Hymn text by Attr. to Bernard of Clairvaux, 1091-1153. View the full text of this hymn.

Jesus, the very thought of thee
with sweetness fills my breast

Does the very thought of Jesus fill my breast with sweetness? Honestly, those probably aren’t the words I would choose. I’m prone to forget, prone to wander. Prone to get distracted by the things around me, and prone to neglect the things of God. I recognize these things, and know I could and should do better, but acknowledgement alone does not bring a change of heart.

When I think of Christ’s Atonement, though, it does fill me with hope. Hope that even in my imperfection, Christ still extends his arms out to me, inviting me to come with him. He does not excuse my weakness, but he does patiently wait for me to accept his blessings. When I fall, he does not condemn me; he simply offers the hope of forgiveness.

O hope of ev’ry contrite heart,
O joy of all the meek,
To those who fall, how kind thou art!
How good to those who seek!

Like you, I am imperfect. Christ’s mission to rescue the sinners comforts me, because it’s all too easy to feel lost. I’ve been given so much spiritual help—I have easy access to scriptures, frequent messages from prophets and apostles, the Gift of the Holy Ghost,  good friends and supportive family, and so much more. The easy excuses for spiritual negligence are all used up. And yet, even with all these opportunities, I often find myself distracted by other things. I don’t study the scriptures as often as I should. My prayers are frequently more rote and hollow than sincere and seeking.

I should do better, of course. I know I should. Obedience to God’s commandments isn’t simply obedience for its own sake—rather, every choice of obedience brings blessings. “I the Lord am bound when ye do what I say, but when ye do not what I say, ye have no promise.” When I make time to study the scriptures, I feel knowledge flowing into me. I recognize the revelation, the spiritual strength it gives me. When I focus on real prayer, I’m filled with peace.

But so often, I fail to do what I know I should. I’m imperfect. I’m trying to do better—I’m trying to be like Jesus—but I’m not there yet.

And it’s precisely for this reason that the Atonement of Christ fills me with peace. He came not to save the perfect but the imperfect, the flawed, and the failing. He suffered in Gethsemane and died on the cross to save me and to lift me. And you, and our neighbors, our friends, and people we don’t even know. Christ is the way, the only way back to an eternal home our perfect and exalted Heavenly Father. Because of him, we who repeatedly fall short are not cast off eternally. Even when we fail again and again, His way is still open to us. Every step we take along His path brings us greater strength, knowledge, peace, and comfort. He’d love for us to all be further along this path, of course—he wants to bless us immeasurably. But even when we fall short again and again, his patience endures.

I’m not yet at the point where the simple thought of Jesus fills my heart with sweetness and peace. I still have to ponder for a moment, to remember all that he’s done for me. But because of him, I have hope that someday I’ll reach that point.

To those who fall, how kind thou art!
How good to those who seek!

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