I love the story of Elisha and the servant when they were surrounded by the Aramean army.
Early the next morning, when the servant of the man of God arose and went out, he saw the force with its horses and chariots surrounding the city. “Alas!” he said to Elisha. “What shall we do, my lord?” Elisha answered, “Do not be afraid. Our side outnumbers theirs.” Then he prayed, “O Lord, open his eyes, that he may see.” And the Lord opened the eyes of the servant, and he saw that the mountainside was filled with fiery chariots and horses around Elisha. (2 Kings 6:15-17 NASB)
When we can know and see what God knows and sees, we can change. I believe that this is where true repentance leads. I think that we can have a twisted idea of what repentance really is. We think it is just feeling bad about something, saying we’re sorry, confessing if needed, and then trying hard to never do it again. The Bible dictionary defines repentance as:
The Greek word of which this is the translation denotes a change of mind, a fresh view about God, about oneself, and about the world.
The fruit of repentance is change; a deep, fundamental and complete change influenced by direct experience with God. You see things differently because you have been influenced by his Mind, the Holy Spirit (see Lecture 5). Without it you are in darkness and will struggle there until your eyes are opened.
I’ll illustrate with some scriptures:
But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If, therefore, the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness! (3 Nephi 13:23)
And the mists of darkness are the temptations of the devil, which blindeth the eyes, and hardeneth the hearts of the children of men, and leadeth them away into broad roads, that they perish and are lost. (1 Nephi 12:17)
And in that day shall the deaf hear the words of the book, and the eyes of the blind shall see out of obscurity and out of darkness. (2 Nephi 27:29)
Now, this was what Ammon desired, for he knew that king Lamoni was under the power of God; he knew that the dark veil of unbelief was being cast away from his mind, and the light which did light up his mind, which was the light of the glory of God, which was a marvelous light of his goodness—yea, this light had infused such joy into his soul, the cloud of darkness having been dispelled, and that the light of everlasting life was lit up in his soul, yea, he knew that this had overcome his natural frame, and he was carried away in God— (Alma 19:6)
Now they, after being sanctified (set apart) by the Holy Ghost (Mind of God), having their garments made white, being pure and spotless before God, could not look upon sin save it were with abhorrence; (Alma 13:12)
And they all cried with one voice, saying: Yea, we believe all the words which thou hast spoken unto us; and also, we know of their surety and truth, because of the Spirit of the Lord Omnipotent (Mind of God), which has wrought a mighty change in us, or in our hearts, that we have no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually. (Mosiah 5:2)
The gift of God is to be able to understand with his Mind and thus see with his eyes. We invite this through our repentance, when we are humble, and seek to keep his commandments. By keeping his commandments we begin to develop some of his characteristics. We begin to become more merciful and gracious, slow to anger, more stable and unchanging, more truthful because we are not hiding sin, more equitable, and full of love.
We then begin to run more parallel with God instead of perpendicular and we begin to see as he sees. His Spirit, his Mind, becomes one with ours; and as we embrace it, we become converted. God’s attributes become more visible and active in our lives as we more fully receive of his character into ourselves.
I’ve experienced this myself. Louis D. Brandeis once stated, “Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants” and it is true in the spiritual sense as well. You can either wear yourself out by struggling and stumbling in the darkness or walk in the light.
Many today seem to be struggling and looking for some way to reconcile their doubts with their religious practice. I feel a great sense of compassion toward those who feel that way. I know what it is like to be in both the darkness and the light and the darkness is horrible. I know what it is to cry out and hear no response – for years.
I’ve offered some ideas from my own experience as to why this happens and perhaps understanding that this too is part of a divine plan can help us have the confidence to continue onward. We can become so surrounded by darkness that only direct intervention from God can save us. This shouldn’t surprise us since only direct intervention from God can save us anyway.
The truth is that many are in darkness and don’t even realize it because of ignorance or pride. Some wake up and are more aware of it than others. This is a great blessing because those that know they are in darkness possess a particular awareness of their spiritually, and perhaps what they lack.
Have you ever considered that this may be part of God showing you your weakness? (Ether 12:27)
While this can cause some to feel doubtful, fearful, or in a kind of “faith crisis,” but it is a sign of remarkable growth, so take courage!
When we plant a seed and place it in a small pot, it may outgrow the pot. This is not because the seed or the plant, or even the pot is bad, it is because growth involves expansion. Sometimes we outgrow a paradigm that once served us well but needs to be retired so that we can sink our roots into the earth. The fruits will lead to experiences with God, an enlightened mind, and fresh eyes to see. If we are faithful, we will see that the darkness can be dispelled.
If we have lost our way or unsure if we have ever found it, the solution isn’t complicated but it isn’t easy. You may find it difficult to let go of old paradigms as well as new ones. You may feel like holding on to a particular point of view that you learned from someone that sounded really good at the time. The arm of flesh can feel so comforting to take hold of when everything else seems like it is falling apart, but you can exercise tremendous faith in that moment by returning to the beginning.
If we love God, or want to learn how to know and love him, it starts with keeping his commandments (John 14:15). And in return he promises that “I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; Even the Spirit of truth; … I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you.” (vs. 16-18) Moroni’s words are applicable:
O then despise not, and wonder not, but hearken unto the words of the Lord, and ask (do not cease asking) the Father in the name of Jesus for what things soever ye shall stand in need. Doubt not, but be believing, and begin (again) as in times of old, and come unto the Lord with all your heart, and work out (engage in the purpose of) your own salvation with fear and trembling before him. (Mormon 9:27)
Get outside of yourself. God will be found as you comfort the mourner, feed the hungry, forgive your enemies, serve those that offend or annoy you. Turning inward only makes things worse and is like becoming a stagnant pond where doubt and uncertainty pollute the mind with a darkness that makes moving forward increasingly difficult.
You can’t force a sunrise, and even at high noon you can’t see the sun from inside a cave, you have to walk into the open and seek the highest ground. These things don’t come by force, we receive them when the time is right and we are prepared, so the best thing we can do is prepare ourselves and cultivate the virtue of patience.