I was taking a shower the other day and was reflecting on the atonement. As I played through the scriptures that record this event I was thinking about the moments from when Christ was in the garden of Gethsemane to his very last moments on the cross. As he took on the pains, sufferings and sorrows of all of mankind, bled from every pore and hung in agony on the cross, the most intriguing verse from the New Testament that burned in my mind was Matthew 27:36
And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?
I thought to myself, "Why would the Father forsake His Son?" it was then the answer came into my mind. Jesus needed to feel every pain and suffering. What is the worst suffering of all? Being removed from the presence of God. There are and will be many souls who do not repent of their sins and will thus remove themselves from the presence of God for all eternity. That is the worst suffering of all.
Scriptures record Christ verbalizing this shortly before he dies. We do not know at what point the Father removed Himself from the Son. Because it is recorded as one of the final events before the Savior dies it is assumed that Christ verbalizes this as soon as he feels it which would mean that God only removed himself at the very end of Jesus' suffering - completing the atonement. I believe that God knew how painful this would be for the Savior to feel but knew that it was necessary - which may be why He saved it for the very end.
Jesus Christ suffered for us so that we don't have to. Because of Him we will not have to suffer all of eternity without being in the presence of our Heavenly Father. If he did not do this for us, we would be unclean and unworthy to enter the highest kingdom and dwell with God. All we have to do is use the atonement. Repent of our sins daily and reflect upon the atonement and our repentance every Sabbath day when partaking the sacrament. When we utilize the atonement we make it so that Christ did not suffer in vein. We are made perfect through our Savior Jesus Christ.
The atonement is for all but will only be used by those who want to live with their Father in Heaven. After proper ordinances (for those who live beyond the age of 8) such as baptism and marriage sealings, utilization of the atonement is what will grant someone worthiness to dwell with God. For those who do not use the atonement, they will have to suffer for their own sins. They will suffer for eternity - their greatest suffering of all - not being able to live with God.
The atonement is there for us. I don't think we fully appreciate it and it's importance until we fully understand it.
“It was in Gethsemane that Jesus took on Himself the sins of the world, in Gethsemane that His pain was equivalent to the cumulative burden of all men, in Gethsemane that He descended below all things so that all could repent and come to Him. The mortal mind fails to fathom, the tongue cannot express, the pen of man cannot describe the breadth, the depth, the height of the suffering of our Lord—nor His infinite love for us” (The Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson , 14).
“Christ’s agony in the garden is unfathomable by the finite mind, both as to intensity and cause. … It was not physical pain, nor mental anguish alone, that caused Him to suffer such torture as to produce an extrusion of blood from every pore; but a spiritual agony of soul such as only God was capable of experiencing. No other man, however great his powers of physical or mental endurance, could have suffered so; for his human organism would have succumbed, and syncope would have produced unconsciousness and welcome oblivion. In that hour of anguish Christ met and overcame all the horrors that Satan, ‘the prince of this world’ could inflict. …
“In some manner, actual and terribly real though to man incomprehensible, the Savior took upon Himself the burden of the sins of mankind from Adam to the end of the world” (Jesus the Christ, 613). Elder James E. Talmage
I am grateful that God loves us enough to have sent His son to sacrifice himself for our eternal salvation. To feel our pains so that we don't have to. To be saved is to be able to dwell with God. I hope and pray that all who read this will be prompted to take advantage of the atonement. Repent of your wrongdoings so that you can stand spotless before the Lord at judgment day. I say this in the name of Jesus Christ amen.