Last year, I set a goal to write in my journal the characteristics of Jesus Christ that I had come to learn for myself. I tried to avoid only listing the characteristics I had heard at church or in another person’s testimony. I wanted to determine what I knew about Christ based on my own personal experiences. Because the Savior is not physically here to speak and interact with us directly, I have come to learn about the Savior and His characteristics by reading His stories in the scriptures, talking to Him in prayer, and having personal experiences where I recognize His hand in my life.
Today, I want to focus on three of the Savior’s characteristics that I have come to learn for myself and why I know them to be true.
#1 – Jesus Christ knows what we are going through & what we need.
Because of what the Savior experienced in the Garden of Gethsemane, He knows everything about the intimate details of our lives. He knows the joy we feel when we accomplish something hard. He knows the discouragement we feel when we’re not quite living up to our own expectations of who we want to be. He knows what it feels like to be missing someone we love—whether that’s someone on the other side of the world or someone on the other side of the veil. Sometimes, for me, I can hear that so much that I become numb to how incredible of a truth that really is. But it’s important to remember, because all of us experience times when we feel alone and think, “No one knows what it feels like to be going through this right now.” But thanks to the Atonement of Jesus Christ, we know that we have a Savior who does know.
Merrill J. Bateman shared the following at a BYU devotional in 1997:
“There were many years in which I believed that the atoning process involved an infinite mass of sin being heaped upon the Savior. As I have become more familiar with the scriptures, my view of the Atonement has expanded. The Atonement involved more than an infinite mass of sin; it entailed an infinite stream of individuals with their specific needs…
The Atonement was not only infinite in its expanse but intimate in the lives of God’s children. The Redeemer of the world is acquainted with each person’s infirmities. He knows your problems. He understands your joys as well as your sorrows. He knows the nature of the temptations that beset you and how they interface with your weaknesses. Above all he knows you and knows how and when to help you.”
About a year ago, I had an experience that strengthened my testimony of this same concept: the Savior knows me and knows how to help me. At this time in my life, because of recent experiences I had had and the questions that came from it, I was becoming casual in my spirituality. I was still going through all the motions– going to Church, reading my scriptures, saying my prayers– but I could tell my heart wasn’t in it.
Not too long after I developed this spiritual casualness, my youngest brother got really sick. Strep throat was a regular occurrence in my house growing up, so we assumed that that’s what the swollen tonsils meant. But when he didn’t start getting better after several days of being on Amoxicillin, my mom took him into the doctor for a second check-up where they found masses on both lymph nodes in his neck and down into his chest. They told my mom that they were concerned it might be Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma, which is a type of cancer, and that they needed to get him into surgery the next day. When my mom called me to tell me the news, I was a mess. I’m close with all my siblings, but my youngest brother is my “go-to” for watching movies, playing games, and beating every level in Super Mario Bros, so hearing that my 13-year-old brother might have cancer really shook my world. Everything that seemed importantto me before, now seemed so insignificant. The only thing I wanted to do was be with the people I loved and feel of the peace that the Holy Ghost provides. For the first time in awhile, I read my scriptures and plead with my Heavenly Father in prayer with a strong desire to feel of the Spirit and be comforted, and I was. Even if maybe I didn’t deserve it.
The next day, my siblings and I fasted and prayed that things would go well and that the doctors would be inspired to know how to best help my brother. When a new doctor came into the room to check-up on my brother before surgery, he recognized right away that he did not have Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma. Most patients with that type of cancer feel fine, with no visible symptoms, and my brother looked so terribly sick. They called off the surgery and it turned out that he had a very severe case of mono, which was obviously a huge relief for our family.
Looking back on that experience, I don’t think that the Savior caused my brother to become sick just so that I would get back on track spiritually, but I do believe that He knew that that’s what I needed at that time and that I would grow closer to Him because of it. I wish it hadn’t required a potentially life-changing event for me to humble myself and focus on the basics of the gospel again, but I’m grateful for a Savior who is patient with me, who knows the intricate details of my heart and my life, and knows what I need better than I do.
#2 Jesus Christ loves us deeply and personally.
One of the things I admire most about the Savior is how he loves each of us differently and individually. I believe He wouldn’t talk to you the same way He would talk to me. He wouldn’t show love to you the same way He would to me, because we’re different. He shares a personal, genuine connection with each one of us.
