One of my favorite things about this time of year is the tendency we have as humans to become a little more divine. Our hearts, hands and even our wallets open for our brothers and sisters who aren't as fortunate as we are. The down side is that we also see those unfortunate fellow men and experience a bit of their pain as we reach out to them.
Over the past few months and especially these last few weeks I've heard the stories of family, friends and neighbors who find their health, their happiness and their hearts a bit heavy. Many of them have experienced long painful journeys that don't seem to end. Some are experiencing miracles but some are just beginning the climb. No matter where each finds themselves at this time of year. The example of our Savior still prevails.
My youngest son told me his shorthand version of 'The atonement' of The Savior. In his words..."The worst part was in Gethsemane, but it was all bad Mom. Even after the worst was past."
His simple, honest appraisal of The Savior's suffering weighed on me as I followed up with some of my suffering friends and family. "The Son Of Man hath descended below them all..." and yet we can't relate our own pain to his in any way. Why?
Imagine, if you will, such excruciating pain that you sweat blood. Take the worst physical, mental or emotional pain you've known. Even in memory, our minds and bodies shy away. I'll bet you never sweat great drops of blood though?
Between Christ's road from Gethsemane to Golgotha he remained perfect. His journey lasted forty hours. In the beginning his physical agony robbed him of blood, tears and strength. In the garden, an angel stood by his side to help him. When this most horrific pain was past, he'd been suffering all night. His most beloved friends failed him. His chosen disciple betrayed him. The Sanhedrin mocked, scorned, spit up on him and then took him to be judged by the Romans. He had no food, water, sleep or defender. A mob of his brothers and sisters demanded his death. Jagged thorns from a cruel crown pierced his brow. Bits of bone and metal dug into his back as he was flogged and stripped almost naked. All of this before he was condemned.
This wasn't the half of it...
Weak from blood loss, hunger and thirst, he carried his cross, a beam speculated to be a few hundred pounds for 3 miles, up hill. He collapsed from the strain. This wasn't even the worst part.
With Heavy mallets they drove spikes through his palms, his wrists, and both beet,until his own weight drug his body downward, tearing at the bones, tendons and flesh. He watched his mother weep at his feet but couldn't comfort her. He took abuse from soldiers and grief from friends. He was left to die alone.
And this wasn't the worst part.He was weak, tired, and drained from The atonement. The crucifixion, though less painful, came when his strength was spent, his patience was tested and his support system was gone.
In the midst of our struggles, we also cry out "My God, My God Why hast thou forsaken me?" because the pain, the suffering and the fear are more than we can bear. What ever it is you go through. Whatever pain assaults your mind and body. Whatever dark abyss of the soul you must travel remember to hang on. "Its all bad, but it's not the worst."
An often forgotten gift of the atonement of Jesus Christ is that in his crowning achievement...resurrection. He claimed the power to offer you the balm of Gilead. The real miracles in life are His power to cleanse you of sin. To comfort, cradle, and control your pain is amongst His minor abilities.
During this Holiday season, if you can be the hands that comfort, the arms that cradle, and the strength from which others draw...God bless you! If you're in need of those arms, hands and strengths...reach for The Savior. You'll find Him somewhere between Gethsemane and Golgotha.