More Questions than Answers

[ 19 ] Comments

by Becca

For most of my life I have lived the gospel. Not perfectly, of course – like everyone I have weaknesses, and like everyone I cannot do everything right all the time. But I have felt as if my heart was in the right place, and I have worked diligently to keep the commandments, according to my limited and imperfect understanding of them, and I have had faith in Jesus Christ and the power of the atonement and repentance.

I thought that living the gospel was supposed to make me happy. But for the past several years a sustained happiness has been elusive. It almost seemed as if attempting to live the gospel, while once the thing that brought peace and happiness, was now the very thing causing me pain.

Several weeks ago I felt my power to endure crumbling. It wasn’t a major life crisis that caused the crumbling – no one died, my house didn’t burn down, my marriage didn’t fall apart, no one lost his job. Rather, my heart seemed to give out under the weight of the missing happiness that I once would have told you I had. Like Chinese water torture, the drip of adversity finally became so intense I couldn’t stand it. I just wanted to be happy, and I wasn’t. The only solution that came to me was to stop trying. It hurt to try, and I didn’t want to hurt anymore.

Was I just too weak to endure faithfully? Was a foundation of faith not embedded in my heart? What about all those years of happily living the gospel – of studying, serving, praying, communing with God?

In a flash of sanity (or a miracle, whatever you want to call it), I realized that I didn’t actually want to give up completely. I just wanted to figure out how to feel happiness again.

The pain didn’t go away in that moment. President Eyring said, “I cannot promise an end to your adversity in this life. I cannot assure you that your trials will seem to you to be only for a moment.” Although I realized that I had a desire to change and figure things out, my actions and attitude didn’t quite match that desire. Rather than turning to the Lord for guidance and help in changing, I am ashamed to say that I turned away from Heavenly Father. I blamed Him for my unhappiness. I wondered where He was hiding, withholding blessings of peace and happiness I thought He had promised me.

While I have hesitantly turned back to Heavenly Father (although I will admit not fully), I don’t feel much closer to answers than I did a month ago. In fact, I have more questions than I have answers. But I am asking questions. Which seems like a step in the right direction. What will make me happy? Where do I begin? What can I do to feel happiness? What was wrong with my foundation? How do I fix it?

While significantly less pronounced than the day I wanted to give up, the pain is still there, surfacing at unexpected moments – usually when the questions come and the answers don’t. Most days I feel an undercurrent of sadness – where there once was a feeling of peace – as I try to hold together the crumbling pieces of my foundation, unsure of whether I should try to repair it, or just scrap the whole thing and start fresh.

One thing both rebuilding and repairing will require is patience.

Which is also what it will take to get answers.

Patience.

  • How do you have patience when your foundation feels like it is crumbling?
  • How do you repair a crumbling foundation? Or is it better to simply rebuild?
  • And if it’s better to rebuild, where do you start?

Images: CC madmack66

About Becca

Becca is just a woman, mother, daughter of God, trying to figure things out. She blogs at My Soul Delighteth and Real Intent.

19 Responses to More Questions than Answers

  1. Missy says:

    Wow, I am sorry that life has been so challenging for you lately. I think that you ask a good question though in is it better to rebuild or repair? In my life I have had periods of both. I’ve been in a place where I had to totally “rebuild”, it wasn’t easy but it did lead me to a better place. I’ve also had to repair though. I think that you are the only one who knows the answer. I’m sorry if my comment seems kind of cryptic, I don’t mean for it to. Your Chinese Water Torture reference makes a lot of sense to me, things build up and you let them go or put the aside and eventually it all hits, like dragging a wire through your brain. I hope things get better. This post really is quite profound. Thanks for sharing and sorry if my comment seems to not make a lot of sense. Things will get better, they will…Think about what you do have and what is good in your life rather than what isn’t or what bothers you, maybe that is a good starting point…

  2. Julia Taylor says:

    For me, I hadn’t lost my testimony, but the choices of others, and the bombs that kept being thrown at me, never seemed to end, I was left with a life in shambles. For me, I had to carefully take apart the foundation, looking at the pieces of my former life and testimony, so that I knew where the cracks and faults were that I needed to repair, shore up, or abandoned as appropriate.

    That process never ends, but it has become a part of my life. This week I had a huge bombshell delivered by a simple series of blood tests. I am in shock, I still hear the words, “I can’t tell you why you are still alive. Usually these results come from a coma patient in the ICU.” So, it is miracle that I am alive, but until we know why. Until I can get my body stabilized, I don’t know if I will keep being a miracle.

