Mixing Doubt with Anger

by Autumn Dickson

One of the topics given as a suggestion in the Come Follow Me manual for this week is to study Satan’s tactics. This has actually already been a topic on my mind for a while. There is one tactic in particular that I’ve come to recognize over the past few months, and so I feel like the Lord has prepared me to learn about this before He even gave me the verse. Here it is.

2 Nephi 28:20 For behold, at that day shall he rage in the hearts of the children of men, and stir them up to anger against that which is good.

As I have read this verse in the past, I always pictured two specific ways of Satan raging in the hearts of men. One, I always pictured Satan tempting people to get angry with each other, and two, I pictured him tempting people to hate the church. Both are totally valid examples. However, as I read it this time, I was reminded of this observation that the Lord has been helping me ponder lately.

Namely, I’ve been pondering the observation that Satan likes to mix our doubts with anger. Doubts happen. Even Joseph Smith taught that in order to reach salvation, we have to be able to “contemplate the darkest abyss.” Faith is non-existent without its opposite: doubt. We can’t have faith in something unless there is reason to doubt it, and I believe Satan has a major victory when he can mix our doubts with anger and frustration.

The toxic combination of anger and doubt

One of my children is going through a bit of a phase recently. There have been quite a few stressors in our family life with frequent moves, a new baby, and dad going out of town frequently for work. She also recently started school every day, and all of this has thrown her a bit of a curve ball. She is a daughter after my own heart and loves routine and so all of this upheaval is an obstacle for her. There have been a couple of days in a row where she has absolutely lost her mind at me, screaming, crying, throwing, hitting, slamming doors, all of it.

There have been two sentiments that she has expressed to me in her anger. Namely, she has expressed that she believes I hate her or that I’m not treating her like she’s part of the family.

It’s extremely easy for me to see that my disciplining her has everything to do with how much I love her and how badly I want her to be part of a functional and healthy family, but to her, these are very real feelings. She doesn’t always understand my decisions, she doesn’t always see my perspective, and so she draws a conclusion that I must not love her.

Unfortunately, it’s very difficult to explain my love and reasoning to her when she’s angry. I’ve tried. When she’s throwing a fit and I’m trying to hold her and explain to her why I’m choosing to make certain decisions in her life, sometimes she simply can’t hear me above the big feelings.

Later on, after she’s had time to calm down, the conversation goes far more smoothly. She is able to see the big picture, to see that I have a responsibility to teach her even if consequences make her sad sometimes.

This is not a perfect similitude of the principle I’m trying to teach, but it can teach the principle that we can apply to broader circumstances. Let me give a better example.

I love the gospel, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t had my personal struggles with different aspects related to the church. It’s especially difficult when those struggles are highlighted on social media or by a friend who has left the church. There have been times when I have felt very dark inside. I know there is a temptation to believe that the only way to escape that darkness is to leave, to stand up against a perceived (and possibly very real) injustice. I know the temptation to get angry and demand better in comparison to sitting in the darkness and allowing yourself to feel hurt, invalidated, and unimportant.

Interestingly enough, Satan is on both ends of that spectrum. He is the one in the dark, whispering that you’re nothing. Heavenly Father would never have you sit in the darkness believing that you’re lesser, and as soon as He starts to build you and help you believe that you matter, Satan is right there. Satan is whispering that you should be angry and demand better, that you should have never been made to feel the darkness in the first place.

Whether or not we should have been constantly protected from darkness is a conversation for another day. For now, let’s consider why Satan would like us to feel angry when we have doubts or don’t understand. Let’s consider what can happen when we’re able to let go of the anger.

Letting go of the anger and frustration

It’s easy to say that we should let go of the anger that accompanies doubt. It’s much harder to actually accomplish the task, especially when those doubts make you wonder if you’re insignificant, lesser, or weary. It’s harder when those doubts can easily lead to feelings that something is wrong.

