Friday, July 3, 2009

That negative voice in your head. . .

Recently, someone asked me what I've learned during the past five years of the Legacy Now odyssey. There is one simple answer (among many complex answers), and it has been to more fully control that negative voice in my head.

You all know what I mean, don't you? It's that little voice in your head that taunts you during your trials, like the wilderness trial Christ had with Satan.

While wandering in search of a financial solution during these past five years, the voice has been specially designed to make me feel far, far away from the heavenly home I am seeking. The voice implants doubts and fears that there may be no heavenly home at all. It would dash all my fondest hopes in this life too. Jesus Christ has dispelled the power of that negative voice in my head by His peerless example.

Two of the three challenges to Christ's authenticity as the Son of God were direct and calculated to cause doubts and misgivings. "If thou be the Son of God," (Matthew 4:3, 6) can only be described as a taunt and a dare. "If you're really the Son of God you shouldn't be hungry, and you shouldn't be suffering like this. If you're really a King, you should be able to make this stone into bread, shouldn't you? That is if you really are who you say you are." The Savior's response was a gentle reminder from the scriptures, "It is written, That man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God." (Luke 4:4).

The second challenge was to Christ's vanity and pride: "If you are really the Son of God, you should have all power. Prove it. Let's see what you've got. Hurl yourself down from this pinnacle and let the angels catch you in midair. That is if you really are who you say you are." Again, the Savior answered with another scriptural quotation: "It is written, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God." (JST Luke 4:11).

Finally, the third attempt was just outright deceit: "I'll give you everything I have created as the god of this world -- powers and kingdoms (that were not his to give) -- and all you have to do is fall down and worship me." The Savior's response, "Get thee hence, Satan." (Matthew 4:10).

His prototypical responses in his wilderness trial are instructive for each of us. There are other scriptural examples every bit as powerful as the Savior's from which we may also take counsel in rebuking that little negative voice in our heads.

Abraham had to wrestle with this voice: "If you are really going to have a posterity as numberless as the sands on the shore and the stars in the heavens, then why are you childless?" The stakes in Abraham's wilderness trial were escalated even higher when he stood with knife poised on Mount Moriah to strike his only son with this taunt: "If Isaac is really meant to be the means by which the promise will be fulfilled, then why is God commanding you to slay him? That sure doesn't make much sense, Abraham."

What about Joseph, whose brothers sold him into slavery? His test included, "If that silly dream about ruling over your brothers is really true, then why did God let them sell you into slavery?"

Moses was similarly afflicted with the little voice in his head, when he must have heard, "If you are really the Deliverer, then why are you wandering around in this desert in exile?"

Lehi also wandered in a desert for eight years as part of his wilderness test long before setting a course on a ship that hadn't been built yet for the promised land. The voice in his head was likely something like, "If that silly dream you had in Jerusalem were really true, then why are you just wandering around starving and naked while your children and grandchildren suffer?"

I've wondered what Joseph Smith must have thought with visions of Zion in his head. Satan likely introduced thoughts into his head: "If you are really the prophet of the Restoration, then why are you stuck in this hell-hole prison in the dead of winter in a jail named Liberty?"

I wonder if our ancestors who claimed Joseph as the Lord's anointed seer were ever plied with voices in their heads that said something like, "If you are really to establish Zion in the last days, then why are you being driven from state to state by mobs? You're burying babies in shallow trail graves that will never see Zion. Give up, there's got to be an easier way than this!"

The thing that is so striking in most of these examples is that sometimes years went by before the promised fulfillments were realized, and sometimes the promises were never realized in this life. The truth is that most of these people, our ancestors included, endured and were better and stronger people because of what they learned from their suffering. As true disciples, they didn't become bitter, they became better.

Peter offers particular insight on this topic in his epistles. He reminds us, "Think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you." (1 Peter 4:12). We know "whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth." (Hebrews 12:6). Persecution and trials in this mortal existence are -- and here's a word fraught with meaning -- "normal."

Our wilderness trials are filled with opportunities for that negative voice in our heads to take control. "If you are really a son or daughter of God and living faithfully and paying your tithing, then why are you experiencing financial difficulties?"

Sometimes unemployment challenges our very temporal existence, and we hear, "If you are really so well-educated and experienced, then why isn't anybody interested in your resume?"

I've known a lot of people who lived the Word of Wisdom faithfully their whole lives and yet were striken with ill-health. My mother was an example. When she died her hallowed mortal tabernacle that had never touched "the unclean thing" was riddled with toxins and poisons to counteract her cancer. People like her hear a voice that tempts them saying, "If you are really a faithful member of the only true Church, then why are you having health problems, and why can no one heal you with the power of the priesthood? Why is there no miracle of deliverance for you?"

There are many faithful, wonderful couples who are childless. The voice in their head taunts them with, "If you are really so special, then why don't you have any children -- you're not really good enough or worthy enough to have children."

Missionaries hear, "If this is really the true Church, then why do so many people turn a deaf ear to your message? The Mormon Church is a small insignificant cult headquartered where? In Utah? What are the odds that it's what you say it is -- the only true Church? Be real. Joseph Smith was only fourteen years old when you say he saw God, and those gold plates are where? You cannot be taken seriously!"

Single young women hear, "If you are really a daughter of God and you are supposed to multiply and replenish the earth, then look at you -- you're not even married yet."

So how do we silence the little negative voice in our head? My answer is that we trust Jesus Christ. We listen to His gentle, quiet, still, small whisper that speaks peace and truth to our hearts, and assures us that even though we are not perfect yet we are well on our way along the path leading toward our promised home with Him and His Father.

When we hear the negative voice in our head with its taunting tone, we remember what is real. The power of the infinite atonement of Jesus Christ reaches, moderates and finally silences all the lies and deceits of the negative voice in your head. Of that reality I am a witness.

1 comment:

  1. I have been struck lately by the power of mental discipline. To have a disciplined mind is to tap into the positive power and mindset characteristic of true discipleship. It is accessed as we cultivate the ability to tune out the negative and essentially tell Satan to "get thee behind me". It is what moves us to do all that is good and keeps us from complacency, discouragement, and disillusionment. Love you.