OVERCOMING EMOTIONAL BLOCKS IN ACCEPTING THE ATONEMENT OF CHRIST
HASTEN MAGAZINE, APRIL 2016
By Kathy Truman
My journey in the Healing Arts began with pain—emotional, physical, and spiritual pain. I felt ready to have my burdens lightened by my Savior Jesus Christ, but I realized that I held onto several false beliefs and emotional blocks concerning His Atonement—beliefs that made it difficult to fully partake of His grace. I now work as an energy-release facilitator, a life coach, and a spiritual counselor. Fully partaking of Christ’s Atonement by learning to cast one’s burdens on Him is the primary focus of my work. As I visit with clients I find I am not the only one who has held onto these false beliefs.
In Matthew 11:28, Christ implores us to, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Unfortunately, most of us fail to answer His call. Why? Satan will have us unable to access the healing power of Christ’s Atonement, and constantly bombards us with false beliefs about ourselves and the Atonement. See if you recognize any of the following false beliefs in your own life experience:
False Belief #1. We are our “brokenness.” Our brokenness defines who we are (our self-identity). If we were free of our burdens, we do not know who we would be.
False Belief #2. We get much needed attention from being a martyr to our burdens.
False Belief #3. We are unable to lay down our “sword of struggle” by accepting the healing power of the Atonement. There is purpose in our struggle.
Author William P. Young observed: “People are tenacious when it comes to the treasure of their imaginary independence. They hoard and hold their sickness with a firm grip. They find their identity and worth in their brokenness and guard it with every ounce of strength they have. . . . [They] have tried to lock the door of their heart from the inside” (The Shack, Calle Norte, Newbury Park, California: Windblown Media (2007), 189).
We are here on earth to overcome, to stretch, to learn and grow so that we may someday return home to God. Just as we wouldn’t expect to gain physical muscles if we never went to the gym, how can we gain spiritual muscles if we don’t lift our burdens and surrender them to our Lord?
False Belief #4. We are not worthy of the Atonement.
Isn’t Satan crafty? He knows better than to try to convince us that the Atonement isn’t real. Instead, he whispers to us that the Atonement is for everyone else, but not for us. A running thread shared by mankind is the feeling of worthlessness and self-rejection. How much effort can we exert to the service of our fellowman if we are focused on self-hatred? Satan is skilled at confusing us to believe that belittling ourselves is humility. Don’t be deceived! Our Heavenly Parents want confident sons and daughters to do their work here on earth!
False Belief #5. We deserve the punishment of carrying our own burdens and thus don’t deserve the healing power of Christ.
False Belief #6. We are only truly repentant if we continue in our self-recriminations, especially if our burdens are self-inflicted.
One of the greatest tools Satan has is to attack our worth in the eyes of Christ, convincing us that because we have sinned or made a mistake, we must be held responsible for our sins. It prevents us from leaving mistakes in the past. Author Linda Kavelin Popov writes: “Carrying guilt over something that occurred in the past is self-indulgent. It keeps us frozen in a paralysis of will, feeling unable—but in truth being unwilling—to change” (A Pace of Grace: The Virtues of a Sustainable Life, New York: Plume (2004), 97). Satan would have us believe that change and relief are not possible and guilt is our lawful punishment for making a mistake. But, “if you are not willing to let go of guilt then you’ve become too comfortable with not liking yourself” (Wand, Steven and Cynthia, Living the Heartlife, Draper, Utah: Life Empowerment Publishing (2007),
False Belief #7. It is our duty to carry our own burdens.
False Belief #8. We trust in our own strength (the arm of flesh) and that we are more righteous if we carry the burden ourselves.
We might feel that there is more that we must do in order to earn the healing power of the Atonement. How many of us are so focused on keeping our shoulder to the wheel that we refuse to take Christ’s yoke upon us? The truth is that Jesus is mighty to save us, and His Atonement is not something we earn from our obedience, but it is His generous gift to us.
False Belief #9. We believe that we are the Savior when it comes to our loved ones and that we must carry their burdens for them if we love them.
It is time for us to come down from the cross and trust in the Lord. As we take our loved ones’ burdens upon us, we actually stand between them and the Savior. As a parent of a wayward child, it is so tempting to turn inward with self-recriminations and self-blame. When parents lift their own eyes to the Savior, they can point the way for their children when they have been sufficiently humbled. Worry only invites darkness.
