In my post titled, “Spiritual Respect,” I write about the idea of power and strength being connected to spiritual respect. I refer to our Savior and both His teachings and His example. Over the last day or so, this has made me think more on the concept of spiritual strength. In my post titled, The Wolf at the Door: Friend or Foe,” I talk about becoming friendly with our weaknesses and pain. I refer to the scripture in Corinthians where Paul talks about the “thorn in the flesh,” (2nd Corinthians 12: 7-9) and the weaknesses referred to in Ether 12: 27, and how they are here to teach us.
Another thing that is here to teach us is our needs. Having needs isn’t a popular thing to discuss. We would prefer to be too strong to have needs. Or perhaps we like to think we’ve bested them in our years of living. But think of it this way. If we were to have all our needs fulfilled, we’d be living in Heaven, and none of us are there, yet. Or if we were truly living without needs, then perhaps we’d be living in Hell, because without needs, don’t you think our lives would also be void of the depth in relationships we all find so enriching and rewarding?
So, what do we do with our needs? I think our first human reaction is to try to get them met from outside ourselves. This usually means we can come to the table of our relationships with a lot of expecations of others. This is human nature. If we’re married, we often expect our spouse to fulfill our needs, and it’s true, there are many needs a spouse fulfills. I won’t list them here, because it’s different for everybody, and I don’t want to get hung up on a specific way of looking at what needs should or shouldn’t be fulfilled by a specific role. But yes, our spouses can fulfill many of our needs. But they can’t take care of all of them. Think of the pressure we can put on another when we expect them to fulfill our needs. In part, it means they can’t be who they really are if they’re always having to show up in a way that’s meant to satisfy us.
Many of our needs can be satisfied and met through our society or community. As part of the human family, we need the society of others. We need to be able to feel as if we’re part of something bigger than ourselves, and being a part of a community can fulfill that need. It can also fulfill many personal needs.
Friendships of many different stripes can be satisfying, as well. We can have intimate friendships which can be some of the most enjoyable relationships we can ever know. We can have casual friends, who come and go in and out of our lives, making few or many appearances, depending on the circumstances of the friendship. These relationships can be and often are tailored to fit the participants and can often involve extended family.
I can imagine that children fulfill a specific need, as well. But I am not personally familiar with this, so I can’t speak to what that would be like.
But the truth is, none of these relationships, or even all of them put together are going to satisfy 100% of our needs 100% of the time. Human beings, being what they are… are, well… human, and that alone spells a certain amount of failure, even if it’s unintentional. Picture the man who brings flowers home for his wife, when what she really needs is a rotisserie chicken with sides so she doesn’t have to cook. Or the child who makes breakfast for her mother, only to leave a mess in the kitchen that looks like the refrigerator exploded. You get the idea. (These are general and random examples.)
So, with all these things in mind, I’ve spent some time getting to know and coming to terms with the needs that show up in my life. And what I’ve come to understand is the more we are able to meet and take care of our own needs, the more we can bring to the table of our relationships, making those relationships more meaningful and fulfilling. Stop and think about that for a second. When two (or more) people are entered into a relationship whether it is with family, community, or friend, the ability to be as complete or whole as possible and then bring that completeness or wholeness to the altar of our relationships is truly a gift of self. It also can mean there is less expecation.
This wholeness is part of what makes up spiritual strength. This strength comes through knowing oneself intimately (meaning the good and the difficult), and through knowing the Lord as best we can through scriptures, prayer, and the Holy Ghost, and then relying on the Lord and His atonement. This spiritual strength gives us the ability to allow others to show up on the stage of our life as who they are, instead of requiring them to play a certain part or role, delivering their lines according to what we need to hear. This may mean that a need or maybe many needs may go unmet, but it also means that what we have under these conditions is honest and real.
So, what about all those needs that go unmet? Well, from what we read in Matthew 6: 8, we can believe the Lord knows of those needs, which means He knows of their being unfulfilled, as well. In fact, He’s told us that our joy is not going to be full in this world, but that in Him, our joy may be full (D&C 101: 36). I take this literally, so to me it means, that my unfulfilled needs can be given to my Savior. This takes faith, because it doesn’t mean my needs go away. It just means they are easier to bear. I’m still aware of them, and I allow them to be. I don’t pretend they don’t exist. I don’t turn my back on them. I simply turn them over to the Lord. I ask Him to carry it for a while, when it gets too heavy or burdensome. When I do this, He doesn’t take it all away, but He takes part of it, so that I may carry on. In Mosiah 24, we see the same thing happening for Alma and his people. In verses 14-15, the Lord states, He will “ease the burdens which are put upon your shoulders, that even you cannot feel them upon your backs…” But He doesn’t remove the burden. He eases it. He can and will do the same for us, whatever our burden may be, whether we are carrying an unspoken sorrow or an unmet need or both.
When the Lord suffered in Gethsemane, He didn’t just take our pain, sorrow, and sin. He also took all of those needs that often go unmet while in this mortal world. After all, He fasted for forty days and forty nights. He KNOWS what it feels like to have a need. (Matthew 4: 2-10)
We also are told that in the world, we will have “tribulations,” but we are to be of “good cheer,” because Christ has overcome the world (John 16: 33). In that same verse, the Lord gives us peace, because of what He has done for us. This references the fact that He has overcome the world through the atonement and through “his stripes, we are healed.” (Isaiah 53: 5) And even though all of our needs won’t be met while on this earth, we can still be of “good cheer” if we understand and use what our Savior has given us in His gift of the atonement. But we have to trust that gift, and we have to use it, meaning first, we must recognize our unmet need and bring it to our Heavenly Father through His Son. This is a hard thing to do and often feels raw, but it won’t always feel raw. If we sit with that rawness in one hand and our faith and trust in our Heavenly Father to heal us according to His word in the other, eventually, the rawness will start to ease. This doesn’t happen overnight, but it does happen. This has been my experience as I’ve prayed in the midst of those long, desperate nights of righteous desires for children. The desire has never gone away, but the feeling of being desperate has subsided, and I know that has come through the grace and love of the atonement. There are times when He carries that for me; most likely more often than I can even know.
One of my fondest hopes is when I finally return to the bar of judgment that I will be able to say that I used the gift of my Savior’s atonement to its fullest, that no part of His precious blood and suffering for my sake was wasted because I was too prideful to ask or unwilling to sit with whatever raw need, desire, or pain this mortal experience had given me. That I may even do as we’ve been directed in Mormon 8: 27 and “ask the Father in the name of Jesus for what things soever ye stand in need.” When we do this, what we find is that we are given a quiet kind of power. It’s not a strong arm kind of strength, but instead, a quiet knowing of who we are, what we’ve lived through, what we’re capable of with the Savior’s help, and where we have found our strength. This, in turn, can aid us in helping others through their raw experiences so that they may find their own strength through the Savior.
And even though our time here isn’t perfect, relying on the arm of Jehovah can give us the spiritual strength we need to carry on. It can offer us a little bit of relief at the very least, and at the most, it can create a little piece heaven here on earth.
I realize this post is longer than most. I apologize for that. I considered cutting it into two pieces, but that just didn’t feel right. Thank you for reading.