Where Can I [an atheist] Turn For Peace?

Some days I am okay.  Some days I am not.  Lately, more days are not okay.

Last Sunday, while being thrown into a risky situation, I caught myself doing something I frequently do on accident: saying a prayer in my heart.  “Heavenly Father, please let me be okay.”  “Heavenly Father, please help my depression get better.”  “Heavenly Father, please help me know what to do.”  I’ve always been a ‘heart-pray-er.’  My whole life I have lived in the depression and anxiety spectrum.  Those heart prayers were a very real way to cope.  I didn’t just believe someone was listening, I genuinely felt like I knew someone was listening.  It actually would contribute more to the depression sometimes when I would beg and beg for it to go away so I could just get through the night, and nothing happened.  But alas, that’s where faith came in.  Faith in God’s plan.  Faith that this was an Earthly trial and there was some bigger plan; some reason why I had to go through this.  Faith that there would be a reward for having to endure such darkness.

I catch myself saying those heart prayers from time to time.  Usually it hurts pretty bad when that happens.  Prayers in my heart were rarely anything but emotional emergencies.  So when I am in those times of trouble and catch myself heart praying, and realize that it is empty and no one can hear it except my own mind, the loneliness and emptiness compounds on top of whatever was causing me to heart-pray.

At the end of a Mormon Stories episode I was listening to today, there was a clip of a hymn (as there always is at the end of each episode).  Today, it was “Where Can I Turn For Peace.”

Where can I turn for peace?
Where is my solace?
When other sources cease to make me whole?
When with a wounded heart, anger, or malice,
I draw myself apart,
Searching my soul?
Where, when my aching grows,
Where, when I languish,
Where, in my need to know, where can I run?
Where is the quiet hand to calm my anguish?
Who, who can understand?
Listening to that hymn burned.  It was painful.  It pulled every tear out of my eyes.  The sting in my eyes was nothing compared to the saltiness in my heart.  It triggered a raw emotion I’ve never truly felt before.  I know the 3rd verse to that hymn.  The answer to those questions. And it doesn’t give me one ounce of comfort or peace.  It’s like believing Santa will swoop in and take the pain away.  Spoiler, he won’t.
I like to believe that not all atheists are angry and bitter.  I like to believe that they know to cope with life’s lemons in a constructive and positive way.  I don’t know how yet.  I was never taught that.  I was taught to “give my burden to the Savior.”
Today, I asked myself every single one of those questions from that song.  When “god” isn’t the answer, those are extremely difficult and real questions.  I am going to make an honest effort to find out.
I don’t want to be angry.  I don’t want to be bitter.  I don’t want to struggle with my religious past.  I want to be able to trust myself to find happiness and peace.  I want to know I’m going to be okay without having to pray in my heart.

 

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