Have you ever been reading along in the the scriptures and gotten stuck on a particular word? One morning I was thinking about Alma 7:11 I wondered why it said “pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind.” That seemed a bit redundant to me. I know what pains and temptations are, but affliction seemed to be another word that meant the same thing. It lead me to realize that I had no idea what affliction actually meant. I understood it in context, but what exactly is an affliction? The word affliction in the English language literally means to “distress so severely as to cause persistent suffering or anguish.” (source)
Although it is possible that afflictions can be brought about as a consequence of transgression (D&C 101:1-2) it seems that affliction is most often brought about independent of the consequences of our own personal sins. Often there is nothing done wrong to “deserve” these afflictions, affliction is just a part of life. Afflictions seem to be one of the most difficult things to understand. We understand cause and effect, so we get why we suffer after we have sinned, but to go through something even when you were righteous often leaves us asking “Why me?” or “Why do bad things happen to good people?”
One of my very favorite scripture stories is in the book of Ether. After the Brother of Jared had his remarkable experiences the people were ready to go to the promised land. They got to suffer the affliction of the difficult journey not as a punishment, but because they were righteous enough to be worthy to be lead to the promised land. All of their preparation was guided by the spirit; the boats they made, the way they were to receive light, and the things they should carry with them. As they embarked on their journey they were probably scared. This was a journey unlike any other they had ever experienced. Although they may have intellectually known what to expect, they didn’t have a true understanding of what the journey would entail. There were times that they were tossed upon the waves, and even buried in the sea. There were great monsters of the seas and whales. But despite the great dangers of their journey there was no water that could hurt them and although the winds constantly blew they did never cease to blow towards the promised land. When they got to the promised land they did sing praises unto the Lord and shed tears of joy because of the magnitude of the Lord’s tender mercies over them. (Ether 6:3-12)
Wind needs to be far stronger than a gentle breeze to be strong enough to push our boats to the promised land. Affliction is the wind our loving Heavenly Father sends us to help us on our journey. Sometimes we misunderstand the purpose and all we see is that our boats are being pummeled and buried in sea and we get scared and forget that although it is bruising and constant the wind never ceases to blow us towards the promised land. (Ether 6:8)
There is not a single person out there who does not have afflictions in their life. Sometimes we can see them, but often in the quiet heart is hidden sorrow that the eye can’t see (Lord I Would Follow Thee, Hymn #220) In a previous post I mentioned the difference between shame and guilt. In a very brief summery guilt is a productive and divine feeling (yes, it really is) and shame is an unproductive feeling Satan deceives us with. When he deceives us with shame he “stirreth up the children of men unto secret combinations … and all manner of secret works of darkness.” (2 Nephi 9:9) We know that “the Lord worketh not in secret combinations” (Ether 8:19) When we recognize the source of our shame we will be awakened to the sense of our awful situations because of the secret combinations in our lives. (Ether 8:24)
I, in my affliction, found myself in that situation. My amazing husband has been caught up in a pornography addiction for years. His addiction and subsequent actions eventually lead to his excommunication. I spent years feeling alone. I spent years asking ‘why me?’ Looking back on it all I realize how completely I was deceived. I was just like the dragon fly in my last post flying around horizontally in the perception of confinement. And just like the dragon fly, the only way I escaped was by flying up.
The eternal doctrines and principles of this gospel aren’t to me just nice stories or things good people do. They are the means that saved me from my deep despair. The things I talk about here on this blog aren’t just things that I think are interesting, these posts are my soul bared for all to see. I have lived bound up by secrets, and I have no desire to continue to live my life this way. The gospel of Jesus Christ, which is manifest through The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, is my salvation.
My husband’s pornography addiction, and it’s life changing effect on me, has been very difficult and very painful at times. However, I have come to see that it is this affliction that has, thus far, been the most effective means of wind that pushes my boat to the promised land. With the perspective of being able to look back on the past decade or so of my life I cannot see any spiritual growth on my part that was not motivated by his pornography addiction. It has not been easy, it has not been gentle, but I cannot look at this ongoing affliction in my life without gratitude for all the growth it has enabled in me.
Unfortunately I am not alone in this affliction. Many, many people all over the world are suffering because of the effects of pornography, whether as an addict themselves or as a loved one of an addict. I realized years ago that I did not want another to suffer and feel the awful feeling of being alone, and although I have had many, many opportunities to share my experiences over the years I want to do more. I want to do more to help those around me.
Although I fully recognize that there are already many, many different means of helping addicts and loved ones already out there I sincerely hope that there is something that I have learned that when shared can help someone else within my relatively small circle. In the next few days I will be doing a few posts about the different doctrines that have helped me and hopefully together we can make a small dent in the deception of shame that shrouds this subject.