The first verse of this hymn illustrates the forethought that went into Heavenly Father’s plan. “How great the wisdom and the love that filled the courts on high.” Wise and loving, God the Father needed for us to have a way to repent and return to him, so he sent Jesus Christ to earth “to suffer, bleed and die.” This is the Atonement, the penance that Christ would pay on our behalf.
Notice in verse 2, it talks about Jesus Christ giving himself as a sacrifice for guilt, not just a sacrifice for sin. This I think is where another facet of the Atonement comes into play: the rest from mental anguish. We have all felt the relentless prick of remorse and shame, the crushing load of sorrow. The Lord Jesus felt these emotions for us, to have a chance to understand the weight of sin, but also the sting of disappointment. As the prophet Isaiah wrote, “Surely he hath bourne our griefs, and carried our sorrows” (Isaiah 53:4). He carried them for us that night in Gethsemane.
A few weeks ago a sister in Relief Society challenged us to “apply the Atonement in our lives.” I nodded, then stopped myself. As a lifelong member of the LDS church I have heard that phrase hundreds of times and had never stopped to understand it. Didn’t Christ suffer in Gethsemane for our sins so we would have a chance to repent when we sinned? That was all the Atonement was about, right?
So I swallowed my pride and asked what it meant to apply the Atonement in my life, outside the context of repentance.
Well, the room erupted with women sharing stories of times they had been sick or injured or discouraged or ashamed or angry or totally alone. In these moments they cried out to the Lord for an extra measure of His grace to sustain them when their wells had run dry, and He had delivered.
How great, how glorious, how completeRedemption’s grand design,Where justice, love, and mercy meetIn harmony divine!
In these last few weeks, I have thought a lot about this aspect of the Atonement, the salvation not just of the spirit but also the body. My husband and I are puffy-eyed with exhaustion and we have eaten fish sticks for dinner three times in the last week. The children are full of light and mischief and it is all I can do to not crawl into bed after they conk out at 7 p.m.
But because of the Atonement we can ask the Lord God, in all his love and wisdom, for a portion of his power and mercy and He will deliver. Sometimes it’s an uninterrupted nights’ sleep. Other times it’s a favor from a friend or a kind word from a stranger. These gifts of grace come when our wells are empty. He delivers. He saves. Hosanna.