senses in this experience.
He asked us to recall everything we could: sights, sounds, smells, touch and even taste. And I did.
I had a beautiful memory of a time a few years before, sitting near a creek in Willow Flat campground in Idaho. My great grandparents had camped there decades before and as I sat there, I thought of them.
I can still remember the golden sunshine, the sparkling water, the smooth tiny stones, the vivid green grass and a tiny bug I watched. And, just as important, I remember the connection I felt to my ancestors and to my Heavenly Father as I sat still in that beautiful place.
The counselor told us the test would be in timed sections.
We were to complete a section and then, we were encouraged to close our eyes, right in the middle of the testing location, and visit our chosen memory to refresh our minds and bodies.
He told us to practice going to this happy scene in our minds before the test so it would be easy to access it during the stress of the day, surrounded by hundreds of other students.
And I did practice. I loved the peace I felt by visiting this place in my mind.
Why does reflecting on a time when we felt peace and joy restore some of that same peace and joy to our present circumstance?
In part, it’s because our minds don’t distinguish between what’s really happening and something we are just remembering. If you recall a scary situation, doesn’t your heart start racing and your palms get a little damp? Well, recalling positive experiences work the same way.
In General Conference last year, Neil L. Anderson spoke of recalling our defining spiritual experiences. He challenged us to write them down and reflect on them often.
Our defining spiritual memories are like little lights we can recall, to refresh our minds and spirits as we take our earthly tests. https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/general-conference/2020/04/15andersen?lang=eng
I decided to do that recently.
I started writing one memory of a time I’d felt God’s love for me. As I finished writing one experience, another came to my mind. After a few pages of writing, I found some patterns.
Some experiences were unexpected gifts of love from loving Heavenly Parents but *most* of my most treasured experiences came because I had a heartfelt desire or yearning to feel Heavenly Father’s love or to connect with Jesus Christ.
It reminded me of Matthew 7:7 “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.”
God answers the private pleadings of our hearts! He delights to bless us, just as He promises in D&C 88:63 “Draw near unto me and I will draw near unto you!”
Elder Uchtdorf reminds us that, “We all must walk through difficult times, for it is in times of adversity that we fortify our characters and draw closer to God.”
During our hardest times, God is refining our dross and polishing our rough edges so that we can become who we truly are.
Like it says in the beautiful words of How Firm a Foundation: “As thy days may demand, so thy succor shall be.” He succors us according to our specific needs.
“When through the deep waters, I call thee to go, the rivers of sorrow shall not thee overflow,” We can call on Him so we aren’t overcome by rivers of sadness or pain, “for I will be with thee, thy troubles to bless, and sanctify to thee, thy deepest distress.”
He will be with us! His grace is sufficient to see us through our fiery trials and to leave us better than before, even sanctified. These promises are so beautiful.
And our God is a God who keeps His promises.
Elder Uchtdorf shares that the best way to carry on during a fiery trial is to strengthen our private religious behavior:
Pray, scripture study, keep the commandments, focus on what you can do, muster your faith, and listen for the guiding word of the Lord. https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/general-conference/2020/10/28uchtdorf?lang=eng
I would also include powerful music that strengthens your connection to Heaven.
As Matthew S. Holland said, “Regardless of the causes of our worst hurts and heartaches, the ultimate source of relief is the same: Jesus Christ. He alone holds the full power and healing balm to correct every mistake, right every wrong, adjust every imperfection, mend every wound and deliver every delayed blessing… The process will unfold in His way and on His schedule but Christ stands ready always to heal every ounce and aspect of your agony.” https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/general-conference/2020/10/26holland?lang=eng
I’ve come to the conclusion that every one of us on this planet has a deep pain.
We try to mask this pain with distractions
or we try to numb it with addictions,
but deep down, nothing can touch this pain that we all carry, except Jesus.
I believe that the pain we all feel is the separation from our Heavenly Parents and our Savior. And so of course, the only solution to the pain, the obvious solution, is to seek to Hear and Connect with Them, to find healing, comfort and strength and to find joy.
Photo by Elia Pellegrini on Unsplash
Our dear prophet has this amazing promise for us:
“When you reach up for the Lord’s power in your life with the same intensity that a drowning person has when grasping and gasping for air, power from Jesus Christ will be yours. When the Savior knows you truly want to reach up to Him—when He can feel that the greatest desire of your heart is to draw His power into your life—you will be led by the Holy Ghost to know exactly what you should do.” https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/general-conference/2017/04/drawing-the-power-of-jesus-christ-into-our-lives?lang=ase
In my life, when a trial feels really heavy and I need to feel God’s peace and love, I will revisit that beautiful creek in my mind that I first learned to access in high school while preparing for that big test.
Photo by Michał Bielejewski on Unsplash
I picture myself sitting on a rock near that lovely little creek, basking in the sunshine and I pour out all of my emotions in a prayer to my Heavenly Father. With the eye of faith, as it says in Ether, I can see my Father and my Savior listening, meeting me in my trials.
I see myself laying all of my burdens on the altar and asking Christ to heal my heart and give me strength for another round of testing.
And He does. Every time!
Every time I ask Him to heal my broken heart or comfort my troubled mind or give me strength for another day, He does.
We are promised that we will find rest and that He will not leave us comfortless.
We are told to ask, seek and knock.
Our prophet has challenged us to Hear Him.
Let us seek this Jesus, the true source of healing and the One who lends us strength to overcome all our tests.
Let us remember our Loving Heavenly Father and rely on His glorious promises and on His love.