I love the video produced by the Church called “Faith Crisis: What Do We Do When We Feel Nothing.” It’s about a songwriter in New York City who turns to Heavenly Father for answers when his son confides in him that he is struggling with homosexuality, but he doesn’t receive an answer to that prayer for years. He says he felt like the heavens were shut. After years of praying for an answer that wasn’t coming, he finally got on his knees and said, “I’m going to trust you. I’m going to trust that there’s a reason that I can’t feel your presence. There’s a reason that I feel so abandoned. I’m going to trust that you’re smarter than I am, that you get this better than I do, and at some point, you’ll communicate with me and I’ll feel your love, and I won’t feel so lost.” After nine years of this faith crisis, he received an answer. He experienced a 10-day period where all these songs just came to his mind and he was able to write 12 songs within a number of days. And he realized when reviewing those songs, that his answer about how the Savior felt about him and how he should move forward with the situation with his son came through these songs.
My favorite part of the video is when he says, “That’s when this revelation that kind of changed my life happened, that the Lord loved me so personally and so individually and so completely that He would send an answer that I would recognize could have only come from Him, from his heart to mine.”
The reason this video has become a favorite of mine is because his story is so real and relatable. It took him 9 yearsto discover the depth of love that Heavenly Father and the Savior had for him, and at the end of the video he says that looking back he could clearly see moments throughout those 9 years when the Savior was reaching out to him, but he just hadn’t seen it. I think we can all relate to that a little bit with personal struggles we’ve gone through where we felt like the heavens were silent or we longed for divine intervention that never came. But the important lesson we can learn from this story is that even if we can’t see it or feel it, the Savior is there and He loves us more than we can even comprehend.
I’m grateful to know that I have a Savior who loves me deeply and personally. I know He loves me, because I have felt His love too many times in my life to deny that it is real. And if He loves me, then I know He loves you too, even if you’re struggling to see that clearly right now.
#3 Jesus Christ is our Savior.
I’m a big fan of C.S. Lewis, and there’s a quote in his book Mere Christianity about our need for a Savior that I want to share with you, but he writes it in such a way that you almost have to read it 3 or 4 times to fully comprehend what he’s saying. So to summarize, he basically says that it is through the process of us trying our very hardest and then failing that we discover our need for a Savior. We may have at the back of our minds the idea that if we try harder next time, we will succeed in becoming completely good, but that just isn’t the case. In one sense, the road back to God is a road of trying harder and harder. But in another sense, our own efforts are never going to bring us home. All this trying leads up to the vital moment where we will turn to the Savior and say, “You have to do this. I can’t.”
It is so important for us to acknowledge Jesus Christ’s role as Savior in our lives. As Sheri Dew said, “The Savior isn’t our last chance; He is our only chance. Our only chance to overcome self-doubt and catch a vision of who we may become. Our only chance to repent and have our sins washed clean. Our only chance to purify our hearts, subdue our weaknesses, and avoid the adversary. Our only chance to obtain redemption and exaltation. Our only chance to find peace and happiness in this life and eternal life in the world to come.”
I’d like to end with a story shared by Sister Margaret Nadauld:
“A simple thing happened many years ago that I have always remembered because it caused me to think about the Savior’s mission. It happened when our twins were only about five years old. They were just learning to ride their bicycles. As I glanced out the window, I saw them speeding down the street on their bikes going very fast! Perhaps they were going a little too fast for their level of ability, because all of a sudden Adam had a terrible crash! He was tangled up in the wreck, and all I could see was a twist of handlebars and tires and arms and legs. His little twin brother, Aaron, saw the whole thing happen, and immediately he skidded to a stop and jumped off his bike. He threw it down and ran to the aid of his brother, whom he loved very much. These little twins truly were of one heart. If one hurt, so did the other. If one got tickled, they both laughed. If one started a sentence, the other could complete it. What one felt, the other did also. So it was painful for Aaron to see Adam crash! Adam was a mess. He had skinned knees, he was bleeding from a head wound, his pride was damaged, and he was crying. In a fairly gentle, five-year-old way, Aaron helped his brother get untangled from the crash, he checked out the wounds, and then he did the dearest thing. He picked his brother up and carried him home. Or tried to. This wasn’t very easy because they were the same size, but he tried. And as he struggled and lifted and half-dragged, half-carried his brother along, they finally reached the front porch. By this time, Adam, the injured one, was no longer crying, but Aaron, the rescuer, was. When asked, “Why are you crying, Aaron?” he said simply, “Because Adam hurts.” And so he had brought him home to help, home to someone who knew what to do, to someone who could cleanse the wounds, bind them up, and make it better—home to love.
Just as one twin helped his brother in need, so might we all be lifted, helped, even carried at times by our beloved Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. He feels what we feel; He knows our heart. It is His mission to wipe away our tears, cleanse our wounds, and bless us with His healing power. He can carry us home to our Heavenly Father with the strength of His matchless love.”