When I was 18, as a freshman at Utah State, I received a phone call from home. It was my mother, and she had called to inform me that one of my childhood friends had committed suicide.
It hit me badly. I did not take it well. Optimism was absent; I was full of darkness, a figurative darkness that was suffocating my soul.
Well, mostly guilt. To quote scripture, "my soul was racked with eternal torment."
I felt guilty because I had not maintained contact with this friend when he went to college. I felt guilty because I could have been a better friend to him when he was in high/middle/elementary school.
My soul was tormented with the question: Why did he do it? Why did he do it? Why did he do it? Pangs of other questions also haunted my mind. What if I had shared the gospel with him? What if I had ... What if I ... What if ... if ... if ... I hypothesized all sorts of scenarios, knowing irrationally that in the deepest parts of my heart, I could have and should have prevented it.
I felt a weight on my shoulders. I felt heavy and oppressed. I was consumed. I avoided people all day long. I couldn't even cry, I felt so empty and useless.
I did not feel I had anyone close enough to me to share my suffering. I bore it on my own, and it physically, emotionally, and spiritually drained me.
That very night, fortunately, I prayed. I prayed because God was the only source I could think of to turn to, since he was my last hope; in fact, my only hope.
After my candid plea, I heard the spirit tell me, very distinctly, word for word, each word enunciated carefully and unmistakably, "This burden is not yours to bear."
And I believed it. This was not my burden to bear. It was not my fault. There was nothing more that I should or could do. I believed this with all my heart. So, after acknowledging this belief, I handed it over to the Lord, and through the mighty, healing power of His atonement, I was filled with peace and well-being.
The result was instant. One minute previous, I was a groggy, depressed mess, and the instant after I handed my burden to the Lord, I was lifted. I physically felt the weight removed from my chest. I could breath more easily. I felt clarity resume in my mind. I felt that a wall, my stumbling block, was removed, and life could go on.
And after that night, I never looked back.
Well, I mean, I did look back at memories. I did make changes. Lots of changes. I changed how I treated other people. I changed how I prioritized my life. I changed my awareness and sensitivities to others who were facing challenges.
But, most of all, I look back at this experience as an incredible witness to the faith-binding power and reality of the atonement. The Lord is willing to take our burdens away from us, completely and instantly, if we find the equivalent willpower and faith within ourselves to let them go.
Experiencing this experience was key to many future experiences I would experience. For this, I am grateful.
Guest poster Melissa Condie is a middle school orchestra teacher in Houston, Texas. Read her first guest post here.
Image credit: Nicholas A. Tonelli (used with permission).