I have playlists on my smartphone through a streaming service that I enjoy. I have playlists for exercise, driving in the car, the Sabbath Day, cleaning, and others that represent various genres such as classical, R&B, and yes, even disco (I was a young teenager in the 70s). I do have one that’s a little unusual. It’s called “Get to Heaven.” The songs there are very eclectic. It includes church hymns, classical instrumentals, some songs from Broadway scores, and even modern music. I had a seminary teacher that very nearly saved my life by teaching me to see gospel messages even in modern music. Now 34 years later, I can hear gospel messages in much of the music that is positive and clean. Sometimes it surprises my friends and family when I share these insights with them, and maybe they don’t see it the same way, but to my mind, it makes sense that the Spirit could teach me, even if the radio is on.
This morning when I got up, I felt worn out from emotions and the expectations I place on myself. We all do this, I think. From time to time, I struggle with depression and anxiety. I have come to find comfort in the scriptures, talks from general conference, attending and serving in the temple, and in partaking of the sacrament each week. However, sometimes it’s hard to shake the dark clouds that seem to roll in without any warning on the previous evening’s weather forecast. On some days, the clouds bounce out as quickly as they roll in and on other days they decide to stay for the whole “extended forecast.” I made my “Get to Heaven” playlist for these very days.
The songs that are familiar were playing while I readied myself for the day. A song began and I heard: “When the night has come, and the land is dark, and the moon is the only light we see.” That’s how I feel, I thought. Then the song continued, “No, I won’t be afraid, I won’t be afraid, just as long as you stand, stand by me,” (from Stand by Me by Ben E. King) I burst into tears. To a struggling mother missing her children and a wife facing health struggles, it meant everything to me. Instead of thinking about how other people are standing by me or how I might be trying to stand by them, this time I thought of my Savior, Jesus Christ and how He stands by me every single day. I know He also stands by you. But, do we notice?
In the spring of 2013, seemingly out of nowhere, I suffered a serious bout of depression and anxiety. My husband and children were confused and worried. I seemed to cry all the time and was emotional over everything. I did not feel like myself. I struggled to put on the face of bravery because many times when people ask, “how are you?” it really feels risky to actually tell them how you are feeling. “Fine,” we all say. And then we struggle silently, alone. I knew I didn’t have to fight alone and I knew I had a husband and children who love me, a Redeemer who knew exactly how I felt, but I still struggled. It made no sense. I have always been a happy person and am very blessed, so where had my smile gone? That very Fall, in October 2013 General Conference, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland gave the address, “Like a Broken Vessel,” which I felt was just for me. Speaking of major depression, he said:
“In that regard I once terrifyingly saw it in myself. At one point in our married life when financial fears collided with staggering fatigue, I took a psychic blow that was as unanticipated as it was real. With the grace of God and the love of my family, I kept functioning and kept working, but even after all these years I continue to feel a deep sympathy for others more chronically or more deeply afflicted with such gloom than I was. In any case we have all taken courage from those who, in the words of the Prophet Joseph, “searched … and contemplated the darkest abyss and persevered through it–not the least of whom were Abraham Lincoln, Winston Churchill, and Elder George Albert Smith, the latter being one of the most gentle and Christ-like men of our dispensation, who battled recurring depression for some years before later becoming the universally beloved eighth prophet and President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.”
It was a talk that I know resonated with multitudes of people, which is why Elder Holland was so inspired to give it—to tell us that even apostles and prophets and leaders of the best kind can be hit with the ugly stick of depression. To me it was a shot in the arm I most desperately needed. I did continue to work, to pray, to attend church, to serve my family, to attend the temple, take the sacrament, and study the scriptures. I sought help and I tried to take better physical care of myself. In time, things improved. I had more good days than bad and it’s because I knew who was standing by me. Like the guard watching over someone very important, I knew that Jesus was literally watching over me.
That experience taught me much about the saving power of the Atonement performed so lovingly by Jesus Christ. For me, it was truly saving to understand that Jesus really did know how I felt because He had already felt my pain. He wasn’t thinking I was weird or stupid or crazy, and the reason is He had suffered my suffering, confusion, and even guilt at feeling depressed when I had so much to be happy about. I never felt like the Lord was standing over me with unkind judgment and a “get up and quit your complaining” attitude. To the contrary. It was the feeling of knowing He was there, waiting quietly, without drawing attention to Himself, just being patient with me and praying for me.
In his address, “We Never Walk Alone,” President Thomas S. Monson told the Relief Society sisters in October 2013:
“We were not placed on this earth to walk alone. What an amazing source of power, of strength, and of comfort is available to each of us. He who knows us better than we know ourselves, He who sees the larger picture and who knows the end from the beginning, has assured us that He will be there for us to provide help if we but ask. We have the promise: “Pray always, and be believing, and all things shall work together for your good.” (D&C 90:24)
As LDS women, this is something we know. We do. We know this, but sometimes it’s hard to actually put into practice and take into our hearts instead of letting it float casually on top of our skin. How grateful I am to know that we have living prophets and apostles who are so close to the Spirit and so in tune with what we as members of the Church need to hear that a conference address can seem to come to the rescue just in time or specific words answer our urgent and often-said prayers. What would we see if we could see the Force working for our good, cheering for us to make it, to cross the finish line, to succeed in keeping our covenants, and to have the strength to help build the kingdom of God before the world has its way with us first?
I thought all morning today about all the times I know my Savior and Redeemer has been standing by me ever so faithfully and asked myself if I am also so fervently standing by Him? I have felt the Lord standing by me while serving in church assignments, while bearing testimony, while in real and perilous physical danger. I have felt Him standing watch over me while I’ve been sick or brought children into the world, when I’ve been worried about the welfare of my husband and children, and when I’ve suffered heartache at the hands of others. I’ve felt Him standing before me, showing me the way when I’ve been confused. I’ve felt Christ standing behind me when I’ve needed both forceful and gentle pushes. I’ve really known that He has always been standing by, next to me, as I’ve tried in my very imperfect way to live the Gospel, to repent daily, to keep my covenants, to bear witness that I know He lives, and the very simple, but yet large responsibility of “to always remember Him.”
There are things we all stand for and behind and against. We have causes and reasons to stand and give our strength to make the world a better place. I would suggest we would all have more strength to stand everywhere we desire to stand if we first, recognize just exactly how patiently and loyally our Savior is standing beside us, and second, if we commit to more faith-fully and gratefully stand by Him. I’m grateful for all the standing the Savior is forever doing in my behalf, ever being Guard over me, and you, as He promised to do before the world even began. Isn’t it amazing how steadfast the Savior is? He never quits and so we should never quit. Elder Holland said:
“I testify that bad days come to an end, that faith always triumphs, and that heavenly promises are always kept.”
Let us stand together as sisters, in support of God’s holy priesthood, with our beloved prophets and apostles, for our families and marriages, and especially for and with and by Jesus Christ. For we have covenanted to do so. “If the sky and the mountains tumble to the sea, I’ll be there as long as you stand by me.”