As a physician, I once had a patient come to me after a routine blood test was out of normal range. In the days between her test and our visit, she had consulted the internet about what the results could mean. When we met, she was upset and worried. I tried to explain the results, but she was still distraught.
“Don’t worry about what could go wrong,” I told her. “That’s my job! It’s what I’m here for. I studied hard to know what to do about this. We’ll get through this together, and if you’ll follow my instructions, you’ll know how to be whole again. Trust me and let me take the burden of medical worries. Then you can focus all your energy on getting better.”
This helped to calm her fears. We made plans to run more tests, and I promised we’d move forward together.
Months later, I was experiencing turmoil in my own life. Pressures at work, a baby on the way, and an upcoming move overwhelmed me. I found myself frustrated, anxious, and afraid.
I prayed earnestly about my worries, sins, and frustrations. As I prayed, the Spirit testified of the Savior’s importance in my life. It was as if He said to me:
“Don’t worry about all the things that could happen. That’s my job! It’s what I’m here for. I suffered all things to know what to do about this. Have faith in me, and we’ll get through this together. If you’ll follow my instructions, you can again be whole. Trust me and let me take those spiritual burdens. Then you can focus all your efforts on becoming your best self.”
With this realization, my worry, guilt, and frustration were lifted. Faith in Him removed unproductive feelings that blocked my progress. I could focus on the things in my control. I could live the gospel and turn to the Savior in my challenges.
In the same way that a physician might lead us to physical wholeness, the Savior, who is the perfect Physician, can take away the burden of shame, worry, guilt, and even feelings of frustration and anxiety and show us the way to be spiritually whole again. That’s His job, and He performs it perfectly.
About a year and a half ago I knew exactly what I was going to do with my life. I knew what I wanted, I had a plan to get there, and I put in the hard work needed to make it happen. I wanted good things, I took it to God in prayer, and guess what happened? I failed. I failed and because I did, it changed my perspective on life, who I am, and my relationship with God.
I believe God gives each of us gifts or natural abilities. Mine was the ability to perform. Ever since I was a kid, I have loved to perform, and I have a natural flair for making people laugh. In college I turned that gift into a talent when I became a stand-up comedian. I loved it. Performing felt like me. I was Stephen Jones the entertainer.
But then I got married. And life started to get real, real fast. As my wife and I started talking about having kids, I started stressing about having an “adult” job, getting insurance, and being able to provide for a family. I felt like to be a grown-up, I needed to say good-bye to carefree, funny, performer Stephen (this part of me that I really loved) and say hello to a 9-to-5 desk job that I took because the pay was good and it would give my family health insurance.
So I took a job for health insurance. And I hated it. It wasn’t me. That first day I went home and literally cried. I remember thinking, “Heavenly Father, what in the world am I doing?”
I believe God cares about what we do with our lives. I believe He wants to help us. But what I learned through my experience is that He expects us to act. He expects us to do something about our dreams.
And so I did. After bouncing from four jobs in four years, I decided I needed to act bigger. I needed to figure out who Stephen Jones really was and what I should be doing with my life. In the process of thinking and praying about this, I came up with a question that helped me focus my search. It’s a question I now live by.
“Will this matter in 1,000 years?”
As I thought about that in terms of a profession, I decided that for me, that job I was holding down just for health insurance, the one that left me unfulfilled, wasn’t going to matter in 1,000 years. So I quit. And I focused on my dream to be a high school religion teacher. Surely, that’ll matter in 1,000 years, right? I went through the arduous process of applying to the program, I threw myself into student teaching, and at the same time did acting and entertainment gigs on the side so that I could keep paying my bills at home.
I felt like everything was going well. I was feeling blessed. And then when it came time for them to hire, I got an email that began, “I regret to inform you …” I was crushed. After months of putting my heart and soul into student teaching and praying to God that I would get a teaching job, I wasn’t hired.
In this program, when you get a “no,” it’s usually pretty final and you shouldn’t try again. But for me, there was still a glimmer of hope. Even though I hadn’t been hired, they said I could continue to student teach and wait to see if something opened up. So I taught. And I loved it. A few weeks later I got a call from the director of the program asking to speak with me and my wife. I thought, “This is it. It’s going to happen.”
We met with him and he extended an offer to teach religion—out of state. This was not what I was expecting. It was not what I thought my wife and I would need to think about and pray about over the weekend. But we did. We asked God, and it just didn’t feel right. Days later I found myself calling up the director and saying, “I am so grateful for the opportunity, but it just doesn’t feel right. I have to do what’s right for my family, and I can’t accept the job.”
In my heart I thought, “Well, that’s it. This dream is done. Here I am choosing something that will matter in 1,000 years, it’s a good desire, and it seems like God is not making it happen—or at least in the way I wanted or expected. Why?”