    Five years ago, the anxiety and stress would have had me going insane. Instead, I am anxious and stressed, but I am soothing myself, searching out love and support from the words of God and his servants. I couldn’t be in this place if I hadn’t deconstructed my testimony, thrown out the parts that weren’t authentic, and filled in the cracks when they were micro fractures. My foundation is so much stronger because I took the time, in counseling and studying the gospel, to make sure that it is built on a strong relationship with Christ. Christ will not let me down. A testimony of Christ doesn’t mean a testimony that the LDS church and every member not making mistakes. When earthly things are in flux, Christ is not, and so making sure that my entire foundation includes Him as the binder, my testimony does not rely on anything that happens here on earth.

  3. Someone at Segullah linked to this talk and i thought of your post.http://www.lds.org/ensign/1979/08/on-dealing-with-uncertainty?lang=eng id read it years ago but appreciated reading it again. This talk captures well the wrestle that I think many of us face at different times of our lives as we come to grips with the messiness of mortality. He addresses it to college students, and I remember feeling some of these struggles as a young adult, but in some ways some of these struggles feel even more pronounced at times for me as I have gotten older and seen more of life, more of my own weakness, and more.

    Patience is hard work, but it helps me as I learn more of God’s patience with me. I believe He knows it is hard to be mortal, living with the veil in place.

    Only He can really lead you as to what you need, but if you do end up feeling like you need to rebuild anew, you might re-read the story of the salt lake temple. I am so struck by how even with something as important as a temple, God allowed them to go nine years building only to have to tear out the foundation. There’s obviously more to this journey than always getting it right the first time, and that story has helped me be patient with myself and my foundation-building efforts in my life.

    • Becca says:

      Michelle – I absolutely love the reminder of the Salt Lake Temple construction! I had never thought of that, but it does give me a lot of perspective in my current situation. It fits like a glove. Thank you for sharing it!

  4. Paul says:

    Lovely (if difficult) post. I especially identified with this thought: “I thought that living the gospel was supposed to make me happy. But for the past several years a sustained happiness has been elusive.” I can remember feeling that way while serving as bishop, not just because of the weight of the calling, but also because of what was going on in my own family at the same time.
    Now, ten years later, looking back I realize how well supported I was by the Lord during that period. The perspective of time has been a benefit to me in recognizing the hand the the Lord in my life, the recognition that answers (and even comfort) do not always come how and when I want them, but they do seem to come (so far, at least).
    My strategy for dealing with a crumbling foundation is to reflect on better times to remember that the Lord has been in my life before, and so He is likely to be there again.
    As for reparing and rebuilding — that’s an interesting question. There was a time when I would have thought I’d need neither. Now I feel like I need to rebuild all the time, but that rebuilding is possible through the atonement. Sometimes I wonder if it’s as simple as building on the rock or the sand — seems like a lot of rocks have turned to sand in my life as I’ve learned new things along the way. I think I’m getting to firmer and firmer ground each time I rebuild.

    • Becca says:

      I never thought of changing the place where I built my foundation (from less firm ground to more firm ground). That is an interesting thought, one I will have to ponder a little more. Perhaps I was looking in the wrong place for the source of my foundation crumbling (i.e., I thought it was my poor construction, but perhaps I constructed my foundation well, just not in the right place?)

  5. Bonnie says:

    I really appreciate the courage of this post. We aren’t naturally inclined to air our struggles, especially living a gospel that requires a great deal and similarly promises a great deal. Everything seems so *crucial* and that intensity can be alienating. Still, interdependence is so important to our ultimate strength. Having gone through this, you will be so much kinder (not that you weren’t before) and more empathetic with others who are struggling, less inclined to chalk their struggle up to character deficits. And in the beauty of service, others who watch you deal with this will also be lifted as they learn deeper truths through your example.

    A few years ago my life systematically imploded despite all I did, and I got to rebuild because repair wasn’t possible. It was freeing. Since then, I’ve been less inclined to look at others with judgments. I’ve also been less inclined to think I have to save myself or anyone else. And my expectations have altered. I don’t expect to be happy anymore, and like a butterfly it comes more often to light on my shoulder.

    In our family we’ve been talking about the parable of Lazarus and the rich man. One of the kids came home from seminary talking about it and we’ve been talking about the virtue of meekness since. Lazarus, in this story, wanted only crumbs and was denied them. The reward came later. It’s a difficult thing for us to wrap our minds around and accept that the reward comes later. We want our judgment now, both for others who’ve harmed us and for ourselves for our good work. I think the work of patience is also a work of hope, which creates within an indefatigable flame.

