I’m a passionate person who enjoys living an all-in life—I feel most alive when I’m wholeheartedly throwing myself into projects that make a difference in the world around me. Recently, however, that vibrancy has dulled.
Misdiagnosed health issues have spiraled into debilitating chronic fatigue, and I’ve become a shadow of myself: my body is sluggish, my brain is foggy, and all motivation has evaporated. I often have to sleep for an hour after even simple activities like loading the dishwasher, and by evening I have to crawl up the stairs on all fours. Exhaustion overshadows every feeling and experience of every day, no matter how much sleep I’ve had.
Over the past nine months I’ve slowly checked out of pretty much everything: my almost-ready-to-launch podcast, guest speaking opportunities, callings, connecting with others, connecting with God, cleaning, cooking, mothering.
On most days I’m not anywhere near all in. I’m totally out, and I’m failing at everything.
But am I, really? The statements above are valid, but only when my current abilities are being compared to times when my health was better. I’ve realized that operating at two percent today instead of my normal one hundred doesn’t necessarily mean I’m not all in—being all in isn’t gauged by how much I am doing, but whether I’m doing everything I can.
Right now I’m as all in as I can possibly be under the circumstances; I physiologically cannot do more. I’ve had to force myself to relinquish my micromanaging nature and trust that the Lord will make up for any essentials that are lacking in my responsibilities. I’m also trying to be more self-compassionate: if I can honestly say I’m as all in as I can be, I have to accept that as enough. Beating myself up isn’t going to help or heal me!
As I’ve worked through this process, I’ve noticed that these same principles are at work in our spiritual lives.
Being All In the Gospel of Jesus Christ
I enjoy Deseret Book’s interview-style podcast All In. The final question is always, “What does it mean to you to be all in the gospel of Jesus Christ?” I’ve yet to hear an answer repeated—each response is unique, and all of them inspire me. Being all in doesn’t look the same for any two people!
How would you answer this question?
My responses would’ve been different at various stages of my life, and I’m sure it will continue to evolve. Today, my definition of being all in the gospel is the same as my definition of living an all-in life: it is being as in as I can possibly be.
The caveat to this definition is that I have to be genuine as I analyze my motives and capabilities in spiritual areas, or it becomes self-permission to justify mediocre efforts. But as long as I’m honest with myself, this interpretation motivates me to keep trying and at the same time helps me not compare myself to abstract ideals or to other people. In a way, it protects me against forcing myself to run faster than I have strength (Doctrine & Covenants 10:4, Mosiah 4:27), which is a constant problem for me.
"Help Thou Mine Unbelief"
I see this principle in the New Testament story of a desperate father who brought his son to be healed (see Mark 9). He expressed his faith in Jesus’s power by saying, “Lord, I believe,” then added humbly, “help thou mine unbelief.” The man recognized he didn’t have perfect or all-encompassing faith—he still had areas of doubt, maybe even a lot of them!—but Jesus didn’t reject him because of what he lacked. Instead, the Savior accepted and honored what the man did have, knowing he was as all in as he could possibly be.
Similarly, when we offer all of the faith we can muster, the Lord won’t turn us away simply because we also have doubts. He’s just glad we’re trying! I believe you and I can be all in the gospel—as in as we can possibly be—and still have concerns about God or about Church history, doctrines, or policies.
Doubts are just one of the ways we may feel we aren’t all in the gospel or the Church. Just like we experience physical and mental fatigue, we also experience bouts of spiritual fatigue: feeling burned out, disconnected from God, hurt or angry, overwhelmed, unmotivated, or confused.
When you experience spiritual fatigue, how do you deal with it? Maybe you shut down and withdraw. Or maybe you’re like me and push forward as if nothing was wrong. (Though if physical fatigue is an accurate indicator, ignoring spiritual fatigue will only result in greater exhaustion and deeper damage; it needs to be recognized and treated.) As you seek out ways to move toward help and healing, consider offering yourself compassion when you aren’t able to feel or act as all in as you used to.
As you seek out ways to move toward help and healing, consider offering yourself compassion when you aren’t able to feel or act as all in as you used to.
Spiritual fatigue is an inevitable, universal part of our mortal experience. Because it comes at different times, in different ways, and for different reasons, however, it is also very unique to each of us. This huge range of individuality means that being all in can’t be boiled down to a simple checklist, and it’s not one-size-fits-all. It’s completely personal.
