It was just a heavy day. I spent the whole day feeling sad, less-than, weak, and discouraged. I’m sure you’ve felt this way too–like you’re carrying backpack full of rocks, and maybe a duffle bag too, in each hand. At the end of the day, I stood in the kitchen, washing dishes and all of the negative thoughts came rushing in. You’re not as good, not as talented, not as smart. You can’t. You’re not enough. As I stood there, starting to wallow in discouragement, the podcast I was listening to began to talk about Paul in Romans 7.
In Romans 7, Paul exclaims, “O wretched man that I am!” He writes, “For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do.” Paul anguishes because he’s struggling to progress.
As I thought about Paul’s words, I remembered the very similar cries of Nephi in 2 Nephi 4. Nephi’s father has just died and he too exclaims, “O wretched man that I am! Yea, my heart sorroweth because of mine iniquities.”
These men felt the feelings that we feel. They were discouraged by their weakness. They cried out in frustration. But they didn’t stay wallowing in the mud puddle of negativity and inactivity. They both looked to the Atonement of Jesus Christ for strength and hope.
Paul writes, “For we are saved by hope.”
He writes about God’s abiding love for us in this passage, “For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39). Nothing is more powerful than God’s love for us.
Through his despair, Nephi acknowledges, “nevertheless, I know in whom I have trusted. My God hath been my support; he hath led me through mine afflictions in the wilderness; and he hath preserved me upon the waters of the great deep. He hath filled me with his love, even unto the consuming of my flesh.” (2 Nephi 4:18-21).
So next time you feel discouraged, remember how much God loves you. He gave you the gift of the Atonement through His son, Jesus Christ because he knew that we would be weak and imperfect. He doesn’t want you to feel discouraged. He wants you to trust and keep your eye on Him.
Don’t be too hard on yourself.
Brothers and sisters, every one of us aspires to a more Christlike life than we often succeed in living. If we admit that honestly and are trying to improve, we are not hypocrites; we are human. May we refuse to let our own mortal follies, and the inevitable shortcomings of even the best men and women around us, make us cynical about the truths of the gospel, the truthfulness of the Church, our hope for our future, or the possibility of godliness. If we persevere, then somewhere in eternity our refinement will be finished and complete—which is the New Testament meaning of perfection.
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland