A while back I made a promise to God that I would stop falling asleep when I wake up in the mornings so as to spend that time more productively by reading scriptures, etc. However, after breaking this promise for the fourth or fifth time, I became consumed by such inextinguishable guilt and shame that I recklessly promised God that if I failed to keep my promise again that I would torture myself in some way or another every day of my life. I broke my promise again, so do I have to torture myself?
I commend you on your efforts to use your time wisely and spend more time with your scriptures. Both of these desires are pleasing to the Lord, I’m sure. I do not, however, think the Lord would want you to torture yourself, in any way. There are two issues I would like you to consider. First, what is a covenant with the Lord, and second, what is the Lord’s form of punishment.
It is true that we should strive to keep our covenants. At LDS.org we can read a clear, simple definition of a covenant:
“A covenant is a sacred agreement between God and a person or group of people. God sets specific conditions, and He promises to bless us as we obey those conditions. When we choose not to keep covenants, we cannot receive the blessings, and in some instances we suffer a penalty as a consequence of our disobedience.” Covenant
Notice Austen that in the covenants we make in church, God sets the conditions. God not you. In your case, you made a promise, which is a little different since you initiated it, but even with promises God needs to agree. The following verses in the Doctrine and Covenants suggest to me that Heavenly Father would not agree with your plan to hurt yourself as punishment.
The Lord’s emphasis here is on gentleness, meekness and love. Torture is not mentioned at all.
My suggestion to you, Austen, is to be more patient and kind to yourself. Go back to your knees, talk to the Lord about how you now understand that torturing yourself is not His will. Ask Him for guidance about how to improve your scripture study. Consider, Austen, that maybe mornings are just not the best time for you to study your scriptures. Counsel with the Lord about a time of day that could work better for you.
Be gentle and loving with yourself.