Even in the midst of suffering we can turn to the Savior and let Him heal us spiritually and emotionally. Here are two powerful examples:
From Lee, afflicted with a rare form of dwarfism:
I am a dwarf whose adult stature is three-foot-ten. However, if mere “shortness” were the sole factor in my affliction, this would be a short story indeed. My condition entails medical complications that have required major surgeries over the years, many of them followed by extended months in a body cast. In this life, I will never know a normal lifestyle, though miracle after miracle has kept me alive and able to function in many ways.
Sometimes our faith might seem to be one of our trials! But it is unbelief that increases our suffering, perhaps a hundredfold. However unbearable my physical and mental pain have been at times, however keen my sense of isolation from normal friendships, and even though it isn’t the Lord’s pleasure to remove all these problems just now, everything would only be worse without the light of Christ to put things in a clearer perspective.
We suffer most when each moment seems as if it ought to be the last. How have we lasted so long? How do we go on? We shall have to settle on mere glimpses of the eternal plan, for that is all we can or even ought to possess in this life. That makes this life a test of character. I haven’t found one big answer to make it more bearable, but I know that the whole gospel plan, put together, keeps me going. I know I have covenanted with the Father to take this journey and return to him. Covenants aren’t made with immediate rewards in mind, but he will keep his promises. There is absolutely no reason in the universe why we shouldn’t trust him.
There are strained times when I find myself enduring to the end out of a sense of duty, but I would like to do this more out of love. When love starts to seep into our coarse mortal personalities, those are the moments when we are not only passing the test with flying colors but are beginning to realize that the test is just that—a test. We can’t call it quits, and we can’t peek ahead. It does little good to look at others’ tests because every single one is different.
I’m here partly for self-improvement, but that motive somehow doesn’t help me very much during the worst moments. I have to remember that I’m here because the Father and Son said it was the best thing for me. I take them at their word. I’m here because I love them. The quick road to exaltation probably just leads to a quick detour. Following the example set by Jesus, I’m willing to work from the bottom up.
From Tammy (currently a stake Relief Society president), who spent years in depression linked to a debilitating illness:
I was energetic and healthy until twelve years ago, when I seemed to become one of the living dead. I found myself consumed with fatigue and depression. In my few waking, coherent moments, I felt I was struggling for survival. I was diagnosed with CFS (chronic fatigue syndrome). Involuntarily, I had been thrust as a helpless combatant into a war I didn’t understand and had no hope of winning.
Physically I was in ruins. I felt as if I were encased in a concrete body cast, just concentrating on literally putting one foot in front of the other. I had to safeguard my energies and learn to say “no.” People who knew the previous me were surprised. My mind became dull and unresponsive. I could remember nothing. I was lost in a place deep and despairing, and I wondered about the fine line between sanity and insanity. I felt I would cross it and never return if I gave up my feeble attempts to stay sane.
Emotionally, I was crippled and void. The real me was being replaced by someone I didn’t know or like. I felt enslaved, entombed, and helpless. I planned my funeral. I was not a paragon in dealing with suffering, for that took energy I didn’t have. I saw myself as a lazy, muddle-headed, irresponsible, unfocused, pathetic, weak-willed, sleeping lump of nothingness. And then at some point rage became my constant companion. I felt like a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
How did I react spiritually? I allowed all this to strangle my spirit. Without making the choice, I had chosen not to be refined by this refiner’s opportunity. It became a hopeless, downward spiral from which I saw no escape. I lived in the shadows, and it was simply easier to erode. I became cynical. I had constructed a nice, neat, private prison within my own mind into which I withdrew and secluded myself. I’d forgotten where to find the solution. I am ashamed to say it, and even now writing it brings tears to my eyes, but my rage then turned on my Heavenly Father. I became increasingly bitter and felt unworthy. I was at a dangerous point. I had stopped praying. I had personally removed the armor of God and opened myself to direct assault by the adversary. I had excluded the Spirit from my life.
I’m not sure when the defining moment occurred. I only remember I was having my all-too-familiar conversation with death. At the very moment I asked myself how I would take my life, something buried deep within me, something long dormant, came rushing to the surface, screaming and demanding immediate attention. I was frightened and began to cry. This moment came in answer to the prayers of others on my behalf, for I had not been forgotten. I am forever grateful for their unwavering faith and love. This was my moment of truth, the moment to set aside all of my self-pitying, self-destructive behavior, the moment to live and get on with living. I fell to my knees, asking for help, for strength, for forgiveness. I had remembered the key, the simple key: prayer.
That was when the slow turn began. Praying and studying the Book of Mormon eventually became my lifelines. The sacrament became my time to cleanse and unburden, a time of renewal, remembrance, learning, and hope. Am I a better person for my experiences? Yes, I am. Will I forget the lessons learned? No, the journey was too painful. Was I healed physically? No, not in the way I desired. Do I still struggle? Yes, for this life is about struggles.
We are not strong enough to carry the burdens of this life. The plan is simple. We are the ones who by choice invite the Savior into our life or make life more difficult than it needs to be by denying him access. He is always there and we are always loved. When we arm ourselves with spiritual defenses, we invite the healing and peace of the Atonement into our lives. These principles are true.
Lead image from Pixabay
Drawing on decades of study and personal experience, Brother Brickey shows us in Making Sense of Suffering that afflictions are brief gifts from God's gentle hands. Our challenge is to bear our afflictions while reconciling our hearts to the will of the Father and the Son.
Filled with poignant examples of belief and endurance, Making Sense of Sufferinghelps us exercise faith and overcome fear. For anyone touched by disappointment, disease, disaster, and death, this important book offers comfort and provides valuable insights into the blessings promised to those who endure their trials on the road to eternal life.