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2 Things to Remember When a Blessing of Healing Doesn't "Work"

While the Lord’s power to miraculously heal physical infirmities is experienced by thousands, sometimes we or our loved ones are not physically healed. We have faith, we pray with real intent, we humble ourselves, we seek priesthood blessings, we place names on temple rolls, but the malady remains. We wonder: “Why didn’t the healing blessing work? Did I not have enough faith? Does God not love me as he loves others he has healed? Have I done something wrong?” I have asked myself similar questions in some of the unhealed physical problems I have personally experienced or seen loved ones endure. Why does he sometimes not heal?

Because Jesus seemed to heal everyone in the gospels every time, sometimes when we ask the Lord to be physically healed we assume it should happen no matter what. But that’s a bit like a foreigner learning about America on a holiday: It can create unrealistic assumptions. A friend of mine from another country first visited the United States on Halloween and saw that everyone who knocked on any door got candy. What an awesome country! He assumed from what he saw that it happened every day for every American child. He didn’t understand that Halloween was a special event and not an everyday occurrence. Similarly, physical healings are not handed out each time we knock on God’s door and ask for them, in spite of what we may deduce from the spiritual festival of the gospels. The Lord will heal according to the persons’ faith and the Father’s will, but as we become more mature in our Christianity we become less demanding of an automatic fix. We gain better perspective about why sometimes bodily healing isn’t granted (see Study Suggestion 3). We understand that disease and death—including untimely occurrences—are a necessary part of God’s work and glory, and to heal every hurt upon every asking would counteract the eternal purposes of God. As the Lord himself said, unless the seed of the body dies and is planted into the ground you cannot have the fruit of resurrection spring forth from it (see John 12:23–24). Sometimes physical healings don’t happen because there is something to learn from the suffering or the death of a loved one. Sometimes these infirmities give us a purer and deeper faith, a faith that, as a father who lost his teenage daughter to cancer once said, “is in Jesus Christ and is not dependent on outcomes.”2

Therefore, in spite of the fact that many of us will experience the miracle of Christ’s healing in our lifetimes, inevitably each of us will also have the equally important experience of Jesus withholding that physical healing hand. After all, the woman with the issue of blood surely suffered from later challenges. Lazarus died a second time. We must all suffer through unhealed mortal debilitations, as it won’t be until our bodies are resurrected that Jesus performs his “consummate act of healing,” as Elder Russell M. Nelson called it.3 Until then, however, what healing can Christ offer for someone who remains infirm? What does Jesus do when it appears that removing our sickness or disability is not part of God’s will and we are “appointed unto” certain ailments? (See D&C 42:48.) How can we experience the everyday healing power of Christ if we are not cured?

Healing as Wholeness

To understand how Christ can offer his power of healing today regardless of whether someone’s physical infirmity remains may require us to redefine our understanding of healing and therefore reimagine what is meant by Christ’s everyday healing power. Dr. Wendy Ulrich’s explanation can help:

“Let me first distinguish between healing from cure. Cure returns us to our previous state of wellness, which is usually what we long for. But the scriptures never speak of the gift of cure. They speak of the gift of healing. Healing is a different process from cure. Healing involves a spiritual and emotional reweaving of our life story to incorporate, not merely remove, our injuries. It involves growth and personal change, maturation into a new state of deeper trust in God despite, not in the absence of, suffering.”4

Thus, in spite of uncured physical difficulties we can yet experience the miracle of healing. Perhaps a real-life example can best illustrate this not-cured-yet-healed concept.

