Pain radiates outward. One person’s horrible childhood leaves them hurting and vulnerable and they put up defenses and cause pain to their own children. The pain has spread, like a virus, from one to a handful. Then those children have families and infect them with variations of their own pain and the web grows broader–reaching neighbors and community members. We are all bombarded daily with the effects of other people’s pain. We get offended, gossip, compare and lose faith because so many of our interactions are blunt and bruising.
The recent hoohah within our Church is about one woman’s pain in being ignored and mistreated by her male priesthood leaders. She found women with similar pain and banded together to try to make things right in the way they felt was best. Their pain is real, but is also not something they can contain or control.
Her movement has caused pain for some of my friends and family–in very different ways. People doubting their faith, leaving behind the covenants, community and shared hopes for the future that they have built their lives on. She attempted to deal with the injustice that brought her pain, and now new families are in pain as a result. They carry it with them from moment to moment–a sharp ache that makes them speak angrily to their children, harden their hearts toward the Spirit, refuse help from people who are sincere but don’t say the right things. The pain keeps moving outward and infects others.
All of this pain surrounds us because this is a fallen world. This is pointed out rather poetically in the opening of the Old Testament when the first crime to be committed, in our earth’s history, was the wicked brother killing the righteous brother. A sharp reversal from the outcome of the war in heaven. There are hostile beings here, doing everything they can to make us suffer. They constantly remind us of our pain and prod us to spread it around. It feels like the world is absolutely engulfed by this exponentially-growing pain.
But God didn’t send us to this fallen earth with no hope. Even if it is just for four minutes. He still made a way for us to escape the pain that surrounds us. “And [Christ] shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind. . . that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities.” (Alma 7:11-12)
When we actually use the Atonement of Christ to neutralize our pain, we can stop the virus from spreading. He brings peace and healing. He makes us whole. He is like the charcoal that absorbs and eliminates the poison in our system. He doesn’t expect us to make everything right–to face injustice and bring it down, begging on it’s knees. He said, “For behold, I do not require at their hands to fight the battles of Zion. . . I will fight your battles.” (D&C 105:14). He also promised that the meek shall inherit the earth. (Matt. 5:5) There are vastly more stories in the scriptures of people trusting in God and seeing His hand bring miraculous deliverance than there are of people fixing problems themselves. He can do it! He wants us to trust Him and live in peace.
I am not minimizing people’s pain here, there is absolutely injustice in the world; but He is the judge, and there is mercy in His justice for the victim. All things will be made right. Exactly right. He knows who is responsible and He will remedy it without causing the pain to spread. When we let Christ mete out justice, He gives us peace. Our part is to accept His peace and refuse to give in to the allure of drama. We have to let things go. We have to trust that Christ will take care of it and take care of us.
The process for letting the Atonement in is one I am still trying to work out, but I firmly believe that a sincere heart, praying for help will get the answers needed for each situation. I’ve had it work in my life through using gratitude to disarm painful memories; through a dream that brought understanding and compassion for a family member, and through simply deciding that I am no longer going to agitate about an issue and just give it over to God. The book “The Peacegiver” by James Ferrell had some other wonderful insights about how the Atonement plays out in our relationships.
I am truly sorry for the people who are in pain right now, whatever the cause. But let us all turn to Christ and seek real healing. Shouting over each other to justify our position spreads this virus. The world is sick enough without the Mormons coughing all over everything.