- My Easter-season message today is intended for everyone, but it is directed in a special way to those who are alone or feel alone or, worse yet, feel abandoned. These might include those longing to be married, those who have lost a spouse, and those who have lost—or have never been blessed with—children. Our empathy embraces wives forsaken by their husbands, husbands whose wives have walked away, and children bereft of one or the other of their parents—or both. This group can find within its broad circumference a soldier far from home, a missionary in those first weeks of homesickness, or a father out of work, afraid the fear in his eyes will be visible to his family. In short it can include all of us at various times in our lives.
Elder Holland speaks of the journey before political rulers, the betrayal by Judus, the denial of Peter, and the loneliness He felt in the Garden. He speaks of these situations and now speaks about the final moments in the Garden where He felt that God had abandoned Him in His greatest hour of need.
- Now I speak very carefully, even reverently, of what may have been the most difficult moment in all of this solitary journey to Atonement. I speak of those final moments for which Jesus must have been prepared intellectually and physically but which He may not have fully anticipated emotionally and spiritually—that concluding descent into the paralyzing despair of divine withdrawal when He cries in ultimate loneliness, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”
- The loss of mortal support He had anticipated, but apparently He had not comprehended this. Had He not said to His disciples, “Behold, the hour … is now come, that ye shall be scattered, every man to his own, and shall leave me alone: and yet I am not alone, because the Father is with me” and “The Father hath not left me alone; for I do always those things that please him”?
- With all the conviction of my soul I testify that He did please His Father perfectly and that a perfect Father did not forsake His Son in that hour. Indeed, it is my personal belief that in all of Christ’s mortal ministry the Father may never have been closer to His Son than in these agonizing final moments of suffering. Nevertheless, that the supreme sacrifice of His Son might be as complete as it was voluntary and solitary, the Father briefly withdrew from Jesus the comfort of His Spirit, the support of His personal presence. It was required, indeed it was central to the significance of the Atonement, that this perfect Son who had never spoken ill nor done wrong nor touched an unclean thing had to know how the rest of humankind—us, all of us—would feel when we did commit such sins. For His Atonement to be infinite and eternal, He had to feel what it was like to die not only physically but spiritually, to sense what it was like to have the divine Spirit withdraw, leaving one feeling totally, abjectly, hopelessly alone.
Jesus felt what we feel when we feel alone, abandoned, and without hope. He understands perfectly what we go through when we are cut off from the Spirit. But even in His knowledge and compassion of knowing what we go through, He completed His journey so we don't have to feel this way. He completed His journey so you and I don't have to feel that we are alone, abandoned, or without hope.
- Brothers and sisters, one of the great consolations of this Easter season is that because Jesus walked such a long, lonely path utterly alone, we do not have to do so. His solitary journey brought great company for our little version of that path—the merciful care of our Father in Heaven, the unfailing companionship of this Beloved Son, the consummate gift of the Holy Ghost, angels in heaven, family members on both sides of the veil, prophets and apostles, teachers, leaders, friends. All of these and more have been given as companions for our mortal journey because of the Atonement of Jesus Christ and the Restoration of His gospel. Trumpeted from the summit of Calvary is the truth that we will never be left alone nor unaided, even if sometimes we may feel that we are. Truly the Redeemer of us all said: “I will not leave you comfortless: [My Father and] I will come to you [and abide with you].”
Elder Holland concludes with a challenge that we become more fully committed disciples of Christ. He encourages us to have courage and know that we are not alone in our journey.
- As we approach this holy week—Passover Thursday with its Paschal Lamb, atoning Friday with its cross, Resurrection Sunday with its empty tomb—may we declare ourselves to be more fully disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ, not in word only and not only in the flush of comfortable times but in deed and in courage and in faith, including when the path is lonely and when our cross is difficult to bear. This Easter week and always, may we stand by Jesus Christ “at all times and in all things, and in all places that [we] may be in, even until death,” for surely that is how He stood by us when it was unto death and when He had to stand entirely and utterly alone.
This talk has provided me hope over the years that God knows what I am going through and has cleared a path for me to find peace and hope in my most troubling times in life. I am grateful for a clear understanding of the Garden moments and an understanding that God did not leave Christ alone, that the withdrawl was part of the plan for Christ to know perfectly what happens to me when I am spiritually alone. What a perfect plan our Father has for us. Our Savior is literally, all knowing. He knows every feeling, every temptation, every triumph, and every discouragement we feel. I have a clear understanding that God knows my life and challenges personally and completely and that I can turn to Him for advice and comfort because He knows how I feel in my life.