When the Atonement Doesn’t Seem to Be Working

Have you ever felt desperate for the Atoning power of Jesus Christ to be manifest in your life? Have you ever pleaded to be healed? To have a trial or burden removed? Have you ever cried out in agony “Take this from me now! I don’t want it anymore,” while exercising all the faith you could muster?

Many of us have.

Jesus too, in the Garden of Gethsemane, asked for his burden to be removed multiple times, but it wasn’t. He had to endure every last drop of vicarious suffering in order to fulfill his mission as Savior, Advocate, and Minister of Mercy.

Many times in my life I have been frustrated because it didn’t seem like the Atonement was working. No matter how much I pleaded and begged nothing changed.

I have come to understand that the Atonement of Jesus Christ isn’t just about relieving pain and washing away sin. It is largely meant to give us the opportunity to become like God. It does so by providing a practice arena—a place to make mistakes—as we strive to become like him, without being condemned by those mistakes. The Atonement of Jesus Christ asks us to stretch ourselves, even painfully to become like God.

In a BYU Women’s Conference Elder Bruce C. Hafen stated of the Savior and his Atonement:

He does not always eliminate the burden altogether, because doing so would not further the Atonement’s purpose of helping His children grow and mature to become “purified even as He is pure.” To snatch us completely out of life’s unfairness and injustices. . .would negate the very reason we came to earth, which is to master the traits of Godliness even while under intense pressure. His grace allows us to be healed from and sanctified by that pressure without being crushed by it.

We get to shoulder as much pain as possible for the purpose of being transformed and purified, sanctified. There is no other way. Jesus did it, and so must I.

What about miraculous healing? What about faith?

There are instances where people are miraculously healed. The bible is full of them. Jesus healed people in the New Testament, not to point out that if you only have enough faith you can be healed instantly, but rather, He healed to establish and validate his mission as Healer and Savior. He healed to show that he is the way to true and lasting healing, the way to overcome death. If His glory needs to be manifest through a miraculous healing it will be manifest in that way. If it would better serve the individual to struggle and grow by suffering he will allow that instead.

Faith does not always bring relief, but it does bring release—release from the natural man, the bondage of the carnal that keeps us from obtaining all that the Father wants to give us. As we endure to the end (remain faithful even during the pain, moving forward in faith even when no end is in sight) we prove ourselves before the Lord.

As we undertake the painful emotional surgery that removes the darkness from the soul the relief we seek finally comes. As resistance becomes acceptance and acceptance becomes a cross, we die to self and are resurrected a whole new creature in Christ.

And thus they become new creatures; and unless they do this, they can in nowise inherit the kingdom of God.” ~Mosiah 27:26

If you feel stuck in your personal Garden of Gethsemane—stuck in the pain and pleading with no relief in sight, remember that the Lord needs us to bear our burdens, for therein is how we become vicarious saviors, and it is thereby can we gain the experience necessary to teach and succor and serve others in their extremities. We work out our salvation by the things we suffer.

“…come unto the Lord with all your heart, and work out your own salvation with fear and trembling before him.” Moroni 9:27

In other words, come unto the Lord with total commitment and work out your salvation with reverence and humility before him. This is painful stuff. But pain becomes the hallmark that proves we have received his image in our countenance.  Transformation that comes through pain cannot easily be forgotten. And when that pain is changed and consecrated for our gain we become a powerful instrument in His hands.

If you are struggling to activate the power of the Atonement in your life, consider that the pain is proof of that it IS active. Now use faith and diligent action to uncover the powerful lesson the Lord is trying to teach you so that you can go forth bring others of his lost sheep home.