Hindsight is 20/20, and you could say that now I understand why. After I said no to moving out of state, they said I could keep student teaching. Choosing that path would put a financial burden on my family, and I needed to put them first, so initially I said no. But then, on the last day of class, I realized that this was who I am—this is what is going to matter for me in 1,000 years. I need to teach. So I acted in faith, saying I’d be back to student teach even though financially I didn’t know how that would work for my family. But it felt right. And I trusted that if I acted, it would all work out.
I taught. And it was hard. It didn’t seem like things were working out. As soon as I said no to moving out of state, the acting gigs stopped coming in, which meant money stopped coming in and bills weren’t getting paid. My job situation caused stress on my family, and within my soul I was starting to wonder if my faith and hope in God was even working.
And then, the answer. Two months after saying no to an opportunity that didn’t feel right, two months of struggling financially, the phone call came. A teaching position had opened up near my home and they offered me a job. It came right when I needed it, right when I was at my lowest. And after that call I looked up and said, “I trust you. I trust you.”
God knew me. He had answered my prayers. But He made me wait on it. He made me stretch. And sometimes He does that—even when we want good things, even when we’re focused on things that will matter in 1,000 years. The point is if you trust Him, He will never let you down, because He looks out for us today, tomorrow, 1,000 years from now, and for eternity.
So what are you worried about right now that’s not going to matter in 1,000 years? And what are you going to do that’s going to matter in 1,000 years?
Answer those questions. Ask God for help and clarity. And then trust Him.
God knew me. He knew the purpose of my failures. He knew the purpose of my wait and how I would grow because of it. I just needed to learn to act and to trust.
Because sometimes the greatest “failures” in life turn out to be just what we needed.
Stephen Jones is a husband, father, comedian, actor, host, entertainer, business developer, and high school religion instructor. He graduated from Brigham Young University and has appeared on various television shows, commercials, films, and online videos. Stephen has a passion for making people smile and finds joy in doing things that really matter.
THE SEASON OF FESTIVITIES ARE APPROACHING, WITH IT COMES MAJOR DEPRESSION EVEN SUICIDAL THOUGHTS, I KNOW I’VE BEEN THERE. AT TIMES I STILL NEED TO TO REFER TO MY “HAPPY THOUGHTS” TO WARD OFF THE INTENSE NEGATIVE THAT I DON’T HAVE TO HAVE WITHIN ME. I CAN APPRECIATE THESE PEOPLE THAT SHARE AND DON’T GIVE UP. (to go directly to article click here)
The Light of the World helped me get through the darkness of my seasonal depression.
My battle with suicidal thoughts began shortly after I moved to a cold city in Iceland, where the lack of sunlight during the winter triggered severe seasonal affective disorder (SAD). As my pain grew too intense for me to handle, I considered suicide.
During the first year I didn’t accept that I was depressed. I was scared to tell anyone, even my own husband, about my thoughts. No one in my family or at church knew I suffered from a life-threatening illness; they saw me as an active Church member with a fervent testimony who faced no major challenges. I prayed often, begging for relief, and Heavenly Father strengthened me. I became more careful with my diet, exercised often, immersed myself in the scriptures, served others, and kept all the commandments. But it wasn’t enough.
Depression surged toward me like a giant wave. So I ran faster and prayed harder, but I couldn’t always outrun the wave. I swam against the current, praying I would survive until my kids came home from school or until lunch. Some days I would live from minute to minute, using sheer willpower to defeat my thoughts and urges.
I remember feeling intense mental pain the first time I almost committed suicide. I did not plan or think ahead—I temporarily lost the ability to logically think. Afterwards I realized how close I had come to taking my own life. I wondered what was wrong with me. I told myself that I shouldn’t have suicidal thoughts, and I pretended that they had never existed. I convinced myself that I would never have these thoughts again.
But suicidal thoughts continued to enter my mind when I least expected them. The temptation to end my excruciating pain was very strong. But I wanted to be healed. Though I didn’t understand then that I was suffering from an acute illness (an illness that is severe and sudden), I knew I could be healed. So I asked for a priesthood blessing.
My husband, unaware of my struggles, said many things during the blessing that told me Heavenly Father was aware of me. He promised me that I would handle my challenges. Immediate healing was not the solution, but I accepted that Heavenly Father would help me overcome my struggle.
Summer arrived, full of sunshine and long days. It was never dark, not even at midnight. I was happy and felt like myself again. But as the days rapidly shortened in September, my depression returned and suicidal thoughts infiltrated my mind. I was frightened. At first I tried what I had tried the previous year: praying more, exercising more, and trying harder at everything. But the suicidal urges grew stronger and more severe. I struggled for two months and finally realized that I couldn’t survive another winter on my own. I realized that Heavenly Father has blessed us with modern medicine and doctors. To recover, I needed to be willing to open up about my depression and visit a doctor.
