“Brothers and sisters, my Easter-season message today is…directed…to those who are alone or feel alone or, worse yet, feel abandoned.” This is the opening of Elder Jeffrey R. Holland’s April 2009 General Conference Talk – None Were with Him. And while we are not currently celebrating Easter and the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, the impact this message has had on my thoughts today are very profound, very significant, and very pertinent for myself and those who are seeking refuge in their moment of abandonment. No greater person knows the sense of abandonment than our beloved Savior and Redeemer, Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God. As I reflect upon this particular lesson (one that was for the Priesthood and Relief Society lesson today), the more cause of my own remembrance of a time where the sense of abandonment, the feelings of depression, and the words of despair spoke dark secrets in my heart and mind. A time when there was the overwhelming sense of hopelessness and not wanting to fight anymore.
Holland continues with the following groups of individuals whom he is specifically speaking too.
These might include those longing to be married, those who have lost a spouse, and those who have lost – or have never been blessed with – children. Our empathy embraces wives forsaken by their husbands, husbands whose wives have walked away, and children bereft of one or the other of their parents – or both. This group can find within its broad circumference a soldier far from home, a missionary in those first weeks of homesickness, or a father out of work, afraid the fear in his eyes will be visible to his family. In short it can include all of us at various times in our lives.
We all experience moments of despair, moments of loneliness, abandonment, and rejection. The wife whose husband walks out on her to pursue his own selfish lusts, a mother who abandons her children, or, children who rebel against their loving parents and instead of choosing to remain in a loving warm home, they stray into the clutches of a cold cruel world of sin and bondage. An individual afflicted with depression and withdraws from their friends, family and responsibilities.
Regarding depression, the National Institute of Mental Health provides the following symptoms of depression:
* difficulty concentrating, remembering details, and making decisions
* fatigue and decreased energy
* feelings of guilt, worthlessness, and/or helplessness
* feelings of hopelessness and/or pessimism
* insomnia, early-morning wakefulness, or excessive sleeping
* irritability, restlessness
* loss of interest in activities or hobbies once pleasurable, including sex
* overeating or appetite loss
* persistent aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems that do not ease even
* persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” feelings
* thoughts of suicide, suicide attempts
And, while there are some people who truly do suffer from a “clinically” defined depression, others face moments of depression because of certain events that have transpired in our lives. Parents becoming depressed over the loss of a child. A spouse broken over the failing marriage, or infidelity within the marital relationship. A husband and Wife over the loss of one or both spouse’s job and income. Yet, regardless of what triggers someone’s depressive state, there is always the sense of abandonment.
According to the following website (I have frequently came across), the following gives an accurate understanding for the term Abandonment:
Abandonment represents core human fear. We have all experienced it. When a relationship ends, the feelings harken all the way back to our lost childhoods when we were helpless, and dependent. Our adult functioning temporarily collapses.We feel shattered, bewildered, condemned to loneliness.
Much of this comes from the Self-Concept and influences that surround us and our daily lives. The moral agency those close to us employ and how their choices affect us emotionally and physically.
However, there is one promise that seems to ring out with a light of hope. The affable words spoken in Holy Writ are these: I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee. (See Joshua 1:5; Hebrews 13:5).
The Hebrew word used in this passage means the following:
1) to leave, loose, forsake
a) (Qal) to leave
1) to depart from, leave behind, leave, let alone
2) to leave, abandon, forsake, neglect, apostatise
3) to let loose, set free, let go, free
1) to be left to
2) to be forsaken
c) (Pual) to be deserted
2) to restore, repair
a) (Qal) to repair
And the Greek word is defined:
1) abandon, desert
a) leave in straits, leave helpless
b) totally abandoned, utterly forsaken
2) to leave behind among, to leave surviving
What a wonderful promise that we have from a Loving Heavenly Father. As we turn to Him, bring our sorrows and pains to Him, and faithfully abide in His Gospel and are obedient to His commandments, this promise is cherished and imparted unto us. We find refuge, solace, comfort, guidance, encouragement, strength, and the will to accomplish and overcome those things we are desiring to overcome.
And, yet, the sad reality is that many people do not turn (myself included) to the one who has fully understood our pains, our sufferings, and the one who knows full well the despair that any given individual could feel. To this, we return back to Elder Holland’s talk and what he has to say:
…I speak of the loneliest journey ever made and the unending blessings it brought to all in the human family. I speak of the Saviors solitary task of shouldering alone the burden of our salvation. Rightly He would say: “I have trodden the winepress alone; and of the people there was none with me…I looked, and there was none to help; and I wondered that there was none to uphold [me].” (Isaiah 63:3, 5; See also, D&C 76:107)
Within their affliction, within their depression and despair, they reason internally and externally that “no one understands what I am going through” or “no one can quite possibly how I am feeling.” Yet, when we step back and look at the Savior’s enduring scourge, the physical and emotional pain that he suffered under, the dehumanization, public taunt’s and gestures, the loneliness he must have swallowed as he took each step toward Calvary, our own despair and feelings of abandonment become insignificant drops of water in a large bucket of mercy and grace.
