“The way a book is read — which is to say, the qualities a reader brings to a book — can have as much to do with its worth as anything the author puts into it…. Anyone who can read can learn how to read deeply and thus live more fully.”
~Norman Cousins

Writing is where we truly learn. Join the Journey.

I read from my scriptures (book), but you can find scripture reference here.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Garden of Gethsemane by Ann Y. D&C 19:16-18

I've been pondering lately on the difference between physical and mental pain. Having struggled with both migraines and depression for most of my life, I can honestly say that I have had both physical and mental pain. This is going to sound strange to many, but I'm glad that I have had both. I've learned, I'm afraid, more from pain than I ever would from pleasure, and the wisdom I have gained from this has been invaluable.

The events that made me really consider the difference between mental and physical pain occurred a few months ago. I go through phases when I am completely fine in terms of mental health, and then I go through phases when I am not so fine. A few months ago was one of the not so fine times. For no reason that I can think of, I went through a severe bout of depression, and once again, my pain gave me insight.

Those of you not familiar with depression will think, "Oh, she was sad; we all get sad from time to time." But those of you who have gone through real depression know that depression and sadness are distant cousins, at best. Sadness is the opposite of happiness, and it is, by its very nature, temporary. Depression, true depression, is anguish of the soul. It is real pain. It is hopelessness, despair, and overwhelming guilt. It is anguish such that some who suffer and cannot find relief sometimes take their own lives rather than live in their own skins for another minute. I don't write these things to cause pain in others. I simply want those who have not experienced this to understand what I am about to say next.

Depression can have a variety of causes. Life events, such as illness or the death of a loved one can cause depression. Depression can also be caused by chemical imbalances in the brain. The former usually only requires time to cure it. The latter needs medical intervention and unfortunately is what I struggle with (along with so many others). But something else can cause depression, and that's what I want to talk to you about. The other cause of depression is separation from our Father in Heaven. What causes this separation? Sin causes it.

The more I think about the differences between mental and physical anguish, the more my thoughts turn to my savior and his atonement. The atonement of Christ (or the suffering) happened in two stages. The first part occurred in the Garden of Gethsemane. The second part happened during the trial and crucifixion of our Lord.

Most Christians, when asked to talk about the suffering of our Lord, naturally mention the cross on which he hung. In fact, most Christian religions use the cross as a symbol of the price Christ paid for our sins. But the scriptures make mention of the mental anguish in Gethsemane as being far worse than the physical pain born on the cross. In D&C 19:18, Christ himself said, "Which suffering caused myself, even God, the greatest of all, to tremble because of pain, and to bleed at every pore, and to suffer both body and spirit."

Where did Jesus bleed from every pore? Where did he suffer both body and spirit? The only place in the scriptures where it mentions Christ bleeding from every pore is in the Garden of Gethsemane. When the savior speaks about his harrowing experiences, he does not even mention the cross. Where does he suffer both body and spirit--the Garden of Gethsemane.

What happened in the Garden of Gethsemane? We cannot know all that Christ endured, but in Mark chapter 14, verse 34, Jesus is quoted as saying that, "My soul is sorrowful unto death." It says in Luke chapter 22, that he prayed, and while he prayed, "...there appeared an angel unto him from heaven, strengthening him." It further says that he prayed more earnestly, and it was at that point that he began to sweat blood. What was he praying for? We cannot know all of the words that he spoke to his Father that day, but the atonement, we are told, is the suffering of Christ for our sins. The punishment for sin must naturally occur in two parts: the physical part is the payment to society for crimes, and in Christ's time involved some form of capital punishment; the other part, however, has always been the most important part of repentance--it is the sorrow of regret.

We are told that Christ suffered for ALL of our sins. That means he suffered the remorse of billions of souls that have rebelled against God. Can you imagine the mental anguish of BILLIONS of souls?!? We might well imagine that might make one bleed from every pore. This is the suffering that Christ himself spoke of when he referred to his own pain. In this Garden, Christ bled from every pore, and in this Garden, he required the ministering of angels to sustain him. At no time during the trial or crucifixion, did he again bleed from every pore, and at no time during his crucifixion, do the scriptures mention the ministration of angels. This is why I believe Christ's suffering in the Garden of Gethsemane was much worse than anything he suffered on the cross.

There is no suffering to be compared with the suffering of a soul in anguish. This is despair. This is hopelessness. This is depression.

I want to be clear here: I am not saying that the atonement of Christ was about mental illness. He was offering an infinite sacrifice for the sins of the world. I am also not saying that because I have been depressed, that I have suffered on a par with God. Nor am I saying that people who are depressed are sinful. I am only attempting (poorly, I'm afraid) to compare physical and mental pain. I am also trying to make a point about the souls in hell. Christ said in D&C chapter 19, verses 16-18, "For behold I, God, have suffered these things for all, that they might not suffer if they would repent; but if they would not repent, they must suffer even as I, which suffering caused myself, even God, the greatest of all, to tremble because of pain, and to bleed at every pore, and to suffer both body and spirit."

Our Lord himself warns that if we do not repent, we must suffer these things, and he warns us that his own temporary suffering for the sins of men was unbearable even to someone as strong as God.

God does not warn us away from physical pain. Several times in the scriptures, he says not to mind the trials of this life, if we suffer them for God. But he does warn us of the anguish of spirit that awaits us in hell. Why? Because the mental anguish caused by sin hurts so much more than any physical pain we can endure, and if this sin is not resolved in this life, the mental anguish becomes eternal.

This brings me back to depression, and why I am grateful to have suffered from it. Depression, I believe, has been a warning to me from God himself. I know that any chemical depression suffered in this life, no matter now painful, is always temporary. But having felt that way, and knowing that the feelings I have felt would be magnified a hundredfold if I am not permitted entrance into my Father's presense? That is truly terrifying. It makes me want to do whatever I can, suffer whatever I have to suffer in this life, to avoid the pains of hell in the next life.

Remember, the definition of happiness is being in the presense of our Heavenly Father. Separation from Him is pain.

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