    Hugs your way. It’s a hard road to the eternal flame at the tomb of our own unknown soldier.

    • Becca says:

      “I don’t expect to be happy anymore, and like a butterfly it comes more often to light on my shoulder.”

      I wonder if I could change my perspective to think this way. It fits well with the story of Lazarus who did not get his reward immediately. I definitely feel like I want my judgement now – and honestly I feel like that is what the gospel has taught – happiness and peace in this life through the atonement. But perhaps it doesn’t always come in this life. But it will come.

  6. jendoop says:

    I’m sorry that things are so difficult. That sentence seems so trite, I’m wish I had better words. I worry that anything I say will wound you further but I’ll go ahead anyway.

    There is no “right” answer. Don’t push yourself around, trying to manipulate yourself into a corner you don’t want to be in and don’t have to be. Christ allows us time, this life is a probationary state where we can make mistakes, learn, stumble, fall, get up, fall down again, yell at God, ask for His love and receive it, only to stumble more. Stop pushing yourself so hard and lean on Christ. Let him be there for you in your imperfection. Do weird things like praying for Christ to help you while you’re angry at God. Write down things that are too hard to pray but you want to confront God with. Be honest with Him, be true to yourself, that’s how relationships work best.

    Lastly, and most importantly, know that you are not alone. Feeling bad or lacking happiness isn’t always a result of sin. I have a friend who confided similar things to me recently and now every time I talk to her I ask what she has done to take care of herself. I ask you the same – When was the last time you did something to show yourself love? What was the last thing you did for fun, that had no “productive” value? Prove to yourself with your time that happiness and joy are important. <3

  7. Pam says:

    I love the positive responses to this post. What a supportive group of people participating in this blog!

    I believe life is a continual rebuilding and repairing, especially if we are keeping our focus on the Savior. It isn’t easy to follow in His footsteps. That’s why He said “Cast your burdens upon me and I will sustain thee.” and “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden and I will give you rest”. Sometimes we take on greater challenges than we realize or challenges are thrown in our path that seem bigger than us. I have come to realize that many of those situations help us remember to turn to the Savior because we realize we can’t do it without His help. We need him to help us find rest (happiness) as we rely more on Him.

    I love hearing Elder Richard G. Scott. Here’s a quote from a talk he gave that I recommend you take time to read. I hope you will find it helpful: “You are here on earth for a divine purpose. It is not to be endlessly entertained or to be constantly in full pursuit of pleasure. You are here to be tried, to prove yourself so that you can receive the additional blessings God has for you. The tempering effect of patience is required. Some blessings will be delivered here in this life; others will come beyond the veil. The Lord is intent on your personal growth and development. That progress is accelerated when you willingly allow Him to lead you through every growth experience you encounter, whether initially it be to your individual liking or not. When you trust in the Lord, when you are willing to let your heart and your mind be centered in His will, when you ask to be led by the Spirit to do His will, you are assured of the greatest happiness along the way and the most fulfilling attainment from this mortal experience.” (link to rest of talk: http://www.lds.org/general-conference/1996/04/finding-joy-in-life?lang=eng) It’s one of the best on Happiness that I remember hearing.

    To your happiness! (Elder Scott ends his talk with ” Happiness is everlastingly eternal because of Jesus Christ)

    • Becca says:

      I wonder about what he says “you are assured of the greatest happiness along the way” – that is what I thought would happen as I worked through the struggles and trials of this life, with the Savior’s help, and what I have found isn’t happening. Which is why I am sure that I am missing something (perhaps that letting “[my] heart and [my] mind be centered in His will” and the “trust in the Lord” part – I always thought I was doing that, but I am sure there is room for improvement. Maybe that is what I am missing? A complete surrender to His will? Maybe that’s what Bonnie talked about in saying not expecting to be happy, and then it comes when He gives us that happiness… hmm… more to think about.

  8. In my own life I have found my level of happiness is directly related to my depth of gratitude. I can be keeping the commandments, praying, doing all those things I am supposed to be doing but if I am not showing gratitude I find my self unhappy. I love the talk Pam linked to from Elder Scott because he starts by speaking of gratitude, of taking notice of those every day beautiful things we forget to see. He also says, “You are one of the noblest of God’s creations. His intent is that your life be gloriously beautiful regardless of your circumstances. As you are grateful and obedient, you can become all that God intends you to be.” It is not just the obedience that brings happiness but obedience coupled with gratitude.

