“Help Me Help Ruth”

By Ruth Harris Swaner

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    I felt spiritually numb. I wondered if the Lord still cared about me or if he really loved me. Heavenly Father seemed far away.

    I was letting myself feel smothered by my children’s endless requests, by Church responsibilities, and by the absence of my hard-working husband, who was often gone when I seemed to need him most. With all of the demands on my time, I felt unfulfilled and overwhelmed.

    But when my visiting teachers arrived for their monthly visit, I put on my usual happy face. I hid the torment I felt inside. We exchanged news of the happenings in our lives. I can’t remember the message they shared that month. I felt invisible as their words glided past me.

    As we stood at the door saying our goodbyes, I thought, What a waste of time. They don’t realize how I truly feel inside. And even if they did, would they care?

    My body wanted to retreat into sleep, but I mechanically worked through my chores, expecting no other interruptions to break up my daily routine. I was surprised a few hours later when the doorbell rang.

    It was Julie, the younger of my two visiting teachers. She stepped inside, took both of my hands in hers, and asked me about a place to pray.

    Not quite clear on what she was asking me, I replied, “Julie, why are you here again?”

    She said lovingly, “When I returned home today, I couldn’t get you out of my mind. Earlier, during our visit, I saw the anguish in your eyes. After I returned home, whatever I tried to do was interrupted by thoughts of you. Finally I stopped my work and knelt in prayer. I asked, ‘Lord, help me help Ruth.’ It occurred to me that the answer I sought had to do with what I was doing right then: kneeling in prayer before my Heavenly Father.”

    I stood in silence through Julie’s explanation. With tears filling her eyes, she affirmed, “Ruth, I felt compelled by the Spirit to come back here today. I know you are having trouble praying, and I know you don’t feel loved by your Heavenly Father.” Her words seized my attention. I could not deny the truthfulness of her discovery.

    “Is there a place where we could pray?” she repeated.

    “Yes, I guess so,” I stammered.

    As we moved to another room, she said, “Ruth, I would like to offer a prayer, and then I want you to pray.” I interrupted: “Oh, no—not me!” I told her that I didn’t think Heavenly Father would listen to me, that I didn’t feel I could ask him anything anymore. But Julie sank to her knees. We knelt side by side.

    She said, “Just ask him this one simple question: ‘Am I loved?’” Then Julie began to pray. Her special prayer in my behalf softened my heart. The sweet spirit filling my heart subdued my anger and frustrations.

    I realized that Heavenly Father was near, and he was waiting.

    At the conclusion of Julie’s prayer, she said, “Now it’s your turn, Ruth.”

    Silence blanketed the room, and the next few moments seemed like hours before the words would come. “Heavenly Father,” I finally began, “dost thou love me?” Tears flowed as I asked the question. A few moments later, my answer came, forming itself in the silence of my aching heart—“You need not ask what you already know.” It was distinct and clear.

    Those words, “you already know,” came to me with warmth and love. They filled empty places within me, and I began to draw upon all the truths I had been taught throughout my life. In that moment I remembered anew the many ways Heavenly Father loves me. His love had been there all along.

    Since that moment when I felt God’s love again, my gratitude has increased for his Son, Jesus the Christ, and for others who have extended his love. I am especially grateful for Julie and have tried since then to be one who, like her, can extend our Savior’s love to others in their moments of need.

    Illustrated by David Linn