Asking for help was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I could hardly speak through my tears when I told my husband about my depression and that I needed help. I couldn’t say the word suicide out loud. My husband made an appointment with a psychiatrist for me.
My doctor prescribed medicine, which helped me get through the winter. Like many people, I struggled to find the right dosage and deal with the side effects. This brought additional stress to my marriage and my family, but my husband and my children supported me.
When spring came, my deep depression lifted, and I no longer needed medication. We moved to a sunny city. I thought all was well and that I would leave my mental illness behind. But I was not completely healed. Feelings of guilt arose for my previous thoughts, feelings, and urges. I disliked that my teenagers had figured out that I had been suicidal. I felt like I had wasted more than a year of my life.
Also, I was scared—especially when the shorter days in September arrived again. I experienced intense daily flashbacks and feared I would suffer acute depression again. But I could see the Lord’s hand in my life as I was led to a wonderful doctor and started therapy. I learned that I also suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). With my doctor’s guidance, I dealt with PTSD.
And then I experienced a miracle. After mighty prayer and seeking to apply the Savior’s Atonement in my life, the Lord removed my feelings of guilt rapidly, distinctly, and tangibly. His voice explained that I didn’t have to carry guilt because my depression wasn’t my fault. Jesus Christ carries that burden for me through the power of His Atonement. I was filled with light and felt hopeful again.
I don’t know all the reasons why I had to face the challenges of life-threatening illness. Although I still carry all the memories, the mental and physical pains are gone. Every day I am grateful for my family, my doctor, and my time here on earth. Because of my illness, I gained empathy and love for others. I grew emotionally and spiritually and gained knowledge that I would not have learned otherwise. I experienced precious spiritual moments with my Heavenly Father and my Savior. My experiences have encouraged me to embrace life.
How to Create a Suicide-Prevention Safety Plan
By Doug Thomas
Licensed clinical social worker
You can create a safety plan so that if you have thoughts of hurting yourself, you can start at step 1 and continue through the steps until you feel safe. The best time to create your plan is before you find yourself in a crisis. Keep your plan where you can easily access it, such as in your cell phone. There are websites and apps that have helpful templates to fill out, or you can create a plan with the help of an expert (see step 6 below) or on your own using these suggestions:
1. Recognize the warning signs.
What sorts of thoughts, moods, and behaviors tell you a crisis might be developing? Write them in your own words. For example: “When I cancel all my activities and only want to sleep.” “When I keep having thoughts of being a burden.” “When I feel agitated, like I need to do something immediately to get out of pain.” Noticing these warning signs will help you know you need to activate your plan.
2. Try to calm and comfort yourself.
Create a list of soothing and relaxing activities that you can do when you have thoughts or urges to harm yourself. Examples may include going for walk, taking a warm bath, exercising, praying, or writing in a journal.
3. Think about your reasons for living.
At times, the pain may swallow up positive feelings. Create a list to remind yourself of the people you love, things you like to do, and blessings you have felt grateful for.
4. Reach out to others and ask for help.
List several people (with phone numbers) you can talk to and who would be willing and available to help you through the rest of your safety plan during a crisis. These people could include friends, ward members, and family members.
5. Make sure you are in a safe environment.
This may involve asking someone to help remove items that you are likely to use to hurt yourself, or going somewhere else until your feelings shift. Make a list of social settings—such as parks, gyms, movie theaters, and so on—that are safe and distracting.
6. If you still feel like harming yourself, contact a professional.
List names, numbers, and locations of clinicians, emergency rooms, and crisis hotlines. Suicide.org/international-suicide-hotlines.html lists hotlines for dozens of countries. For example, the United States number is 1-800-273-TALK.
7. After doing all of this, if you still don’t feel safe, call emergency services or go to your nearest hospital and ask for help.
Editors’ note: An article in next month’s magazine will have additional helps for those struggling with suicidal thoughts. The “Suicide” entry at topics.lds.org also has helpful links, talks, and information.
He Can Heal Us
“There is no physical pain, no spiritual wound, no anguish of soul or heartache, no infirmity or weakness you or I ever confront in mortality that the Savior did not experience first. … He can reach out, touch, succor, heal, and strengthen us to be more than we could ever be and help us to do that which we could never do relying only upon our own power.”
Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, “Bear Up Their Burdens with Ease,” Liahona, May 2014, 90.
THANK YOU SHARON, I WAS ALSO LOOKING FOR SOMETHING, I’D FELT SO BAD ABOUT MYSELF. UNTIL I REALIZED THAT GOD MADE BE BEAUTIFUL. I LEARNED TO ACCEPT MYSELF, LIKE, EVEN LOVE WHO I AM AND I THANK THE LORD FOR WHO I AM.