Developing My Spiritual Capacity through ADHD
November 2023

Developing My Spiritual Capacity through ADHD

I don’t know why ADHD is one of my life challenges. However, as I have pondered how to navigate this condition, I’ve seen God change it from a weakness to a strength.

woman kneeling by a couch

“Heavenly Father, I’m thankful for this day … what did I do today? Oh, I went to class. Walking to class was cold—oh, I should get a new jacket. What color do I want? I really like how I look in green … maybe I should find a green jacket! Oh no—focus on the prayer! I’m praying! Sorry, Father, anyway …”

This may seem like a silly example, but this is what my prayers looked like for years. As someone who has lived with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) for my entire life, connecting with the Spirit and with my Heavenly Father has often been overwhelming and difficult for me. While ADHD can affect people differently, my biggest challenges are task initiation and focus.

There are times when I want so badly to read my scriptures, but no matter how hard I try to get my body to move, my brain won’t let me. And sometimes, when I have finally made myself start reading a conference talk or the scriptures, I read a whole page only to realize that while I was looking at the words, my brain did not comprehend a single thing!

This was incredibly discouraging. For a long time, I didn’t even want to pray because I felt bad about getting distracted 10 seconds into my prayer. I thought Heavenly Father deserved more than my scattered thoughts, which was all I had to offer most days.

I became spiritually unmotivated. I stopped praying and reading scriptures because I felt that if I couldn’t do it perfectly, I shouldn’t do it at all. I was struggling deeply to understand why God would allow me to have this challenge when it made it difficult for me to draw closer to Him.

The Lord Loves Effort

As I pondered on this and prayed for help, over time my perspective changed. One day, I got the impression that “if something is worth doing, it is worth doing imperfectly.” I realized that I don’t have to pray perfectly—I just need to pray. I don’t have to read the scriptures perfectly; Heavenly Father just wants me to try.

President Russell M. Nelson recently said, “Everything to do with becoming more like the Savior is difficult. … The Lord loves effort, because effort brings rewards that can’t come without it.”1

His message resonated with me. Any time I felt unmotivated to turn to God because I knew I’d be unable to focus, I reminded myself that the Lord loves effort. And because I love Him, I’m willing to offer my imperfect efforts.

Changing My Spiritual Routine

With this effort mindset, I started to rely on Heavenly Father more to help me increase my spiritual capacity, despite my struggles with ADHD.

Although it felt awkward at first, I found that saying my personal prayers aloud helps me maintain my focus as I pray. I also started asking Heavenly Father to help me with my prayers. I sometimes tell Him, “Heavenly Father, I struggle with focusing. I really want to talk to You. Can You please help me?” As I do so, I notice His help, and I know He notices my effort.

I now study my scriptures with a question in mind and a pencil to write with. As I do this, my brain recognizes that I have a goal to achieve, and I’m better able to focus on finding answers as I read.

I also started scheduling reminders on my phone each day for spiritual habits. These reminders could be to say a prayer of gratitude, read the scriptures, remember what Christ has done for me, or take a minute to ponder God’s hand in my life. These reminders have helped me focus on my relationship with Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. And after couple of months, I change up the reminder or the time it’s scheduled so that I don’t become so used to it that I begin to ignore it.

Another practice that’s helped me is giving myself grace and remembering the grace my Savior offers me. I now understand that Christ knows my trials—He knows exactly how impossible it feels to stay focused at times, no matter how hard I try.

Understanding His Atonement gives me the encouragement and strength I need to continue putting forth effort to connect with Him. My efforts are imperfect, but as I have put sincere effort into building spiritual habits, my motivation and capacity to hear and feel the Spirit has increased.

Our Weaknesses Can Become Strengths

One of my favorite scriptures is Ether 12:27: “And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.”

I don’t know why ADHD is one of my life challenges. However, as I have pondered how to navigate this condition, I’ve seen God change it from a weakness to a strength. For example, having ADHD requires me to put forth more effort in seeking the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost and fostering a relationship with Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ, more than I probably would without facing this struggle.

As I’ve counseled with Heavenly Father, He has blessed me to understand how to connect with Him and has granted me insight into Christ’s role in improving my life and consecrating my efforts. I know that He understands each of our daily struggles, and when put effort into reaching out to Him, He can expand our spiritual capacity, no matter what we are facing.