Often when within the depth of depression or anxiety we struggle to feel or can’t feel the Spirit, but the Savior has said, “I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you.” (John 14:8).
So the question is how does Jesus comfort us when we can’t feel the spirit?
The Savior will not abandon us during these times!
Sister Reyna Aburto said,
“One of our beloved hymns expresses the plea ‘Thru cloud and sunshine, Lord, abide with me!” I was once on a plane as it approached a large storm. Looking out the window, I could see a dense blanket of clouds below us. The rays of the setting sun reflected off the clouds, causing them to shine with intense brightness. Soon, the plane descended through the heavy clouds, and we were suddenly enveloped in a thick darkness that completely blinded us to the intense light we had witnessed just moments earlier.
“Black clouds may also form in our lives, which can blind us to God’s light and even cause us to question if that light exists for us anymore. Some of those clouds are or depression, anxiety, and other forms of mental and emotional affliction. They can distort the way we perceive ourselves, others, and even God.” (October 2019 General Conference)
When going into that cloud, the sun didn’t disappear. They just couldn’t see it! The sun was still shining. This is how it is for us during those times of darkness. We can’t see the Sun (that is, feel the Spirit), but we are still surrounded by the Spirit. The light of Christ is still shining through, the cloud is just blocking us from seeing or feeling the Spirit.
Internal versus External
I have come to learn that I can feel the Spirit internally, or witness it externally.
When I am mentally healthy I typically feel the Spirit in my heart or my mind. I feel peace, I feel love. Often we describe it as feeling, or even words within our minds. This is a very classic definition of feeling the Spirit. But it is not the only way to recognize God’s hand in our lives.
Often when depressed, or anxious I have gone weeks or even months without feeling anything. I have felt no peace, no love, nothing. Just emptiness. This is when we often ask if God still loves us, or if he has abandoned us. It took me awhile, but I have learned he has not.
When I take the time to look (or someone, like my husband, points it out to me) I can recognize the Lord’s hand in my life. Doctrine & Covenants 6:28 states “in the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established.” These outside witnesses show me where the Lord is when I can’t feel the Spirit.
Here are some ways I have seen the Lord in my life when I couldn’t feel the Spirit:
- Acting on idea that is good (often at the encouragement of my children) and receiving the confirmation of a need after the fact. For example, I made banana bread and was intending on taking it to a friend who was pregnant. Driving can cause me severe anxiety, and she lived in the next town over. My daughter (around 5) encourage me to go when I didn’t want to. I dropped the bread off at her door and later she told me she had been craving banana bread! I knew then, that my actions were something inspired.
- Looking at other’s actions and kindness toward me. Last year, while in despair, a friend would always text me whenever I needed it. This particular friend I have never met, except online. She has experienced something similar to my challenges. Every time I knew it was one way God was reaching out to comfort me. I knew I wasn’t alone, as much as I felt like it.
- Remembering spiritual experiences when we can’t feel it. At times I have kept a list of experiences where I knew God was speaking to me that I could review every morning. What a difference it has made in my life to remember what the Lord has given to me. President Henry B. Eyring would ask daily, “ ‘Have I seen the hand of God reaching out to touch us or our children or our family today?’ As I kept at it, something began to happen. 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.” (October 2007 General Conference).
I have many experiences where I have seen the hand of the Lord in my life when I couldn’t feel the Spirit. So often just looking back and remembering what the Lord has helped me get through the day. I like to have reminders around. Once, the Lord sent me a message of love with an orchid and now I keep an orchid in my kitchen so that I can remember daily that the Lord loves me despite anything going on in my life.
How have you seen or felt the Lord’s hand in your life when you can’t feel the spirt in the traditional classical way we talk about feeling the Spirit?