Descending Below Them All…
It is hard to be in pain. While we would hope that pain would bring us together, it has such a separating power because of the true difficulty of one person to truly understand the trial of another, the depths of despair that each person endures differently, from their perspective. Suffering is lonely. No man or woman of their own accord, of their own earthly understanding, can fully comprehend the suffering of another. It is this perception that can pull the sufferer into darker and lonelier places than anyone would want for them. Gratefully there is one who has willingly suffered and endured to the point that He has infinite capacity of true understanding.
Through the atonement of Jesus Christ, through His depth of experience, we are never really found destitute and alone, even though we may feel that way. While we may cry out to others silently in loneliness and sorrow, ever unheard or misunderstood, the Savior of the World understands and hears our pleas, even in the noise and chaos of the world around us. He understands and can lift us from despair, because He has suffered so to do.
I have never heard this more clearly explained than in the October 2014 General Conference, when Elder Dallin H. Oaks taught, “There are millions of God-fearing people who pray to God to be lifted out of their afflictions. Our Savior has revealed that He ‘descended below all things’ (Doctrine and Covenants 88:6). As Elder Neal A. Maxwell taught, ‘Having “descended below all things,” He comprehends, perfectly and personally, the full range of human suffering’ [General Conference, Oct. 1997]. We might even say that having descended beneath it all, He is perfectly positioned to lift us and give us the strength we need to endure our afflictions.”
Many times I have sat and listened empathetically as someone privately shared with me the depths of their pain and sorrow in relation to some trial or suffering they were presently or recently having to endure. Most often that terrible suffering has not been able to be explained in relation to some action committed by the sufferer. There was no cause or rationale, no way of avoidance, only inexplicable and seemly intolerable pain and sorrow. Time and time again the only thing I could come up with, the only answer to swell in my heart, was the answer given to the Prophet Joseph Smith in the dark dungeon of one of his moments of deepest sorrow and loneliness.
In Liberty Jail, where there was no liberty nor natural peace, only cold sorrow, the Lord’s voice pierced the darkness. “And if thou shouldst be cast into the pit, or into the hands of murderers, and the sentence of death passed upon thee; if thou be cast into the deep; if the billowing surge conspire against thee; if fierce winds become thine enemy; if the heavens gather blackness, and all the elements combine to hedge up the way; and above all, if the very jaws of hell shall gape open the mouth wide after thee, know thou, my son, that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good. The Son of Man hath descended below them all. Art thou greater than He?” (Doctrine and Covenants 122:7-8).
“The Son of Man hath descended below them all. Art thou greater than He?”(Doctrine and Covenants 122:8)
Those words spoken to provide peace to the soul and salve to heartbreaks otherwise inconsolable, are spoken to all. The Son of Man really did in atoning agony descend below them all, and He, as Elder Oaks explained, is indeed perfectly positioned to lift us out of our despair and bring us the peace that we so desire. He has lifted me more than I know and understand, He lifts you, and stands ready to lift us all. We too, with the benefit and experience that has been for our good, may empathetically apply those things that we have learned to help lift others, even as He would have us do. Only He can bring us home, but we can help in the lifting, and become more like Him, as we help others with an open ear and a willing heart.
May we endure well the things that we must learn, for our good, and only that which we must endure. May we with generous hearts provide loving assistance to all those others who must endure, to learn to become more like Him, and lift as we have been lifted. Let us stand ready to bring light to darkness, fellowship to the lonely, and loving peace always to the suffering heart, even as He would have us do, for love’s sake. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.