Many people have asked for a copy of the beautiful talk given by Sister Ashby at stake conference last weekend because it cut out for the live stream during conference. In response, Sister Ashby has kindly agreed to share her talk on our blog. Thank you, Sister Ashby!
You can listen to the talk by clicking below, or read the talk just underneath.
WHY I BELIEVE—MY SHATTERED HEART MADE WHOLE
Gina Ashby 3/2/14
My desire this morning is to convey the deep and immense love of God, a love that is so real that it can mend the broken heart. I know because my own heart was once shattered into a million pieces. After eight years of struggle, and despite my family’s best efforts, fasting, and endless prayer, my sweet older brother ended his life.
I’m going to attempt to describe what the healing process has been like for me. The path has been rough, unpredictable, and sometimes felt like I’d only been moving backwards, but through it I’ve learned God never leaves us alone.
I cannot describe the pain and agony that swept over me and my family having to bury my brother at the age of 23. Life became very dark. I felt like I entered a nightmare that would prevent me from ever feeling truly happy. I was absolutely broken. The morning after receiving the tragic news and relaying the news to my family I stared at the mountains terrified of the painful climb ahead of me, but resolved to face things head on, determined to heal and do whatever it would take, no matter how hard. I pleaded for God to help me through such a daunting process.
If I could boil my 15 years of healing down to four key components, it would include these words: See, Search, Thank, and Give.
Once the choice was made to push forward, I had to try to see through God’s eyes—to see the situation, my brother, myself, life and death the way God sees. This was really the process that freed me of anger. God sees beauty and intention. He sees potential and opportunity for growth. He sees the big picture and the end result. What He sees from such a high vantage point gives us a glimmer of hope, tolerance, patience, and forgiveness. It helps us recognize that we can press forward in faith and hope for something better to come.
About two months after my brother’s death, I found myself in Guatemala on a humanitarian effort. My agony was so intense. One incredibly starry night, I cried out to God, telling him how much I hated my new reality, how I didn’t want this new life, I didn’t ask for it. I was angry that reality meant our family was incomplete, I wouldn’t be able to see or talk to my brother any more, my future husband and children wouldn’t know him. After giving a lengthy list of reasons why I hated reality, I heard a calm voice say to my mind, “Stop hating reality. Reality is—a Savior has been provided. Reality is—He has overcome death and paid the price of our sins. Reality is—you will see your brother again!” I suddenly zoomed out and saw the bigger picture of what that reality is and how glorious it is. I realized that the reasons I mourned were temporary and ultimately conquered by Jesus Christ. How instantly grateful I became when my perspective of life and death was shown to me in the way that God sees it. My sorrow turned to rejoicing. Oh, how I love reality!
After I received the awful news, feeling sick, I went into another room and collapsed to the floor, feeling as though my heart would stop from such pain, I started to quietly sing the words of the hymn “Where Can I Turn For Peace?” I knew my only hope was to turn to Christ to save me. I resolved to draw close to the Lord and ensue an all-out push towards Him.
Coupled with prayer, I have found no better way to propel myself toward God than by a sincere reading of the Book of Mormon. The Book of Mormon literally changed the course of my life when the missionaries asked me to take an unmarked copy and read it as though I had never seen it before in my life. I was to mark, with a red pencil, all the passages that answered life’s most important questions to me. I read with a long list of desperate questions—Does God truly exist?, Does He really have a plan for us?, Can families truly be together again after we die? These were things I’d believed all my life, but suddenly were put in question with a desperate need to know the answers. As I read the Book of Mormon from cover to cover, a power swept through my soul with hope and reassurance opening my understanding to who Jesus Christ is, what He offers us, and how we obtain healing and deliverance. I was astonished that almost every page speaks of Him. I love that holy book of scripture. It calmed my troubled soul and really started to heal me. There is power in that book to draw everyone closer to God. Do you need answers? Healing? A testimony? I invite everyone everywhere to take a copy of the Book of Mormon and read it as though you’ve never seen it before. I promise you miracles.
