Our Sunday school class last week spent some time thinking and talking about these verses:
11 And he shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people.
12 And he will take upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people; and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities. (Alma 7:11-12)
Over and over, my fellow Saints observed in different ways that it is neat to know that Christ can help us, not just with removing our sins, but also with our pains, afflictions, temptations, sicknesses, and infirmities.
The question is, how? How will Christ help us? Well, we don’t exactly know how. We know the mechanism is Christ’s grace and mercy, but we don’t know how and what Christ will do in any particular situation that we bring to Him. We have to find out. We have to trust that He has experienced it, and then call upon God and ask for help, then continue to cope in as best we can, while looking for His grace.
At the risk of sharing too much, I’m going to give a recent example from my life. About a week ago I had very bad cramps and bloating associated with my menstrual cycle. It woke me up in the very early morning. For the next hour I coped with the pain, trying to deal with it in different ways (including pain relievers and such). My sincere question at that time was, “How can the atonement of Christ help me with this?” and I prayed for mercy and to be helped through it.
In some miraculous way I was helped through it. At the time I couldn’t tell I was being helped, and afterward at first all I knew was that somehow I had been helped. I had to think about it to be able to understand. So here’s how I think I was helped. 1) I got ideas of how to move around such that a new position would bring about the next bit of progression through it. 2) Praying my way through it and pondering how the atonement might help me kept my mind off the pain and kept me from getting frustrated. 3) Even though the whole process lasted an hour, it didn’t feel so long because I was concentrated on praying and pondering. 4) My husband woke up near the end and gave me a blessing, so I had some company. 5) I was able to go back to sleep afterwards for three hours.
This was how the atonement helped me with this experience. If my circumstances were different, the divine help might have come in a slightly different way.
Still, it taught me that using the atonement in our lives often requires experimenting and asking for help in a situation where we may wonder if the atonement can be used. (Oh look! Experimenting is an opportunity for exploration and adventure of a spiritual nature!)
We may wonder, how is the atonement of Christ going to help me with this? But I learned that if we pray for mercy and strength, then re-engage in the problem, pondering and looking for the hand of the Lord, we will receive help. And when we have been helped, we need to record what happened so that we can remember for later. These experiences tend to fade too quickly. But if we can remember, they encourage us to keep experimenting with new ways to use the atonement.