One thing that impacts an individuals understanding of scripture is by replacing the name of the person in the passage with your own name. While we can never come close to being the perfect sinless Christ, what if one were to replace Christ’s name with their own? What would you feel when you stand before your fellow peers, knowing you are innocent of any crime, teaching a message of hope against current prevailing thought that has caused grave bondage to many people who are unable to live up to the standards of a hypocritical regime of leaders, standing before a political leader and on the one hand being declared innocent, but at the bequest of the people, are condemned to death. Having been traded for a true criminal at the command of your fellow citizens? What weight of emotion would bare down on you in moments of solitude?
Going even further, suffering physical pain and scourging at the hands of another group of people who are in authority over you, who are punishing you for false crimes – what would be going through your mind? How would you feel?
It is only when we step back and look at the final days of our Beloved Savior, the trial, the humiliation, the false accusations being heaped upon him by those who despise him and have incited the community to come against Him, that we can truly and fully understand that as we cry out “My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me” do we realize that he has promised that he will never forsake us.
I truly know the depth of depression, know full well the cold sense of abandonment, having no one around and are left to your own thoughts and reflections. A state of vulnerability where the enemy can sneak in, whispering how unfair everything is, how one does not deserve to live, how the sense of abandonment, the cloak of depression that suffocates one, the lies wrapped up in sweet sensual truths lead us to believe we are worthless and have nothing to offer. It is an emotional battle that plagues each and everyone of us.
Yet, if we only turn to cast our eyes heavenward, there is one who truly knows the depths of this despair, who have heard the lies of the enemy. One who knows what it is like to have friends and family abandon them in the darkest moments, the darkest hours of our need. It is here, if we are truly humble enough, sincere enough, that we can truly see that our Loving Heavenly Father and our beloved Savior and Redeemer are close to us, willing to lift us up and encourage us.
Take the next few days and reflect upon this, open up and read the accounts of Christ’s betrayal, his time in the Garden where he prayed alone, seeking the bitter cup to be removed from our lips. Remember how Christ was scourged for us (See 1 Nephi 19: 9, 13).
And as you reflect upon this, reflect upon the very real truth that you have not been forsaken, the realization that Christ is well familiar with this path. He experienced the utter sense of abandonment and defeat. He personally adorned himself with the humiliation that was heaped upon him by those who praised him days before his scourging and crucifixion. Let our minds wrap around the truth that no matter what we are facing in our darkest moment, Heavenly Father is there. Christ had already overcome and when we seek after him, we draw close to him, he will give us strength and encouragement that we need to carry through and grow in the trials that we are faced.
I leave you with more words of Elder Holland as he says this:
But Jesus held on. He pressed on. The goodness in Him allowed faith to triumph even in a state of complete anguish. The trust He lived by told Him in spite of His feelings that divine compassion is never absent, that God is always faithful, that He never flees nor fails us. When the uttermost farthing had then been paid, when Christ’s determination to be faithful was as obvious as it was utterly invincible … Against all odds and with none to help or uphold Him, Jesus of Nazareth, the living Son of the living God, restored physical life where death had held sway and brought joyful, spiritual redemption out of sin, hellish darkness, and despair. With faith in the God He knew was there.
And furthermore, when we allow these words to sink deep into our souls, into the depths of our hearts, the truth shines forth with warmth and delight as we know that we are not alone. Paul the Apostle stated that “through Christ,” he is able to do all things because he draws his strength (See Philippians 4:13) on the Redeemer who overcame all things we face in our mortal existence.
As Elder Holland further states, I personally reiterate: “Trumpeted from the summit of Calvary is the truth that we will never be left alone nor unaided, even if sometimes we may feel that we are.”
Let us hold onto the Iron Rod of truth and know that Christ walks besides us, as well as carries us through those dark hours of despair, the feelings of abandonment, knowing that we are not alone and we have one whose strength we can draw upon when we feel our own strength has fled us, and when there is no one else around who we perceive that could never understand what we are fighting against, battling to overcome, and know that when we are faithful and obedient, “…the tender mercies of the Lord are over all those whom he hath chosen, because of their faith, to make them mighty even unto the power of deliverance.” (See 1 Nephi 1:20)
NOTE: This article previously appeared on the Mormon Apologetic Research Studies Blog and has been republished here with permission.