I was at the devotional Elder Holland spoke at recently and I’m so confused after hearing him say that Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ are tired about us pleading for help. I’ve dealt with clinical depression most of my life. And when I talk to my LDS counselor about feeling guilty that I add to the pain Jesus felt in the Garden of Gethsemane due to my mistakes and weaknesses, he has told me that I don’t need to feel this way. That the pain Christ felt for us was a loving sacrifice and that we can always ask for help without “adding” to the burden that was felt by the Lord. Now it seems that Elder Holland is saying there is a limit to what we should ask for help for. A huge part of me figuring out how to deal with my depression is my daily prayers. But am I being selfish? Is God tired of me asking for help?
This is the excerpt from the devotional address Elder Holland gave in Tempe, Arizona this past month that you are referring to: “Does it ever dawn on anybody that God might be tired? Or that Christ might be tired… He’s people tired. He’s blessing tired. He’s parable tired. He’s sermon tired. Everywhere he goes he’s tired. It’s people people people. Problems problems problems. I can’t walk, I can’t see, I can’t hear, bless my child, bless my father, heal my wounds. He’s exhausted.”
I’m so sorry to hear that Elder Holland’s words made you question an essential, and healthy coping mechanism you have developed to help you deal with clinical depression. Many people of religious faith share that spiritual tools such as prayer, meditation, and scripture reading are useful in combating the negative thoughts, hopelessness and critical self-dialogue that often accompany such conditions as clinical depression, anxiety disorders, and others. I agree with the reframes your therapist is helping you make and hope you continue to frame the gospel of Jesus Christ in ways that help and comfort you.
In short, my answer is a resounding “no.” God is not tired, much less exhausted. And even though the Mormon understanding of God is that feelings are part of divine experience, the God I grew up learning about is a willing God. A comforting God. A parenting God. A people-oriented God. A problem-solving God. An inviting God. A blessing God. A loving God.
There is nothing that would doctrinally support the idea that God or Jesus Christ are tired of us, our problems or our pleas. In fact, the messaging we prioritize in the scriptures is quite opposite of that. For example, almost every book in the Bible includes the phrase “fear not.” For I the Lord thy God will hold thy right hand, saying unto thee, Fear not; I will help thee. Isaiah 41:13
We are continually comforted in the idea of being “heard.” Evening, and morning, and at noon, will I pray, and cry aloud: and he shall hear my voice. Psalms 55:17
We are continually invited to come unto me. And not just come, but Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. Matthew 11:28-30
Therapists are ethically trained about a concept called “countertransference.” This is generally defined as the process of when the therapist’s own issues are projected onto the client as a reaction to the emotions, experiences or problems the patient brings to treatment. Since we are mere mortals, albeit trained, it is inevitable that this will happen. Yet, it is our responsibility as clinicians to be aware of our own processes so that when it does, we are reminded to not cause harm, seek supervision and/or practice the self-care needed to counter it. It seems to me that this is what might have been happening to Elder Holland as he gave his speech. He seemed frustrated in his overall tone. He himself said he wasn’t sounding “apostolic” at one point when he expressed anger towards members who are leaving the church. As I listened to him, it seemed that he is the one who may be tired and exhausted. Tired of the many issues he is hearing and responsibilities he is bearing as an apostle of our church. I can imagine that there are many weighty issues the brethren are dealing and struggling with on a regular basis. And at a developmental stage in their lives when the body is aging, and peers are retired and enjoying the simpler pleasures of life, grandchildren, less routine and structure, etc. I would hope that we could have compassion and respect for our leaders while at the same time, understanding their limitations. Especially when we want to protect the progress we are making in our own lives in relation to personal relationships with Jesus Christ and Heavenly Parents from being interrupted or diminished.
I hope you can continue to find solace in the spiritual tools you have developed and come to rely on, so that your relationship with deity and the gospel is something you find edifying in your life – not an unnecessary burden.
This is an interesting article that speaks of some of the positives that can come from spiritual practice: Can Prayer Heal?
And listening to the words of this beautiful hymn is another form of balm: He, watching over Israel, slumbers not, nor sleeps. Shouldst thou, walking in grief, languish, He will quicken thee. He Watching Over Israel
Natasha Helfer Parker, LCMFT, CST can be reached at natashaparker.org. She authors the Mormon Therapist Blog, hosts the Mormon Mental Health and Mormon Sex InfoPodcasts, writes a regular column for Sunstone Magazine and is the current president of the Mormon Mental Health Association. She has 20 years of experience working with primarily an LDS/Mormon clientele.