I threw myself on top of the dingy green bedspread and stared at the ceiling. My throat felt tight from fighting back tears. I couldn’t understand what was wrong with me. It had been a beautiful spring day. My companion and I were teaching several wonderful people in Kecskemét, Hungary. I was serving the Lord and should be joyful. So why had this oppressive sense of failure overcome me?
I knew many missionaries who struggled with occasional feelings of inadequacy; lately those feelings had seemed to become my permanent state of mind. But wasn’t I doing things right—praying regularly, reading the scriptures, working hard, obeying mission rules? Still, I felt so imperfect. It seemed as if my faults were preventing the Lord from reaching the people who needed to hear the gospel.
My companion was on her bed, reading a letter from home. I wanted to talk to her, but she was new in the country and struggling to adjust to mission life and to learn Hungarian. She didn’t need to hear about my problems.
I opened my scriptures and began reading in 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 …”
I stopped. This scripture was one of my favorites. I had read it many times and had even prayed about it in the Missionary Training Center, asking the Lord to grant me humility and help me be strong. I knew that the Lord often teaches us humility through our weaknesses. Hadn’t Alma said as much to the poor people who had been cast out of the synagogues (see Alma 32:6–16)? I knew that if I could learn humility, the Lord would make me strong. But I did not feel strong, and my weaknesses were becoming more evident with every passing day. So what was I missing?
I decided to read the verse again. This time it was different. It was as if I had missed something in my previous readings. “My grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me.” As I read that line again, the Spirit overwhelmed me. “The grace of Christ is sufficient!” With insight from the Spirit, I felt things begin to fall into place.
Turning to the end of the Book of Mormon, I read Moroni’s beautiful invitation: “Yea, come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness; and if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and love God with all your might, mind and strength, then is his grace sufficient for you, that by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ” (Moro. 10:32).
The Spirit was trying to teach me. My problem was not that I had done something wrong but that I had failed to do something right. In my pride, I was trying to make myself perfect, rather than humbling myself before Jesus Christ and asking for His help in overcoming my weaknesses. Of course I was failing! None of us can do it alone—we can become perfected only in Christ, with His help. We must do our part, of course. But unless we truly come unto Christ, we cannot be saved, nor can the power of the Atonement take effect in our lives. But if we come unto Christ, then His grace is sufficient for us—not too little, but enough.
Things did not change overnight, but peace began to find its way into my heart. Although I still struggled occasionally, what I had learned about the Atonement helped me keep an eternal perspective and reminded me that it was not necessary to endure everything alone.
I will always be grateful for the opportunity to serve a mission. And I am particularly thankful for that quiet night in Kecskemét, Hungary, when I learned about the power of the Atonement to heal and make whole.