Filling your heart with gratitude is a huge key to healing. Look for every possible thing to be grateful for, and as that list starts to flow you’ll find it’s hard to stop adding to it. You then recognize the Giver of the gifts—everything comes from God as demonstration of His love. A grateful heart cannot be an angry heart. There is a softening that takes place when we fill our hearts with gratitude, a door that opens us to more of God’s love, and an urge to repay Him.
I learned to fill my heart with gratitude for the Savior and look forward with anxious, joyful anticipation to the day of the Savior’s return. I learned for myself that even my brother has full access to the Atonement, that his spirit is alive, often near, that his mind is now clear. I know that I will be rushing to his open arms after this life is over. Now it is my turn to do all I must do to be with him. I live each day longing for that day and make choices with that scene in mind. Truly, when you weigh everything, the reasons to be grateful and rejoice far outweigh the reasons to mourn.
The fourth component of healing for me required an outward focus, a shift of attending to my own wounds and turning to the wounds of others, even if I didn’t feel like it. Getting out of myself and looking for ways to help others proved to be incredibly strengthening and brought tender blessings from heaven.
Noticing the healing take place in my heart, I felt a deep desire to show the Lord my gratitude and serve a full-time mission. And what did He do? He assigned me to go back to my family’s happy childhood home of Helsinki, Finland, but this time as a missionary, wearing the name of Jesus Christ upon my heart. That was a place where the best times for our family happened before things got hard for my brother. Going back there brought back many wonderful forgotten memories and filled my heart with joy. I even returned to our old house and after explaining I had lived there as a young girl, and was welcomed in to the very living room where our family had knelt in prayer so many times, and shared the powerful message of God’s Plan of Happiness. Yes, God wants to heal us! I bore witness daily to the people in that great country, some of whom had also lost loved ones, that because of the Savior’s Atonement—His incredible selfless sacrifice, there is a purpose for this life. Christ’s Church has been restored to the earth with power in His temples to seal families together forever. Through His prophets and apostles in our day so much truth and light has been revealed from heaven. I loved testifying that Jesus Christ has already paid the price, desires to heal and cleanse us, and never gives up on any one of us.
At the end of my missionary service, I scanned my soul and could not find an ounce of pain. And my heart? Not even a crack! I was astonished that I was whole! It was a total miracle. Repeatedly working to See through God’s eyes, Search for Him, Thank Him, and Giveservice to others brought about a mighty change in my once-shattered heart. Through the Atonement of Christ, darkness, resentment and pain were replaced with purpose, faith, and a brightness of hope.
Becoming whole meant for me a peaceful acceptance of what had happened and a release of blame towards everyone involved. It included my consenting to let my brother live where he is now, and a resolve to live where I am with a greater degree of patience and recognition that our realms overlap. With this acceptance came an inner harmony and wholeness, trusting that the Lord will do what He says He is will do. In other words, faith in Christ and application of His Atonement enable His power to flow through and heal us. This is not to say we are free from future heartache. I miss my brother everyday. Triggers still cause stabs of pain, but do not “re-break” my heart. I most quickly come back to acceptance when applying the principles of See, Search, Thank, and Give.
God is aware of us. We are His work. We are His full-time/over-time job. As a loving parent so invested in our progress, our Heavenly Father has provided the perfect conditions to refine us, away from His presence here on earth. He respects our freedom to choose for ourselves, and knows that there will be pain, suffering, and injustice in the world because of it. But with that same freedom we can choose compassion, empathy, patience, courage, faith, to practice forgiving others, and experience the sweetness of being forgiven. He deserves our trust, our gratitude, our awe, our loyalty, and our worship.
Why do I believe all of this? It is because I was almost completely ruined, seemingly irreparably. I needed Him. And He came. It is my greatest joy to know Him more deeply. In coming to know Him, I have discovered how desperately I need Him. I have learned that “Happiness is not the absence of pain, but the presence of God. “ I need Him to cleanse me to be worthy to return to our Father in Heaven and be with my brother again. There is so much more God desires to bless us with. All He asks is that we come to Him, broken heart and all. I testify that if we have even the tiniest speck of desire to believe, to repent, to be baptized, to receive His Spirit, and to endure with faith to the end, God’s love will carry us through the trials of life, heal our wounded souls, and give us reason to rejoice!
A youtube video of the talk can be found HERE. This is great to share with friends!