Monday, April 4, 2016

Alma 36:18-20 -- On Our Way vs. God's Way

"Now, as my mind caught hold upon this thought, I cried within my heart: O Jesus, thou Son of God, have mercy on me, who am in the gall of bitterness, and am encircled about by the everlasting chains of death.
And now, behold, when I thought this, I could remember my pains no more; yea, I was harrowed up by the memory of my sins no more.
And oh, what joy, and what marvelous light I did behold; yea, my soul was filled with joy as exceeding as was my pain!"
Alma 36:18-20

Suffering from sin is real.  Before this verse the pain is compared to that of a "damned soul" (verse 16).  It could even be the same pain, except that there isn't the same hope that it can be lifted, as there is in these verses.  I don't know that, but I think that we've all felt at least a touch of that pain and despair in our lives, when we've purposely made a choice contrary to God's will and tried to go our own way.  It doesn't always happen immediately, but as we pursue our own paths, we watch our lives melt down around us, and finally we, like Alma, are racking our brains for anything that can make the pain stop.

I don't think that the pain we go through is the pain of punishment, although I think we often want to believe that.  We want to think that things would have worked out perfectly our way, but God couldn't let us have our way and so he ruined it to punish us, and now everything is bad, but no part of it could ever be our faults. :)  Unfortunately, the longer we persist in believing that we are perfect and God is flawed and resentful, the longer we're going to be in pain.

Like Alma, we can escape our own mistakes and stupidity and sins.  We can be free of the pain, and free of the burden of guilt and self-loathing.  But first we have to give up the idea that we can do it better than God can.  We keep thinking that, and we keep getting ourselves into jam after jam.  We can't do it better than God can.  We *need* his help.  I think that is what Alma realized right before these verses.  And he called out to Christ, and Christ immediately helped him.  He wanted to change; he needed God's help.  God doesn't want to punish us.  He wants to help us.  And he can banish even the *memory* of the pain, and swallow all of it up in unimaginable joy.

Wouldn't it be nice to be free of the self-defeating thoughts and guilt and pain?  Today, let's let go of thinking that we need any of this guilt or pain to define us.  Let's let go of past wrongs and present injustices.  Let's turn to God and ask forgiveness for the wrongs and injustices that we have perpetrated on others, and forgive others freely.  Let's let go of our ways of doing things, and let's try the Lord's way.  As we try, we will find that his way is infinitely more fun... and way, way, way less painful.

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