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"The word which healeth the wounded soul"
Three ways the scriptures have saved (and are still saving) me
I was born and raised in Western Oregon, an area known for abundant rainfall. This meant there were many days when you wouldn’t see the sun.
Somehow, in the divine determination of where I would grow up, the overcast skies and frequent fog-filled mornings at times seemed to perfectly suit my introverted, gray & cloudy view of the world.
Although I no longer live in Oregon, some situational gloominess has remained with me into adulthood. But don’t misunderstand. I love this beautiful world and find many reasons to rejoice in God’s goodness each day.
That being said…
I usually start to feel the struggle against the dark growing harder later in the day. I lose my patience more easily. I question people’s motives without evidence. I feel a strain in my most important relationships. If I allow it to happen, a lingering despair can shut off the whisperings of Love.
And then I remember that, for whatever reason, I forgot to read my scriptures that morning.
Blinking back the urge to beat myself up about this thoughtless oversight, I try as soon as possible to set aside a few minutes and read. Where and what I read doesn’t seem to matter. After a few minutes, the sun begins to break through and the clouds melt away. It’s as if my spiritual batteries were at or near empty and somehow, miraculously, they change from almost empty to nearly full.
The scriptures are some of my dearest friends. They never fail me. I can turn to them for answers to any question I have. They bring solace and peace and restoration. In the words of the prophet Jacob , they are “the word which healeth [my] wounded soul” (Jacob 2:8.)
Here are three of the many ways that the scriptures have saved and continue to save me.
They speak of Jesus
This is the first and best reason why the scriptures are my balm of Gilead. Obvious, perhaps. But I have found that searching for Him when I study can make such a difference in the quality of the experience. For a long time I felt anxiety about making sure I spent enough time studying to check some self-imposed box. I no longer do this. Instead, I have found that making Jesus the focus of my study brings a deep, sweet refreshment that can come to me in no other way. Just recently I spent a few days in one chapter in The Book of Mormon—1 Nephi 11. I savored what I was being taught about the mission of the Savior. I realized that the word “Look!” was used repeatedly to focus my attention on Him and various and vital prophecies about His mission and Atonement. I felt closer to Him and a greater love for Him.
They are filled with doctrine and power
Closely related to the first principle, the scriptures act as a filter through which to understand what is happening and what to feel and think about it. This is so needed. Life only seems to be growing more complicated and confusing. We are overwhelmed with physical and spiritual noise that only seems to grow louder. The physical act of sitting down and opening a book of scripture might seem counterintuitive to someone who is worried about missing a virtual connection, but for me, there is no more important connection then the one I can develop with the Savior as I read and study His words.
They chase darkness from me
Back to my little analogy about the impact of a rainy, overcast Oregon day on my spirit, there is something miraculous about how reading the scriptures can flip a spiritual light switch in me. Apparently I have a very thick spiritual skull that requires frequent reminders of how dependent I am on daily spiritual nourishment. This also teaches me how sensitive my spirit is to influences I may not see.
Several years ago, Todd B. Parker, a Professor of Ancient Scripture at BYU gave a devotional about the scriptures called True Doctrine, Understood, Changes Attitudes and Behavior. It’s one of the best talks I’ve ever read about the importance of scripture study.
Brother Parker’s title came from a quote given years before in a general conference talk titled Little Children by Elder Boyd K. Packer, which included this timeless teaching:
True doctrine, understood, changes attitudes and behavior.
The study of the doctrines of the gospel will improve behavior quicker than a study of behavior will improve behavior. . . . That is why we stress so forcefully the study of the doctrines of the gospel.
In Brother Parker’s devotional he shared a personal experience with the scriptures that deeply resonated with me because of similar experiences I’ve had over the years. Here is his story:
Many years ago I was teaching released-time seminary. Life was good. I was married to a wonderful woman. We had been blessed with four small children. I was blessed to study and teach from the scriptures every day.
I came home from school one day to discover we were expecting child number five. There was good news and bad news. The good news was the blessing of another child. The bad news was that my wife got extremely ill during pregnancies. I knew it was going to be a rough road ahead. It seemed that everything that could go wrong did go wrong during the first three months of Debbie’s pregnancy. This included the following:
1. Debbie was sick with morning sickness. She was in bed for more than four weeks and couldn’t even sit up.
2. I had taken a leave of absence from teaching seminary to get my doctoral degree. I was back in graduate school carrying fifteen credit hours.
3. I was attempting to fill the role of mother while Debbie was ill. This included cleaning the house, doing laundry, fixing meals, tending kids, running errands, fulfilling nursemaid duties, and so on.
4. The dishwasher broke. I had no money to repair it. Dishes were done by hand.
5. Jana got an ear infection. She couldn’t hear me. I had to take her to the doctor.
6. I had to “farm out” the two youngest girls—ages two and four—during the day for different ward members to tend.
7. Because of all of the turmoil, I was up five to six times each night helping Debbie and consoling the children.
8. Jeremy, then age six, was throwing rocks at an icicle on the front of the house and broke the large picture window in the living room.
9. Jeremy also was chasing Jana and bumped a shelf of figurines. They crashed to the floor. My wife asked, “What was that?” I said, “Oh, nothing, dear.” The pile of pieces remained in a box for weeks awaiting the day when I would have time to glue them back together—which never happened.
10. Julie, age two, became ill. I took her to the doctor.
11. I had to take Debbie to the hospital several times for intravenous hydration. With all the vomiting, she got dehydrated regularly.
12. I was always at least 500 pages behind in my reading.
13. I was supposed to be doing a literature search for my dissertation.
14. I was serving as elders quorum president. Many hours of service were required.
15. Other things happened. A wind came up and blew the screen door right off the front of our house. It was lying out in the driveway.
16. I was in an education class in which I had to practice giving individualized intelligence tests. I tested most of the kids in the neighborhood. I began to doubt my own intelligence.
17. The straw that broke the camel’s back, I think, was that our scruffy little mongrel dog named Fluffy began her breeding cycle. We had no fence. It seemed as if we had male dog visitors from everywhere, all enamored with Fluffy.
I was at an all-time low. When you are at the bottom, there is no more bottom. I was drowning, being pulled down by an overwhelming whirlpool of duties that I couldn’t keep up with. And in the process I hadn’t opened a book of scripture in more than four weeks. Prior to all of this I had committed to teach an adult evening class on the Book of Mormon. It was too much. I felt I couldn’t do it, but I was committed.
So the night before the class was to begin, I found myself preparing during the only quiet time available: between midnight and 2 a.m. After about an hour of study I suddenly stopped. Something was different—very different. It took a few moments for me to realize what was happening. Then it came to me like a revelation from heaven. For the first time in four weeks I wasn’t depressed. It was also the first time in four weeks that I had immersed myself in scripture study. Because of the tailspin of life I had found myself in, I felt I had no time to study the scriptures. I was barely surviving day to day. I felt it was impossible to allot any time for scripture study.
(Here is a longer version of the same talk he gave earlier at a religious educator’s conference in case you’re interested.)
I can’t imagine what my life would be like without the scriptures. I love them! My soul hungers to search them more often and to better understand what they are teaching me. When I read them I feel closer to Jesus.
How do the scriptures bless your life? How do they help you to “overcome the world?”
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