[ Lord, I Cannot. But You Can. ]
The part where I gave up for a while, & then changed my mind.
It just seems to be one blow after another that I don’t know if I can recover from. Doctors telling me that I should mentally prepare to be told I have fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, or some other form of incurable pain, every test coming back normal when things are, in fact, very abnormal, & few ideas of anything that could help, even with the pain. Then, we discovered the next available appointment with a neurologist is the middle of May. I started wondering what kind of future I’m going to have & if I have much of one if nothing improves. Worsening symptoms, new symptoms, & no answers. Just a whole lot of pain & medications that don’t seem to be doing their job.
I wake up in the morning feeling as if my head’s exploded into a confined space & there’s no way for the pressure to escape. It pounds, I sit up & immediately feel dizzy, light headed, & sometimes it all temporarily goes black. My neck hurts, & as I shift I become painfully aware of the fact that my legs & arms are screaming at me. I try to stand up, to walk, but I’m weak these days & sometimes I don’t always get to where I need to go, and often not alone. My entire body is tender, sensitive to any pressure, my stomach is aggravated each time I eat, & it’s rare if I have an interest, or the energy to do much of anything at all; lately that even includes writing an email, reading, or watching a movie. To be honest, it’s a good day if I can get to the bathroom by myself & eat something with my medication.
There’s more, there’s always more. He’ll wait, watch my arms shake as they try to hold on & I plead for help, saying over and over, “I cannot do this. I can’t hold on much longer. It’s time to let go.” He’ll wait, not because He’s not listening or because He doesn’t care, but because we’re both aware that I’m not in charge. He waits, & I think that’s the point. That’s when the attributes come. There’s more to learn, more muscles to build, more desire to change & overcome, more willingness to submit & to become. In that moment when our knees hit the floor & we’re not just asking anymore, something’s new. It’s different. We’re more willing to change, I think. That’s when the muscles grow, when we feel ourselves on fire & somewhere in that mix the tunnel opens, the sun comes out, & the storm lets up a bit.
It’s in that moment, right before it all clears, when things have gotten terribly hard & we feel we’ve done all we can do, that my hope often falters for a moment. When there seems to be no end & no answers & no peace; when I’m sure that I’ve lost the fight… I think it will be this way forever. But I’m wrong, always wrong, & apparently more impatient than I’d like to admit. It’s in that moment that we should have the most peace & hope of the future. That sounds backwards, but it makes sense when I think of the Atonement. I’m convinced that’s why He waits, watches, ever ready to help, but waiting for our invitation to do so, paired with our commitment to live more accordingly. He knows we can do more, grow more, & ultimately be more, if every day we include more of the Atonement, more fervent prayer; if our lives include more of them. That’s why He waits, I think. He’s either showing us that we can be strong, with them of course, or building our testimonies of the Atonement, our confidence in that infinite light that penetrates even the thickest darkness.
It makes sense to me with these two examples in Alma 57. When I read this chapter it broke my heart, & then it inspired me. There are two very different examples in this story. The first of the Lamanite army, set in place to protect the city Cumeni; the people that break my heart because they were so close.
V. 8 Helaman speaking, “…with our strong force, we did surround, by night the city Cumeni, a little before they were to receive a supply of provisions.” So here we have the Lamanites; they’re scared, trying to be strong and defend what they have left, but the storms keep coming. They’ve been surrounded for days by the Nephites who have captured the people sent to help them, all their provisions, & probably their confidence.
V. 12 “…not many days had passed before the Lamanites began to lose all hopes of succor; therefore they yielded up the city unto our hands;” Now things look bleak for the Lamanites. They are prisoners of war & each time they try to escape, fighting with their last breath, hundreds of them are killed. (V. 14 – 15) There’s not enough food or supplies for even the Nephites, let alone them, as prisoners, so it settles in that they’ll either be killed there, on their defeated land, or be marched away. To their credit, the Nephites sent them away as prisoners.
V. 17 “…on the morrow they did return (the Nephites sent to march the Lamanites to another land), but we did not inquire of them concerning the prisoners; for behold, the Lamanites were upon us… Ammoron had sent to their support a new supply of provisions and also a numerous army of men.”
I read this, so sad for these people, & wrote this in the margin of my scriptures, “So often we get restless and impatient with the Lord in our afflictions, but help always comes. Do not give up & yield yourself to the Adversary hours before the aid arrives.” They. Let. Go. & for what? Only to watch their rescue come literally hours later. It was too late, they had given up, & I bet they could’ve held on.
So now we follow the story of the Nephites, (Helaman’s stripling warriors) the ones who fought with strength against their enemy, who overtook, overcame, held strong, & in the end, were rewarded. V.19 “…my little band of two thousand and sixty fought most desperately…” V. 20 “…those two thousand and sixty were firm and undaunted…” V. 21 “…even according to their faith it was done unto them…” We know that every single one of them was wounded, that many fainted from the loss of blood, but because of the goodness of God & their faith, “not one soul of them did perish”.
V. 26 “…we do justly ascribe it to the miraculous power of God, because of their exceeding faith in that which they had been taught to believe — that there was a just God, and whosoever did not doubt, that they should be preserved by his marvelous power.”
V. 27 “…this is the faith of which I have spoken; they are young, and their minds are firm, and they do put their trust in God continually.”
When I studied this chapter, I can’t tell you how hard these opposite perspectives hit me. Of this choice we have in our trials of giving up or keeping the faith, & look at the outcomes.
I have to hold on to the rod, my rod. It doesn’t matter how slippery it is from the rain or that my hands are cramping up, or that my arms feel like jell-o. I have to hold on, because He’s coming. I’ve been promised He’ll come & so have you.
But I’m no fool. I know I cannot do this alone, sometimes I wonder if I can do it at all… & so I’m left to say the only thing I can say… “Lord, I cannot, but you can.”
Help me recognize the tender mercies present during the dark times. I cannot hold on without your help. “Lord, I cannot do this hard thing, but you can.” & He’ll say, “Together we can.”
So we take it day by day, step by step; slowly. Some days are better than others. Sometimes we make it to the kitchen, write the missionaries, & visit with sweet friends. Sometimes all we can do is make it to the next doctor’s appointment, & some days we crawl to the bathroom, lie on a pillow wet with tears, & wish that circumstances were different. & then with some variation we do it all again tomorrow. Why? Because we have to; we’re expected to. I think that He expects us to. As hard as it is & as tempting as it is to throw in the towel, we know what we know. We know He’s coming & that He expects us to hold on now so that we can stand taller & hold on even longer in the days to come. We can’t choose when to let go. Not when we have access to all we need in the world to keep our hands closed tight; Him.
Because if the Lord expects us to do anything through our trials, it’s to keep trying. We keep trying, keep praying, & keep relying on that merciful Atonement of the Savior, that if we choose, can support us through it all. He just expects us to hold on to the faith we have. That’s what I’m learning & this is my advice: “Hold tight, knuckles white.”
“There is one thing the Lord expects of us no matter our difficulties & sorrows: He expects us to press on.” –Joseph B Wirthlin
Some of you might think this is an exaggeration, however it’s how I feel those many hours when I lie in pain with no answers to my health or my current life situation. It’s what helps me hold on, so to me it’s very real.
I don’t write these updates to complain, or even really to inform. I write them to share the precious insight I’m given; the hope, love, & peace that despite all of this heartache, still exists because He exists. To confirm to myself that He’s there & He cares.