False Belief #10. If we truly love our Savior we would never ask Him to carry our burdens. After all, He is already carrying the burdens of all mankind! Why would we ask Him to carry ours, too? The last thing that we would ever want to do is add to His suffering.
Jesus suffered deeply because He loves us deeply! He wants us to repent and be converted so that He can fully heal us. He suffered every pain and sorrow that we could possibly encounter because of His great love for us. How can we let His suffering be in vain?
False Belief #11. The Atonement is only for our sins and not for our burdens.
For the better part of my life, I thought I was fully partaking of the Atonement. I regularly knelt by my bed asking for forgiveness of my sins. Burdens, illnesses, sorrows? Honestly, I had never considered that they could be lifted from my shoulders—I just figured that this kind of pain was part of my human experience. Although we are meant to go through trials in order to learn and grow, we have not been asked to do it alone.
False Belief #12. The Atonement is not really infinite.
False Belief #13. Our burdens and sins are inconsequential. The Atonement is only for the really “big stuff.”
How often do we misunderstand the miraculous power of our Savior’s Atonement? We are limited by our finite understanding. How can we possibly comprehend infinity? That is the scope of the Atonement—it is for all, and it covers all—from the littlest hurt to the most debilitating sin.
False Belief# 14. The Atonement is a “one-time” event at the end of our lives before we go to meet our Maker, and not something that is a part of our daily lives.
We’ve all heard of deathbed repentance, but I have found that there is also a false belief in deathbed-partaking of the Atonement. “For some reason, we think the Atonement of Christ only applies at the end of mortal life [for] redemption from the Fall, from spiritual death. It is much more than that. It is an ever-present power to call upon in everyday life” (Packer, Boyd K., “The Touch of the Master’s Hand,” Ensign, May 2001, 23).
False Belief #15. We are not in need of the Atonement; our sins are justified.
Religious leader Boyd K. Packer offers this wonderful insight: “If the burden is guilt, then repentance is the Balm of Gilead. Some, however, seek to cure guilt with self-justification, a quack medicine which only covers the symptoms; it will never cure the cause. Self-justification leads one to blame others for his mistakes” (“Balm of Gilead, Ensign, November 1977, 60). Every sin must be repented of and restitution proffered as the Holy Spirit directs in order to be forgiven and the Atonement applied in our behalf. We have no power to wash away sin ourselves. We need Christ’s help.
False Belief #16. We will be unable to change our ways and so we feel that it is pointless to try to access the Atonement.
One of the greatest gifts God has given to His children is hope through the gift of His Son. To lose hope is to lose a portion of the light within us. God offers to restore and assure us tat change really.
Author Steven A. Cramer explained a common fallacy in our relationship with the Atonement: “Preparing for the Celestial Kingdom is not based on controlling our evil desires with superhuman restraint and willpower, for then the evil is only caged and locked inside us like a ticking time bomb, just waiting for the right temptation to light the fuse. That is the natural man’s way of trying to be good. It is the difference between relying on the mortal plan of merely controlling our bad habits, and allowing Christ to change our heart and give us a new birth so that we no longer want the sins. And nothing but the blood, Atonement, and grace Jesus Christ can do that” (The Worth of Every Soul, Springville, Utah: CFI (1983), 144).
False Belief #17. In order to fully partake of the Atonement we will have to relive the pain of our past and that will be more than we can bear.
The Lord is the ultimate caregiver. We must surrender ourselves to Him. In doing so, we give up whatever is causing our pain and turn everything over to Him. “Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and he shall sustain thee” (Psalm 55:22).
False Belief #18. If we acknowledge our need for the Atonement, it will make our burdens “more real.” We can no longer live in denial.
False Belief #19. We can keep our sins a secret (even from God), and if we partake of the Atonement, our sins will be revealed.
Addictions, in particular, bring a heavy burden of secrets and pain. One author explained: “Man’s tendency is to hide from his sin, seeking refuge in the darkness. There he indulges in self-pity, denial, self-righteousness, blaming, and hatred. But [says Jesus,] I am the Light of the world, and My illumination decimates the darkness. Come close to Me and let My light envelop you, driving out darkness and permeating you with Peace” (Young, Sarah. Jesus Calling: Enjoying Peace in His Presence, Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, Inc. (2004), 147).
