The Rare Spiritual Opportunities Uncertain Times Offer Us
Chakell Wardleigh, ChurchOfJesusChrist.org – I am an overly anxious person—someone who lies awake at night replaying minor awkward encounters from each day and worrying incessantly about things that “might” happen. So you can imagine what the past few weeks of press conferences declaring states of emergency, announcements of temple closures and canceled church meetings, and the thousands of panic-driven shoppers have done to my nerves.
I have felt like a marionette puppet, with my anxiety and fear controlling my limbs and strings, leaving me crumpled in an exhausted heap by the end of each day. Perhaps you can relate. But although this is a time of uncertainty, one thing I am certain about is that this is a time for unique opportunities and revelation. Here are just a few examples:
The Opportunity to Be Still
I am a busybody. I don’t like to sit still. I feel uncomfortable in silence. I often catch myself listening to audiobooks or scrolling through social media to fill my free time. But I’m trying to be more mindful in my life, and I’ve realized that I use distractions to protect myself from anxiety and from acknowledging uncomfortable feelings. As much as I dislike acknowledging them at the time, when I don’t allow myself to feel my feelings and be still, everything builds up inside to the point where I can hardly feel anything, including the Spirit.
While there are definitely times when I need to get up and respond to what’s happening around me, occasionally being still is essential to my emotional and, more importantly, my spiritual health. President M. Russell Ballard taught: “Everyone needs time to meditate and contemplate. . . . We are often so busy and the world is so loud that it is difficult to hear the heavenly words ‘be still, and know that I am God.’”
Perhaps this time is a rare opportunity to practice stillness—to invite the Spirit and learn how He communicates with me, to recognize the Lord’s hand in my life, to realize how open the heavens are to me—to truly “hear Him,” my Savior, Jesus Christ, as President Russell M. Nelson has invited all of us to do.
The Opportunity to Reconnect
The distractions of the world can often disconnect me from what is most precious and important. Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf summed up some of those things that matter most, saying, “As we turn to our Heavenly Father and seek His wisdom regarding the things that matter most, we learn over and over again the importance of four key relationships: with our God, with our families, with our fellowman, and with ourselves.”
I know I could be doing better at connecting with these vital relationships in my life. And even as we are asked to become more isolated physically, we are being blessed with time to check in with ourselves, to converse with God, to spend time with the people we love, and to serve and minister to others—especially through the blessing of technology.
Temples might be closed, but family history work isn’t. Church meetings might be canceled, but learning and sharing the gospel with others isn’t (thank you, Come, Follow Me). And with all of this limited access to people and places, I can better recognize that the one person to whom I always have unlimited access is Heavenly Father. When I strive to connect with Him, I can always hear Him and His Son Jesus Christ. I hope that I can use this opportunity to reconnect, recognize gospel blessings, and stay connected with the people who matter most.
The Opportunity to Refine Your Faith
A few months ago I was driving up a mountain on a very foggy night. The fog was so thick that at one point I saw nothing but a wall of white in front of me. My knuckles were clenched around my steering wheel, and my stomach churned with nerves. But I trusted I would reach the top of the mountain if I just kept going. Suddenly the fog cleared, like it had never even existed.
As I looked down from the top of the mountain, I could see everything clearly below. I started thinking about those “foggy” moments life can throw at us. I feel like this pandemic is one of those foggy moments. Although I can’t see what’s coming, and the uncertainty of what lies ahead and contagious panic might feel like suffocating white fog, I can trust that God can see everything I cannot. He can see what’s ahead, and He can lead all of us through. All He asks of us is to just keep moving forward with faith, following His prophet’s counsel, and holding on to what we know is true.
I believe that faith is choosing to move forward every day, trusting in the Lord that all will be well, even when I am afraid. This is so hard to do, but I know doing so can refine my testimony in astounding ways.
When it feels that there is nothing more I can do, I can choose to trust God. I take comfort in Alma’s words to Helaman: “For I do know that whosoever shall put their trust in God shall be supported in their trials, and their troubles, and their afflictions, and shall be lifted up at the last day” (Alma 36:3).
If you feel like me and your anxiety and fear are pulling all of your puppet strings right now, take time to be still, to reconnect, and to hear Him. I hope you will find the strength and peace the gospel of Jesus Christ brings. I know I did.
M. Russell Ballard, “Be Still, and Know That I Am God” (CES devotional for young adults, May 4, 2014), broadcasts.ChurchofJesusChrist.org.
Russell M. Nelson, “My Message of Hope and Love for You,” Facebook video, Mar. 14, 2020, https://www.facebook.com/russell.m.nelson/videos/199840471336927/.
Dieter F. Uchtdorf, “Of Things That Matter Most,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2010, 19-22, ChurchofJesusChrist.org.