I am independent, strong, determined — even stubbornly so. I have always been persistent and goal-oriented, ever since I can remember. I have tried to stand on my own two feet, not depending on someone else to do anything for me, if I can at all help it. I know there are quite a few other people out there like me; others look in at them and either can see the facade of “everything’s great” or, if they notice the person struggling, they think, “Why don’t they just ask for help?”
That’s a darn good question. In answering for myself, I’d say, perhaps, Well, I don’t need it. If things get really bad, then I’ll ask for help. Or, it’s just habit. I’ve tried so hard for so long to do things myself that I just don’t think about asking for help until it’s just kind of … too late, in one way or another. Perhaps many who suffer from this sort of stubbornness just were forced to fend for themselves for years, physically or emotionally (I can’t begin to imagine the kind of lives some people have had to experience), so now it’s absolutely ingrained. Maybe we don’t trust that if we ask someone for help, that we’ll get what we need, or we feel that no one is able or willing to help. Or maybe I’m afraid I will be laughed at, judged and found wanting in some way, or snubbed. Perhaps it comes down to pride. I feel I’m weak if I can’t do something myself. I feel that I should be good enough on my own.
Whatever the reason, or mixture of reasons at any given time, I am in the habit of doing things myself. As life has gotten more difficult and I have experienced various trials over the years, I have recognized I need to be better about saying the very useful words “no” and “please help me.” So I am working on it, even if it just means starting small.
This personality trait has been a real impediment in my life when it comes to faith and my relationship to a loving God and Savior. Faith itself is about believing in something we can’t see. It’s about giving up ourselves and our pride and vanity and stubbornness to a power greater than ourselves. It’s about trust. So as much as I absolutely and completely believe that there is a God and that I have a personal Savior, I still keep them off to the side somehow, saying, “OK, thanks for being available, but I’ve got this one.” I pray with great faith and a full heart for other people I know and care about who need help that I can’t possibly give myself, trusting that God will answer those prayers and help them. But when I’m struggling and feeling weak, I still don’t just give over my heart and worries to God very easily. I hang on to them. It’s absolutely crazy.
I really enjoyed reading a wonderful article in our church’s magazine, the Ensign, this month, about the arms of Christ. The author was speaking about Peter’s experience walking on the water to Jesus in the midst of a storm. He went a little ways actually walking on water. Then he doubted and sank. He cried out to Jesus, just ahead of him, “Lord, save me!” Brent Top writes,
All of us have had, are having, or will yet have a Peter-like “sinking” experience in some way and will at some time (probably many times) cry out, “Lord, save me.” Even Peter’s strong fisherman arms were not strong enough to save him. He needed the rescuing arms of Christ, and so do we. Can you imagine Peter—choking, his head bobbing beneath the surface of the water—saying as the Savior extends His arms: “No, thank you. I will swim to shore. I sank myself, so I must save myself”? Of course not. How ridiculous! Yet we sometimes do just that.
We may know in our heads that our mortal arms and hands are deficient—in fact, utterly incapable of rescuing or redeeming us—but we sometimes resist, even recoil from, the outstretched arms of the Savior. Sometimes we spiritually drown ourselves because we won’t allow His arms to cradle us. Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve eloquently stated:
“May I be bold enough to suggest that it is impossible for anyone who really knows God to doubt his willingness to receive us with open arms in a divine embrace if we will but ‘come unto Him.’ …
“I am convinced that none of us can appreciate how deeply it wounds the loving heart of the Savior of the world when he finds that his people do not feel confident in his care or secure in his hands.”
This message is not new information, but it touched me deeply, first, because I spiritually almost always refuse to ask for my Savior’s help. I’m sinking and just frantically treading water, waiting for the storm to cease on its own, for me to somehow get enough strength to swim to shore. Second, I was touched by Elder Holland’s words about how it must hurt our dear Jesus when we don’t go to him for help. I know how I feel when someone I care about could use my help, and I am eager to lend support or specific help and they won’t even ask. The Savior is perfectly loving and compassionate and has the most sensitive soul and heart. He must feel hurt when I refuse his help.
On this Easter Sunday, I could write about how grateful I am for the Lord’s sacrifice, in that he gave his life so we could all live eternally and be resurrected. I could write about how much hope that gives me, that I can one day have a perfect, immortal body, and that my deceased family members will have the same, and that we can all be reunited. All that is absolutely true and deeply important to me. But on the most personal level, I am grateful today that Jesus suffered, that he already experienced, in a way I can’t possibly understand with my mortal brain, all of the pains and struggles that I’m experiencing now, have experienced, and still have yet to experience. He’s already been through it all. He’s on the other side of those sufferings, and he’s waiting to help me to get through to the other side as well. I just have to turn my heart over to him and give up my pride and my need to do it alone.
I’m not going to overcome this struggle in this life, I’m sure. I am just trying to do better, to give up my self and my bad habits, a little at a time. Today, on Easter, I say, thanks be to my Savior for always, always, always being there; for already suffering for me; for patiently waiting for me to give him my whole heart.