My very first favorite song was “I Hope They Call Me on a Mission” (Children’s Songbook, 169). With all the gusto a Sunbeam could have, I would belt it out with a big smile on my face. Serving a mission was always part of my plan. When I was eight, I made a plan for my life: attend Brigham Young University, serve a mission, and get married in the temple.
Simple and straightforward.
As I grew, I worked hard to keep these goals in mind. I did extra chores and got summer jobs to earn money. I toiled endlessly to earn and maintain good grades, but most importantly, I gained a testimony for myself of the gospel of Jesus Christ and came to know that my Heavenly Father lives and that he loves me individually.
After attending BYU for a year and praying to know if it was the right step for me, I decided to serve a mission and was called to serve in Poland. I entered the missionary training center (MTC) knowing that this would probably be the hardest thing I’d ever experienced, but I wanted to serve and believed that I would become qualified as I did so. The MTC was a rollercoaster of sharp ups and downs for me—a mix of laughter, tears, the Spirit, and more tears—but it was also one of the happiest times of my life. I knew, without a doubt, that I was in the right place at the right time with the right people.
When I arrived in Poland, it was the hardest experience of my life. Day after day was spent pushing outside of my comfort zone to speak with strangers on the street and at their doorstep in a challenging new language. As time passed, I learned a lot about the gospel and about myself. I was growing, but I soon found that I was also sinking—into depression.
For several months I plowed on, engaging in periodic calls with the area mental health adviser. Eventually, after much thought, prayer, guidance from the Spirit, and discussion with my mission president, I returned home early. I felt that it was the right thing to do, but I still felt the sting of failure.
My Road to Healing
Now a couple of years have passed, and I am learning to come to terms with my experience. A few different things have helped me to find greater peace regarding my early return. For one, I was able to hear the experiences of others who returned early—both in person and through articles or Facebook posts—which helped me recognize that I was not alone.
Similarly, I started talking about my experience with others. At first, I was scared to tell someone that I returned home early for fear that they would see me differently. However, people generally responded with compassion and love. In fact, I learned that being vulnerable often facilitated greater connection. I found it incredibly healing when I was able to help someone else by sharing my story.
Another thing that helped me to feel better about my early return was finding ways to deal with the root cause of my return—my depression. This involved a lot of work and a lot of grace. I learned to process my thoughts by writing them out or talking about them with others.
I became friends with a few bright souls who supported me in the good times and the bad, and I poured out my heart to God again and again. I learned to focus on trying more than reaching a specific outcome, and I learned to recognize the Spirit in my thoughts and inclinations to do good when depression made it hard to feel anything.
I learned to take care of my physical body by exercising in ways that I enjoyed, eating healthier foods, getting more sleep, and spending more time in the sun.
Finding Rest in the Savior
I can’t point to just one change of mindset or one behavior that helped me ease the sting of failure that I felt regarding my mission. However, I know that it was the Lord who led me steadily to the adjustments that I needed to make. I often sat in my closet, praying to God with tears streaming down my face, wondering how my prayers for healing could ever be answered.
But through a series of small miracles that individually seemed relatively small and inconsequential, He did heal me. That doesn’t mean that my life is perfect. I still have days where my mood dips low, and I am still struck at times by feelings of inadequacy.
However, in spite of the pain I’ve experienced, I feel some gratitude for this trial because it has changed me. Now when I hear a sister in Sunday School say that she returned home early, I want to hug her tight and say, “I understand.” And I am learning that my service has just barely begun.
“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” (Matthew 11:28–29).
As I have turned to my Savior, followed His guidance and counsel, and held fast to the covenants that I’ve made with Him, I really have found the rest, joy, and hope that I once felt were entirely out of reach. He truly is the Prince of Peace.
Jane Christensen is a recent graduate from Brigham Young University with a degree in Family Studies. She loves going for walks, spending time with friends, and learning principles of health and wellness.
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