When I was a relatively new convert, I was very excited to receive my Patriarchal blessing. Before he gave me the blessing, the Patriarch spoke with me for a little while. I shared with him my desire to feel the Spirit in my life, and my doubt as to whether I had ever actually felt it. I wanted spiritual connectedness to be a part of my daily life. In my blessing, he told me that indeed the Spirit had been and would yet be very much present in my life, and that as I remained faithful I would learn to recognize it.
Recently the theme of “How do I know if I am feeling the Spirit?” and “I rarely feel the Spirit in my daily life like other people do” has come up in several conversations. One woman described how she has recently had some major health challenges and difficult decisions to make, and throughout that process she felt the Lord lifting and even carrying her. Now that she is past the most critical period, she no longer feels the Spirit in the same way, and misses it.
The Spiritual Connectedness Continuum
I think there is a spiritual connectedness continuum along which we fall at different times in our lives. I found a wonderful talk, from which the following quotes are taken, in which Elder David A. Bednar has explained these concepts.
“As we gain experience with the Holy Ghost, we learn that the intensity with which we feel the Spirit’s influence is not always the same. Strong, dramatic spiritual impressions do not come to us frequently. Even as we strive to be faithful and obedient, there simply are times when the direction, assurance, and peace of the Spirit are not readily recognizable in our lives.” (David A Bednar, “That We May Always Have His Spirit to Be with Us,” April 2006 General Conference.)
Our choices affect our spiritual connectedness
Cannot feel the Spirit – Separated from God
Elder Bednar explains:
“We should also endeavor to discern when we “withdraw [ourselves] from the Spirit of the Lord, that it may have no place in [us] to guide [us] in wisdom’s paths that [we] may be blessed, prospered, and preserved” (Mosiah 2:36).
“The standard is clear. If something we think, see, hear, or do distances us from the Holy Ghost, then we should stop thinking, seeing, hearing, or doing that thing. If that which is intended to entertain, for example, alienates us from the Holy Spirit, then certainly that type of entertainment is not for us.
Listening for the still, small voice
“I recognize we are fallen men and women living in a mortal world and that we might not have the presence of the Holy Ghost with us every second of every minute of every hour of every day. However, the Holy Ghost can tarry with us much, if not most, of the time—and certainly the Spirit can be with us more than it is not with us.
In a devotional Elder Bednar gave at Ricks College in 1999, he mentions four principles that, when applied diligently, can help us improve our ability to create spiritual connectedness in our lives. I highly recommend reading the text of the devotional, but here are the four principles he explains.
- We must desire the companionship of the Holy Ghost.
- We must invite the companionship of the Holy Ghost.
- We must heed simple promptings.
- We must heed promptings quickly.
From time to time in our lives we experience profound spiritual connectedness. Sometimes it accompanies times of great joy and happiness such as weddings, births, baptisms, blessings, confirmations, etc. It can also accompany times of challenge, difficulty, trial and sorrow such as the death of a loved one, health or financial challenges, etc. When our hearts are open to the Spirit because they are filled with gratitude or because we have turned to the Lord in humility and faith and are in need of His comfort, we can experience a kind of “spiritual high.” This is not a normal state of living, for anyone! It is a peak experience that we should record and treasure. It is personal and private; not to be shared with the world. We do not have these experiences because we seek them, nor as a reward for anything we have done. When we are living day to day in a manner that would invite and welcome the Spirit into our lives we will be able to experience these spiritual highs as the Lord sees fit to bestow them upon us.
How does this relate to recovery?
Have you ever heard someone say at a meeting that they are grateful for their addiction? Newcomers might hear that and think “These people are crazy! Why would anyone be grateful for their addiction?”
When I joined the Church, I learned the answers to the “three questions”: Where did I come from? Why am I here? Where am I going? I came to understand that my purpose in life was to learn to come to the Lord, partake of the Atonement, and return to live in the Celestial Kingdom with God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ.
What I did not learn was how to do this. When I found the 12 Steps, I started learning how. How to find spiritual connectedness. How to partake of the Atonement. How to receive the power the Lord promises to the faithful in Moroni 7:33.
I am so grateful that I have been blessed to find, in my journey of recovery, a way of living that provides a continual opportunity to listen for, hear and feel the still, small voice, in my life.
- Where are you on the spiritual connectedness continuum?
- Have you learned to recognize the influence of the Spirit in your daily life?
- What can you do today to improve your spiritual connectedness?
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