Please study and pray about anything you read, whether in a book or on the internet or especially on this blog, before deciding whether you're reading truth or not. None of us currently has access to the Pure Unadulterated Absolute Truth, in my opinion, because we're only able to be given what we're prepared to receive. That means that what I perceived as true a year ago or ten years ago was colored by all my perceptions and biases, and as those come to light, the way I understand and interact with truth shifts, as well. It means that even though we're often saying the same things, the words we use to articulate our truths sometimes clash with other people's. It's always good--nay, essential!--to check in with your own compass to receive your personal witness of what is truth. *PSA over*
"For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind." 2 Timothy 1:7
This is what has been on my mind lately. God does not put fearful thoughts into our heads. Those thoughts are the territory of Satan alone. If something enters my mind that fills me with fear or unease or unwillingness to pursue it due to nervousness, I am learning that that something cannot be God's voice. God's voice fills me with power and love and stability. That doesn't mean I never have human reactions to divine dictates and revelation, but it does mean that following that inner voice always leads to greater light and freedom from darkness.
We have what I consider a cultural belief, as opposed to a doctrinal one, that the warnings God promises to send us when we are in dangerous territory, either physically or... metaphysically, feel like fear. I had a conversation with my mom last year about this odd belief we carry. She's in a biking club in her town that consists almost entirely of octogenarians, and they kick her butt a lot of the time as they bike on the rather harrowing roads and highways of hilly Arkansas. My mom has never been a biker, so she has to give herself a pep talk every time she heads out to calm those feelings that say today's the day she's going to fall and get run over and die (one of the many reasons I love her; I would just not go, which is what I do). She was telling me that she'd recently realized that those thoughts weren't warnings from God; they were human feelings in self-preservation mode. She was deciding to stop questioning every week whether or not God was telling her not to ride that day, because she was going to trust that if that prompting ever came, it wouldn't feel like fear.
A couple days later, she shared that while on her latest ride, she'd received a text message while on a straightaway, and as she reached back to check her phone, a passing thought said, "Just wait until you're off the bike. It can wait." Shrugging this off because she was riding slowly, she could see no cars around, and she felt perfectly in control, she continued reaching back, but then she remembered her recent realization. This didn't feel like fear. It felt like nothing, just a thought. She decided to listen.
Maybe nothing would've happened, or maybe it would've. Maybe it was God teaching her what warnings feel like in a low-risk situation. Maybe it was just a thought.
Joseph Smith taught that the "Holy Ghost has no other effect than pure intelligence" (TPJS, p. 149). The Holy Ghost doesn't make us cry. It doesn't give us bad feelings to warn us. It simply imparts pure knowledge, which is almost always a specific message. In the case of receiving a witness of truth, some people sometimes react to that message with tears, but in the case of warnings, I have yet to experience a true warning that leaves me feeling fearful. Instead it feels like direction that sends me on a more powerful, loving path.
These thoughts have been on my mind because I have been a very fearful person for much of my life. I'm not sure why, but it is true that many of my decisions have been fear-based instead of faith-based. I don't see this characteristic emphasized in any of my family members, so it's been inspiring to grow up with examples to follow. Even so, it's hard to be cognizant of it when it's such a habit, but with God's help, I've been identifying my fear-based patterns and uprooting them in the past few years. You might say it's been a game-changer.
When Joseph Smith went to the woods to pray, he wasn't looking to start a religion. He simply wanted to know his standing before God; this was his quest his entire life, finding what was real and what God really thought of him. As he began to ask his question out loud for the first time in his life, Satan attacked. He came with literal power and left Joseph unable to speak or move, and I am certain that as he despaired and felt he would soon die, there was a fair amount of fear involved. I am also certain that, had he succumbed to that power of fear, it would have left him immediately. If Joseph had changed his mind because of the enormity of his fear, Satan would've won. And Joseph probably would've felt really relieved to have been released from that freaky experience. And heaven would've stayed shut.
We attack that which we fear. Let us examine and reexamine our patterns and reflexes and endeavor to shake off any chains of fear that still linger. If you care to, join me in calling Satan out when he tries to dissuade with fear, and push through to where God speaks. Power and love and soundness of mind are our rewards for an admittedly daunting task, and I'm deciding that they're very much worth it.
Exploring the spiritual side of things. Brevity is not my forte.