Friday, October 29, 2010

Laura's Take: Combatting Stress with Spiritual Power

Almost eight years ago I began an ecclesiastical mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  I served for 19 months, putting aside family, friends, hobbies, college and work to serve in Maryland.  This was the desire of my heart since I was 9 years old, to share the glad message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  Though this gospel had brought me a great deal of comfort and joy, I had suffered from depression for several years and was taking medication to deal with the anxieties that resulted from it.  When I got to the mission field I encountered allot of new situations and stresses that became nearly debilitating.  I had served for about four months when I found out a dear woman I had taught had passed away.  It was a hard blow, and hand phoned my mission president in tears.  I was shocked when he said I should consider going home.  I knew I couldn’t go home so I sought counsel from my home ward bishop.
 When my bishop spoke with me, he could tell I had a lot of feelings of stress and anxiety.  He told me that some of those feelings had to do with the every-day experiences and life of a missionary.  He then told me that most of them seemed to be centered in perceived feelings of inadequacy or fears that I might not be able to do everything that I should.
 He went on to explain of his conviction that some of Satan’s greatest tools are discouragement and depression. “Negative emotions such as depression, anxiety, doubts, fears, etc. can be just as effective at driving the Spirit away from us as conscious sin.
Just as with doubt and fear, any other negative emotion such as depression, anxiety, etc. can drive the Spirit out of our lives and cause us to “sink.”  (Think of Peter participating in a great miracle of walking on water, Matt. 14:29-30).  Remember, “where doubt [or fear, or anger, or depression, or anxiety] is, faith cannot be.”
 He helped me discover a fallacy I had believed in for years, that depression was the same as humility.  And that I was putting too much trust in my own efforts and not relying on the Lord. To quote my Bishop:
 “Making flesh our arm” refers to relying upon our own efforts and abilities.  When we doubt we are simply relying upon our own intellect to address or consider a dispute.  When we fear, we are relying upon our own understanding or intellect to judge or assess a situation”
 “By definition, the weaknesses which are given to us cannot be overcome by our individual efforts, no matter how hard we work, or it would not make us humble.  Indeed, it would have just the opposite effect and make us proud that we had overcome the weakness on our own!

Then is given one of the greatest of all the promises in the scriptures:  “for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.”  I have emphasized the word “I” because it is the Lord who will make you strong and lift your burdens. “
Because of the lengthiness of the letter, these are the steps my bishop set up to help me overcome the severe anxiety I was experiencing.
·        Recognize the negative emotion .  It is alright to feel unworthy, weak and inadequate. However, after we have made that acknowledgment, it is NOT alright to stay that way or to let it affect our life.
·        Don’t dwell on the negative emotion.  Quickly cast out such damaging and negative thoughts.
·        Pray for the Lord’s help in overcoming the stress.  The weaknesses which are given to us cannot be overcome by our individual efforts.
·        Finally, know that putting these principles into effect will take time and significant effort.
Like my bishop said, it would take time and effort to put these things into practice.  I find that when I am up against some major change and stress that I haven’t encountered before, like marriage, pregnancy, childbirth, etc. I have to go through the same process that I went through over 7 years ago.  This works for any weakness, any problem.  The gospel of Jesus Christ is so perfect in its simplicity and so beautiful in its universality.  Yes we are all unique and have our own special circumstance and belief systems but we are all the same in that we are all children of a loving God.  And his council works for all of us.

View the actual letter by clicking here or choosing the link on the sidebar. 


  1. Thanks for sharing your experiences and feelings and for including the powerful letter from your former Bishop. I've actually learned a lot. I had never considered that if w could overcome weakness without God's help that we would become prideful. It makes sense.

  2. That was great Laura! Thank you so much. There is so much to take from you experience. I needed this...

  3. Laura, you're amazing. Thanks for sharing such a personal experience. And by the way, you were a fantastic missionary!

  4. oh gee, thanks Jason! you helped make the mission fun!