I know members who wonder if there is a place in the Church for them if they don’t believe the Proclamation on the Family. Others make daily Starbucks runs, or choose to not serve a full-time mission, or never pray or read scriptures. Can these individuals be all in? Can someone be all in and still be viewing pornography? To all of those, I assert YES.
I want to be clear that I wholeheartedly uphold obedience as an essential part of God’s plan—this isn’t an excuse for rebellious behavior. But I am as equally firm in my belief that God knows we aren’t perfect and knows our hearts as well as He knows our actions. He knows how hard we are trying.
Perfection is Not a Prerequisite to Being All In
During a conversation many years ago, I remember wondering sincerely, “If this member has so many issues with the Church, I wonder why she’s still here?” I wish I’d asked, because I bet her response would’ve been enlightening.
Many people remain in the Church even though they deeply struggle with policies, doctrines, or faith-assaulting trials, and they stay because something inside of them wants or needs to be here. That’s why any of us stays, isn’t it? Let us not forget that we are woefully inadequate judges. For all we know, the massive effort to not leave the Church may be literally all a person is able to give right now—they may blow off every other commandment under the sun, but the fact that they are still trying to stay may be evidence that they are as all in as they can be under the circumstances. And that, in the Lord’s eyes, might be enough!
Perfection isn’t a prerequisite to being all in the gospel of Jesus Christ. If it were, not one of us would be all in. Ever. Let me reemphasize: I’m not advocating that we justify rebellion or give permission for laziness. But all of us fall pathetically short of the ideal and all of us need Jesus Christ.
To individuals who feel on the fringe of Church membership but who are trying to stay, I want to unequivocally say this: You belong here. Come as you are. There is space for you—and if there isn’t yet, we will learn to make space. WE NEED YOU. And this isn’t dependent upon whether you currently believe and do everything that is part of the Church. Not being able to give one hundred percent doesn’t mean you should count yourself—or anyone else—out. The Savior doesn’t require perfection (or even perfect faith) before He will come to us. He meets us wherever it is we are right now.
The Samaritan Woman & the Messy Middle
A Samaritan woman learned this lesson first-hand (see John 4). For some unknown reason, she’d been married five times and currently was living with a man she wasn’t married to. Because of this, she was likely a social, cultural, and religious outcast in her community. Perhaps plodding to the well outside of town in the heat of the day was a sign that she was trying to avoid inevitable condescending looks and judgmental comments from other Samaritans (who would’ve drawn water in the cooler morning or evening hours). She seems to have been startled when a stranger—a kind Jewish man, no less—tried to spark up a conversation. At first she was reticent (and even a bit sassy!). But His sincere questions drew honesty and curiosity out of her, and His prophetic replies poured in peace and hope. She arrived with an empty water jug and left with a full soul. She forgot all about the water and immediately ran into town, sharing the testimony that she’d met the Messiah. She was the catalyst for many others also coming to believe in Him.
We know very little of the beginning of her story, and nothing about the end of her story. (I always wonder, did she end up marrying the man she was living with?) The middle of her story—the glimpse we get to see, at least—was kind of a hot mess, yet Jesus wasn’t afraid of meeting her right there in the thick of it. He didn’t wait for her to change her life before He helped her—He helped her change her life. She went away a different person than she was before. Despite her outcast past and her uncertain future, this woman became all in.
Jesus didn’t wait for the Samaritan woman to change her life before He helped her—He helped her change her life.
This story supports my belief that being all in isn’t about a being able to check off every single point on lists of commandments and doctrines. It’s about being as in as you can possibly be, whatever that looks like. The Lord will meet you where you are—in the messy middle—and He will take you from there.
The Savior is All In
As part of His Atoning sacrifice the Savior literally sacrificed everything, not holding back anything. He did it for you, and because of His sacrifice He perfectly knows how to strengthen you in your times of fatigue.
He doesn’t expect or want you to wait to be sinless or free of doubts before you turn to Him. Whatever widow’s mites of faith and obedience you have to offer, He will gladly accept. He’s totally invested in you, and He invites you to invest in Him, promising that He will never fail you.
Jesus Christ is all in. Are you?
I bet you're doing better than you think you are.
Honestly ask yourself these questions:
What does ALL IN THE GOSPEL mean to me?
Do I feel all in right now? Why (not)? Am I as all in as I can possibly be?
What is getting in the way of me being more in than I could be or would like to be?
In what areas/ways could I be more all in, but just haven’t been? What could motivate me?
In what areas/ways am I unable to be more all in? How can I extend myself compassion?