When I was very little, I suffered various forms of abuse and mistreatment from a member of my family and someone else outside of my family. Because of that abuse, I grew up with fear, hatred, and a lot of resentment in my heart. At times I believed I was the cause of what had happened to me, and I felt guilty. I felt like the dirtiest human being in the world. And I carried those feelings with me growing up.
However, everything changed when I was 20 and missionaries knocked on my door to share a special message with me—a message full of faith, love, and hope. They told me about the gospel of Jesus Christ.
As I listened to them, I felt the peace and tranquility in my heart that had been missing for most of my life. I could honestly feel that Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ truly loved me and that my value had not diminished despite everything I had gone through. Could this be the way to finally be free of the guilt and shame I had carried with me throughout my life?
The missionaries continued to visit and teach me, and only two months later I was baptized. I had never been so happy in my entire life. As I kept learning more and more, the principles and teachings of the gospel showed me how I could (it was actually possible!) find the strength to move forward with peace, forgive, and end the conflict I had carried for so long in my heart.1
I was especially comforted by the words of Elder Patrick Kearon of the Seventy during general conference when he spoke of abuse. He taught:
“You are not defined by these terrible things that have been done to you. You are, in glorious truth, defined by your eternally existing identity as a son or daughter of God …
“With arms outstretched, the Savior offers the gift of healing to you. With courage, patience, and faithful focus on Him, before too long you can come to fully accept this gift. You can let go of your pain and leave it at His feet.”2
I know now that I am not guilty of what happened to me—I was a victim of others’ terrible actions.
I am so thankful for the healing power of Jesus Christ. Learning about Him and striving to follow Him has helped me move forward with the knowledge that He suffered for me and understands everything I have been through. Learning that He bore my burdens alone so that I would never have to was an amazing realization for me and has deepened my faith in Him.
But my own turmoil about my abuse wasn’t the only part of me that needed healing. I learned that Jesus Christ, through the power of His Atonement, will not only cleanse us of our sins but also comfort us and help us to move forward, grow, and forgive those who have hurt us deeply.
Forgiving is hard, and sometimes it may seem impossible. It did for so long in my case. But as I focused on recovering from the repercussions of abuse, I realized that I could work toward forgiveness slowly over time because it was necessary for complete recovery.
President Russell M. Nelson recently taught us about ending conflicts in our lives. He said: “If forgiveness presently seems impossible, plead for power through the atoning blood of Jesus Christ to help you. As you do so, I promise personal peace and a burst of spiritual momentum.”3
To free my soul from hatred and resentment, I relied on the Savior to help me truly forgive and let go of the conflict in my heart. It was a long process, but as I exercised faith, I did feel the reassuring love and peace of the Savior replace those negative emotions I had carried for so long. I was finally able to realize that although the past can’t be erased or changed, it can be accepted and overcome, and that helped me feel so much hope for the future.
Despite what I believed when I was young, the Lord is with us through everything. He loves us with infinite love. I was so hopeless about my life circumstances, but He showed me how He can help us turn our worst suffering into beautiful faith and strength.
I love this gospel and have no doubts about the path I have taken as a disciple of Jesus Christ. I know in my heart that Jesus Christ and my Heavenly Father love me—and each one of us. They stand ready to help us do the seemingly impossible, especially if the impossible involves forgiving the seemingly unforgivable. Be strong, persevere, have faith, and you will be very blessed.
I know I have been.