If there is anything I wish for anyone to get out of my blog posts, YouTube videos, or podcasts, it is this truth: any gospel problem can be solved when we have a relationship with Jesus Christ. I would even go as far to say that any problem at all can be solved. We don’t have to force or contort or squash anything about ourselves or how we’re feeling. We simply need to approach Christ with an understanding of who He is.

Imagine how powerful it would be if my daughter could come to me and calmly ask why I made certain decisions in regards to her life. Let it be known that I don’t have expectations for this; she’s really young and that takes a lifetime of practice. But imagine for a moment, that she was able to. How would that change how she feels about herself? How would that change how she sees the circumstances around her?

Like I said, she’s young. Some of the principles I use to make decisions are beyond her ability to understand, and so there has to be a level of trust. But if I prove myself to be a loving mother and if I reassure her of her importance, it becomes much easier to feel okay even if she doesn’t fully understand.

If I can approach my Heavenly Father with faith that I’m important to Him, the doubts are resolved or become insignificant to me.

Maybe that sounds like voodoo. Maybe it sounds like I’m trying to placate people by telling them to “just have faith.” But it’s a reality, at least for me. More than once I have approached Him and told Him that I don’t understand something, that it feels wrong. As I approach Him, replacing my anger with faith that He loves me and is perfect and capable, I find that the doubts are bearable, miniscule even. Trust finds me. I don’t have to ignore doubts or push them down; they dissipate in the comforting knowledge that He really can fix everything and help me come out on top of it all, powerful and glorious and everything He meant for me to become.

It takes a relationship

The power to overcome these doubts does not often happen overnight. My daughter can come to me and be reassured of my love because she experiences it consistently. However, if a stranger did something that felt vastly unfair, it probably wouldn’t mean much if that stranger insisted they wanted what was best for her.

The same goes for trusting the Savior. Think of how often you have little testimony moments. If you were to apply that to a normal relationship, how much would you trust the other person? How much satisfaction and joy would you find in that relationship? The answer is probably not much. If I saw a random stranger do a couple of good things, that would probably give me a good opinion of them, but without a relationship, that good opinion of them would do very little to bless me.

If we want to be truly changed by the atonement of Jesus Christ, if we truly want to experience the blessings of the gospel, to experience salvation now, we need more than a testimony of Him. If we want to feel power over Satan and doubt, if we want to feel secure in this world, a testimony is insufficient. We need a relationship with Him. It is only in a relationship with Him that we gain enough exposure to Him that we start to trust in the promises that make life bearable, worth it, and wonderful. It is only in a relationship with Him that the doubt feels insignificant, laughable even. A relationship with a perfectly loving and powerful Being melts the anger that Satan tries to infuse in our lives. Satan is no competition when we have that relationship. Why do you think we’re encouraged to read The Book of Mormon every day? I believe it’s because it’s giving us a taste of that relationship even if we don’t fully recognize it.

It can be hard work to know your Father in Heaven. Spiritual effort is as difficult as physical effort, maybe even more so. There are no markers. It takes focus in a world that diminishes our ability to concentrate. It builds slowly over time in a world that can deliver gratification quickly.

But it’s worth it. My life has never been so happy and peaceful as it has been since I’ve come to know and experience His power regularly enough that I trust Him and what He says. Invest in that relationship. Above all else in relation to the gospel, invest in that relationship. Help your children develop that relationship so that when the storms come, they will feel that storms are either insignificant or contribute to their ability to be awesome.

I testify of perfectly loving Parents and a Savior. I testify that They have the ability to do all that They have promised to do. I testify that we can’t see the full picture, and I testify that when we do, we will laugh at ourselves for ever having been worried. That is not meant to diminish how difficult it may feel now; it is meant to give comfort. Someday, everything will make sense. I know it because I know my Savior.


Autumn Dickson was born and raised in a small town in Texas. She served a mission in the Indianapolis Indiana mission. She studied elementary education but has found a particular passion in teaching the gospel. Her desire for her content is to inspire people to feel confident, peaceful, and joyful about their relationship with Jesus Christ and to allow that relationship to touch every aspect of their lives.

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