Christ has said to us, “Come unto me…and ye shall find rest unto your soul” (Matthew 11;28-29. How amazing does that sound?! Not just to find rest but for your SOUL to find rest. Sign me up for that kind of rest and peace.
But who does this apply to? The beginning of verse 28 reads, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden” so is it just for those who are REALLY suffering? Those who are really weighed down with burdens? I know I have been in that situation before where I yearn to feel Him close and to get further guidance but I hesitate to ask for much because what I’m in need of seems so silly compared to others. How can He be so aware of me and my “minor” problems when there are so many out there that are suffering more than me? I’m not really heavy laden, I’m just exhausted. Or lonely. Or confused.
Well there is a reason that in the above picture I made I took out the part that said, “all ye that labour and are heavy laden”. I think sometimes we read that and misinterpret it. We think we can only ask for rest for our souls when we are REALLY struggling and our burdens are SO heavy that we just can’t possibly do this on our own anymore, otherwise, we should be able to handle things mostly independently and just leave Him to worry about others. How wrong that train of thought is! Thomas S. Monson said, “We were not placed on this earth to walk alone”. None of us are expected to walk alone. He WANTS to walk with us, to help us, to be near us. He didn’t suffer for us so that we can come to Him only when we’re desperate, He died for us because of His unconditional love and it is for that same reason that He wants us to always yearn to have Him close. He wants to help us ALL get back to our heavenly home and He wasn’t just willing to provide a way to make it happen but He’s also willing to continue to stay with us as we take the journey home. That is how much He loves us. That is unconditional love.
Unconditional love does not mean that He will force us to allow Him near though. It means He loves us enough to allow us to choose. We get to choose to invite Him in. Dieter F. Uchtdorf taught us, “God is not waiting to love you until you have overcome your weaknesses and bad habits. He loves you today with a full understanding of your struggles,” Isn’t that a beautiful reminder? He already knows our shortcomings and failures and He STILL wants us to ask Him in. He STILL wants to help us, to give us rest, to allow our souls to be at peace and feel Him near.
So we know He wants to help us all and we know that it doesn’t even matter our circumstances, but now what do we DO about it? HOW do we draw nearer to Him and feel that peace in our souls that we are promised? Here are 3 things that have helped me draw closer to Him. All three steps take a little work, practice and diligence but the more you do them, the stronger you feel the spirit and the easier it gets to feel Him near.
- study AND REFLECT the scriptures as often as you can. Obviously the goal here is daily because it really does make a difference but God knows our intentions and if you are really giving it your best and trying to make time for this as frequently as you can, He knows that and He’s not going to hold missing some days against you. now I emphasize the “reflect” part because just reading the scriptures is great but it’s during the reflecting on what you’ve read and how it applies to you where you can often times feel the spirit strongest. Consider being more intentional with what you are studying and how well you are studying it rather than on how quickly you can get through a book or how much time you spend per study session. Also, figure out what works best for you. Some people do better listening to audio and taking notes as they do. For some it is reading straight from the scriptures, others it may be doing study groups where possible and for people like me, we do best with a combination of study manuals, scriptures and journaling. Play around with options until you feel like it really “clicks” for you and you notice you feel inspiration coming more frequently doing it that way, then you know you’ve found your ticket!
- Meditate frequently. We “must take time to meditate, to sweep the cobwebs from [our] mind” as Ezra Taft Benson put it so eloquently. Meditation has the power to do just that, clear the clutter and stress in our mind and help us recenter on what is most important. Some of the times I feel inspiration and promptings come to me the most clearly are during times of meditation as I take the time to quiet the worlds expectations and consider what MY priorities are, what He would have me do. This one takes a little more practice and diligence to get the hang of it but once you do, you will realize how easily you can feel closer to the Godhead and angels around you.
- Pray and ASK for the spirit to be with you. Sometimes you just need to ask. Now, I know Heavenly Father likes to see action and it’s important to not just go live your life however you please and then come to Him and be like, “ok, I’m done partying now give me the Spirit.” There is a difference between demanding and seeking/asking. Sometimes we feel like we’re doing the best we can here. “Heavenly Father, I’m trying to do what I know I should and I’m giving it my all and I’m still struggling to feel you as close as I would like. Please give me comfort at this time. I need it.” It’s ok that sometimes we feel exhausted and that we can’t imagine doing more than we are right now but man do I need to feel some relief right now. So ask! Think of your child coming to you and saying, “Mom or Dad, I’m struggling today and I just need a hug. I”m trying to be good and I’m just feeling so depleted from all the effort and I just want a hug from you and to have you tell me you love me” Would you be like, “how dare you ask me, do better!” NOOOOO! You would run to that child and scoop them up in your arms and assure them that you love them and you see all their effort and you’re so proud of them for it! He yearns to do that! He wants us to humble ourselves and ask for help…He’s waiting! You aren’t weak for asking/needing more, you are faithful. The part I love about this one is how I have received my answers. Sometimes I am immediately filled with reassurance, other times I go to bed and have a dream that brings me peace. Many times I wake the next morning simply with a renewed energy to fulfill the work ahead of me and I know where that bout of energy and courage to face another day has come from. He heard me.
My hope is that strengthening these 3 steps/areas will help you draw a little closer to our Savior just as it has helped me. I promise that as you do these things and work on having a closer relationship with Him that you WILL find peace and rest…even to the extent of your whole body and soul feeling at ease. You will be able to think clearer, know the best next steps to take and be confident with where you are headed. He is the anchor of our souls, He is the calm during the storms and He wants to help you as much as you will allow Him to.
PS If you really want to go the extra mile to feel the Spirit so strong in your home, play religious music more frequently in your home. We used to play “church music” only on Sundays and since we have upped how often we listen to it, we have noticed a difference in the feeling of our home. Sometimes I will watch my daughter come home from school after a rough day and go in her room and turn some church music on and I can see the transformation by the time she comes out again, her burden has been lightened and she feels peace again. I know I have experienced this myself many times as well. It’s beautiful what music can do for us!