False Belief #20. Partaking of the Atonement means that we are weak, that we have failed in our ability to carry our own burdens—we have admitted defeat.
To need Christ does not assume we have failed on our part; rather it means that we want to succeed. Assuming we have failed and been defeated stems from pride. Ezra Taft Benson, another religious leader admonished: “We must cleanse the inner vessel by conquering pride. We must yield to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, put of the prideful natural man, become a saint through the Atonement of Christ the Lord and become as a child—submissive, meek, and humble” (“Beware of Pride,” Ensign, May 1989, 6-7).
False Belief #21. The power of the Atonement could not possibly be enough to heal the depths of our personal pain; our pain is much too deep and all-encompassing for true healing to ever be reached.
By coming unto Christ, every soul can see, feel, and know of a surety that Christ suffered and atoned for our sins, and that we might have eternal life. At times, all of us have been offended, hurt, and victimized. It is easy to blame God for these events. However, God stands ready to help and heal our pain. It does not matter how deep the pain or hurt is; He can touch and heal it completely.
False Belief #22. Carrying our burdens is our purpose—that is our “life’s work,” and to give that burden to Christ would make life meaningless.
Experiencing personal adversity is not the only purpose of life. Consider the Lord’s uniquely individual invitation to “take my yoke upon you.” When I think about pulling a yoke with someone much stronger than me, it would benefit me in two ways: first, I would feel some relief in having a stronger partner helping me to pull the load; and second, having a stronger and swifter partner would push me to develop my own muscles and increase my endurance. As we walk with the Savior, we are able to reach higher and stretch further to our potential. He is helping us develop the strength to fulfill our eternal destinies. We can do more with Christ than left to our own strength.
False Belief #23. Our shame is much too great to allow us to face the Savior with our sins and burdens.
When we feel “embarrassed to death” because of our burden, we are not far off the mark. Shame produces an extremely low energetic vibration. It is easy to get stuck in shameful energy, losing motivation to move forward with life. What God wants us to feel is godly sorrow instead of shame. Godly sorrow, or mature guilt, is actually a constructive emotion that motivates us to repent and come unto Christ for healing.
False Belief #24. If we heal from our wounds through the Atonement, it will let our perpetrators “off the hook.”
Sometimes we feel we are living in a cage with bars set in stone by our traumas. Even though the traumas might not be occurring any more, we continue to live in that cage. To live outside the cage would mean that the trauma never occurred and that our perpetrators never hurt us. Jesus holds the key to unlock the cage door and allow us to fly free, but like a frightened bird, some of us choose to remain in the cage because it appears to be safe and comfortable. We choose to dwell in dark corners and deprive ourselves of the wondrous beauty and freedom that awaits us outside the open door. As we put our trust in Jesus and His love for us, we can exit the door into an abundance of light and life. Did the trauma still happen to us? Of course it did, but it does not bother us any more when we give it to Christ. We then find that if Christ can forgive our perpetrators, so can we.
False Belief #25. The miracle of the Atonement is an abstract concept. It is not really accessible to us, nor do we understand how it can be applied to us.
It seems a very daunting task to learn how to claim Christ’s healing power for us personally. Or, like refusing to look upon Moses’ serpent or wash seven times in the Jordan River, we refuse to accept the simplicity of surrendering our burdens to the Master. Although there are many tools, techniques, and modalities that help us facilitate the surrendering of our burdens to the Savior, possessing faith and pure intent are essential keys to receiving this miracle. As we have a righteous desire in our hearts to receive the blessings of the Atonement of Christ, it does not matter that we do not know how to proceed to find that healing—it only matters that we have enough faith in Him to ask for His help. He will guide us in the path that will bring complete healing.
We often hear a call to “not procrastinate the day of [our] repentance,” therefore, it is my hope that we do not procrastinate the day of our healing through the Atonement of Christ. “And then may God grant unto you that your burdens may be light, through the joy of his Son,” (Alma 33:23). Jesus Christ is our Redeemer, our Friend, our Advocate, and the Great Physician and Healer. In Him we can find complete peace and solace. Through Him, our wounds are healed.
Come with me as we discover together what a humble lighthouse can teach us about ‘lighting the way’ in our relationships.