Thursday, August 30, 2012

ED Talks #17: Wrestling with the Lord--by Justin

Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.
For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

When I think back on the times I have come unto Christ most directly, some of the most significant times have been while I was suffering. Perhaps I am like the poor Zoramites who needed to be compelled to be humble, but regardless of what it took to bring me here, I am glad that I have come to Jesus.

I joined the wrestling team when I was in 8th grade to prove to the coach that I was as tough as my older brothers who were football stars. I pinned my first opponent in 13 seconds and continued to be a great wrestler thereafter. When I went to high school, wrestling became much more intense. We actually needed to weigh-in at each match, and practice was physically grueling. Wrestling is a great sport. It requires strength and skill from every part of your mind and body. A wrestling match is like playing chess with your mind, while running a mile with your legs and lungs, and lifting weights with your arms.  I love the sport, but I had a bad attitude about it at the time. I was there to win and was motivated by fear: Fear of my coaches, fear of not making weight, fear of losing.  I dreaded practice every day and tournaments were terrifying. In order to maintain my weight I only ate the bare minimum of the healthiest food. Each season I quickly developed an obsession with food: weighing myself multiple times a day and binging after tournaments.

As many of you know, eating disorders have suffocating effects on your body, mind and emotions. For three months of each year I was hungry, sad and cold. I would walk slowly between classes with my sweatshirt hood shadowing my face. I can remember sitting naked on the lockerroom scale picking up pieces of fruit one at a time to see how much lunch I could eat. I became introverted and prefered to be alone. My soul ached as I haunted an earthly hell.
I am the one third from the right in the back row.

The miracle of these experiences is that during these seasons of pain, I found solace in Christ. I can only credit His Grace and the loving influence of my family that I turned to the Lord instead of bitterness or despair. My own efforts to live had failed; my body and spirit were completely powerless. I relied on God for each step and each thought. I prayed constantly every day. “God, please! Just help me survive this class period.” “Dear God, give me the strength to run the last 17 laps.” “Thank thee for this delicious apple. Please bless it to give me the strength that I need.”

God was my constant companion. He gave me the strength to talk kindly to others who were exasperatingly oblivious to the pain inside me. He helped me to do my homework when I just wanted to curl up and sleep away the world. Mostly he listened and loved.

I still hurt for a long time. It was only towards the end of my third year that I started to have some fun at wrestling practice. I  am not angry that God didn’t make it easier for me earlier. I’m not angry that God told me to return to wrestling when I prayed and fasted about it after my sophomore year.

Suffering can be beautiful. It is never something that we should seek or revel in, but when it comes–if we turn to God–the cathartic power of pain can purify and enlighten us. I love the words of Paul the Apostle,
“And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure. For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.”

There have been other times in my life when pain has brought me closer to the Lord. I’ve spent months weighed down by guilt for sin. I’ve spent years of rejection from an unrequited love. I continually pled with God to take away the pain, but instead he used it to heal me.

I’ve often heard friends pose the classic question: “If there is a loving God, why is there so much suffering in the world?” I don’t completely understand why we need the suffering, but I do understand that if we didn’t have it, we wouldn’t need a loving God.
I love this painting of Jesus. When I look at it, I can feel what He did for me.

I know that God is real. I know that Jesus suffered for me. The prophet Alma prophesied of the Savior “And he shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people And he will take upon him death that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people; and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities.” I have felt that mercy.

Currently I am in a wonderful place. My life is fun, good and easy, which is why I feel comfortable writing about this now. I am not looking forward to whatever hard times may come. But when they do, hopefully I can re-read this post and continue to rely on the Lord.

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