    Having gratitude leads to greater faith. We find we really have been blessed. We have just failed to see those blessings in our moments of trial and testing. Elder Eyring also spoke of the direct link between gratitude and faith, “As I would cast my mind over the day, I would see evidence of what God had done for one of us that I had not recognized in the busy moments of the day. As that happened, and it happened often, I realized that trying to remember had allowed God to show me what He had done.

    More than gratitude began to grow in my heart. Testimony grew. I became ever more certain that our Heavenly Father hears and answers prayers. I felt more gratitude for the softening and refining that come because of the Atonement of the Savior Jesus Christ. And I grew more confident that the Holy Ghost can bring all things to our remembrance—even things we did not notice or pay attention to when they happened.”

    As for repairing or rebuilding that depends on you and what you feel needs to be done. As the other commenters have noted sometimes it has been best to rebuild, while other times repairing is what is needed. I find myself constantly repairing. Don’t we all? We aren’t perfect so we have to repair. Thank goodness for the atonement of Christ!

    • lhamer says:

      Yes, I’m with you! The more gratitude I have, the more I focus on His tender mercies, the less I slip into the blues. I’ve found that when I serve others, it turns my thoughts away from my own struggles, as well. I truly believe in these two principles for happy living.

  9. Michaela says:

    I think I’ve experienced something very similar. I’m still trying to work my way out of it. One of the things I’m trying to do right now is to remember to give approval to myself for the good things I do, no matter how small. Somehow I forgot that I deserve to approve of myself.

  10. Paul says:

    Becca, you’ve generated a lot of discussion; good for you!
    I agree that for me, gratitude and service are important elements for getting me out of a slump of self-centered gloom. But I don’t know that they are necessarily a universal antidote for a lack of answers to persistent questions.
    I remember reading that Mother Teresa served for years (years!) in Calcutta while feeling that God had abandoned her. Yet, despite her dispair, she soliered on because there was nothing else she could do. Fortunately I’ve never been where Mother Teresa was emotionally (sadly I’ve never felt as committed to service as she apparently was, either), but I certainly have known the feeling of soldiering on despite the malaise that sometimes comes from not knowing that what I’m doing is acceptable or sufficient. In fact, the very act of soldiering on amid uncertainty has been helpful to me.
    That said, I would hate for someone who copes with depression or chronic sadness to take self-blame one step further and decide it’s their own fault they feel the way they do. Sometimes it is, but sometimes there are other factors at work.

    • Becca says:

      Your story about Mother Teresa fits perfectly. I’m going to have to find a more detailed account of that story. If only I could be like Mother Teresa!

      Thank you, also, for the reminder that it isn’t necessarily my fault I feel the way I do – given this pregnancy has been a lot more of an emotional roller coaster, I am aware that some of my sadness (in recent months) has been caused by some antepartum depression (for which I am getting help/treatment). The pregnancy definitely wasn’t the beginning of the “missing happiness” feeling, but I am sure it compounded the feeling.

      Which makes this all the more confusing, because I have to sort out what is pregnancy hormones/depression caused, and what is lack-of-living-the-gospel caused.

      Your Mother Teresa story and the words of a dear friend are cluing me in to a big part of my problem. Thanks again!

  11. Jan Tolman says:

    When I have been where you are I have discovered that the Lord is actually asking me to move up a rung on the ladder. He wants us to experience life, which includes working out our mortal existence and giving up our comfort zones, our desires, and even our sins. That is what life is all about, after all—“not my will, but thine”. You have to know and believe that happiness is reachable. I can testify to you that it is, coming and going as we strive valiantly for the top. So—climb, sister, climb!! It is so worth it!!!!

    Go to the Lord and give your heart to Him. If you’ve done it already, do it again and again. You don’t know how long your trial is going to last; so don’t give up too soon. Go to the temple, serve others, get outside yourself, and wait patiently. Repair and rebuild as necessary, but move forward with an attitude of gratitude. And welcome to the ladder club. As for me, and my house, we’re happily hangin’ on too.

  12. Tiffany C says:

    Becca, you have been on my mind ever since I read this lovely and very real post a few days ago. I am so sorry you have been dealing with such struggles. :( It rang home for me in a very personal way, as I went through what sounds like similar cycles on and off all through my twenties. While I can’t speak for your own journey, I know that for me those were very dark and difficult years.

    Everyone else has given you such wonderful advice and suggestions, I don’t have really anything to add except to let you know that you’re not alone and that I will be keeping you in my thoughts and prayers. Much love. ♥

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