Michele Reyes, in the January 2013 Ensign, wrote about her experiences in a story titled “Whole Enough.” As a teenager, she was involved in a car accident that took most of her left arm. The experience changed her forever, giving her “an opportunity to witness the power of the Atonement in a unique way.”5

Her life today revolves around her family, around her roles of wife and mother, which she loves. Before she had children, though, she worried about some things most of us might not. How would she manage making dinner? Or any of the other daily tasks that a mother of young children accomplishes without a second thought? At the time she wrote her story, she was the mother of five children, and the difference she thought would be a hindrance had become instead “a symbol of love.” Her children don’t usually notice that she’s physically different from other mothers. In fact, she says that what remains of her arm “is a source of comfort for my children to hold when they cry or fall asleep at night. . . . I see it as evidence of the Savior’s ability to create something good out of something tragic.”6

She talks about how her outlook has been transformed from trepidation to acceptance, seeing her life now as a work in progress. She sees that the experience she’s having as a mother highlights how the Atonement can work in her life every day, writing: “I have felt the Atonement already begin to heal me. . . . I feel the Atonement working in my life now. I have realized that the healing power need not begin only when the Resurrection occurs. The wholeness has already begun when, every night, one of my children tenderly holds what remains of my arm and slips into slumber. . . . I have decided that, for now, I am as whole as I need to be.”7

Michele’s story is a healing miracle, just as potent and real as a bodily cure. We see evidence of God giving an inner healing to her heart and soul, an internal peace overcoming external trouble. Inner healing comes to us through God providing miraculous spiritual gifts such as increased patience, understanding, strength, empathy, and love. In the midst of our sufferings God touches our hearts and applies the balm of Gilead to what’s festering inside despite our circumstances on the outside. These spiritual gifts penetrate deep into the tissues of our wounded soul and enable a healing through oneness with God.

One word the scriptures use often to describe this type of internal, spiritual healing is the word wholeness. Wholeness is a unity between body, mind, spirit, and God. Wholeness aligns with God and accepts “Thy will be done” sincerely. Wholeness says that although we have an uncured physical limitation or pain or problem, our heart has become softened, our spirit attuned to God’s Spirit, our faith fortified, and something sweet from heaven above has whispered peace to our troubled soul. Jesus promised all his followers this healing gift when he said to his Apostles: “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:27). The world can sometimes give us cures, but Christ can always give us wholeness.

This concept of wholeness is exemplified in the story of the ten lepers. All ten were healed physically, but only the one Samaritan who came back and gave thanks did the Lord pronounce as being “whole” (Luke 17:19). The Lord used that same phrase with Enos, when he had repented of his sins. “Thy faith hath made thee whole” (Enos 1:8), the Lord proclaimed, implying an internal healing—spirit-centered, not bodily. Enos and the Samaritan leper had achieved a peace with God—a unity of body, mind, and spirit, and with it a deeper, more lasting healing.

Spiritual Healing Today

One beautiful aspect of understanding healing as wholeness is that we begin to see how we can each be influenced today through the healing power of Christ. We can—and should—seek his healing power through medicine and blessings to cure infirmities, but more importantly we should seek Jesus’s healing power for our souls. We let his love and mercy and tenderness come upon us. We let the Lord teach us what he would have us learn and feel from our present situation and what he would have us do. We let him align our hearts with God and give us peace. We let him help make us whole. This type of healing allows Christ’s divinity into a broader spectrum of daily infirmities beyond mere physical health, one which includes the healing of our minds, emotions, hearts, and spirits (see Study Suggestion 4). Jesus spoke of this type of spiritual healing often: “Will ye not now return unto me, and repent of your sins, and be converted, that I may heal you?” he asked (3 Nephi 9:13; see also Matthew 13:15; 3 Nephi 18:32; D&C 112:13).

This concept of spiritual healing is evident in the situation of my friend and neighbor Emily. Emily developed a debilitating chronic illness after her full-time LDS mission. She has since endured years of difficulty and pain without being cured physically, to the point that she said, “I have forgotten what it feels like to be healthy.” But notice how Christ continues to heal her today even when her malady remains. She writes:

“I lean on the Lord for support and guidance in my illness all the time. It is inspiring to feel the impressions of the Holy Ghost and know that Heavenly Father is teaching me. Through the gift of the Holy Ghost, He gives me peace, love, and assurance. I know by these specific impressions that I am of worth. Even if some days all I am able to do is lie in bed and pray that the pain lessens, it is comforting to know that He cares.

“As a result of my trials, I am learning a powerful truth—I am a child of God. Now, instead of feeling empty and alone, I am filled with His love.”8

This concept of spiritual healing is always available, miraculously addressing the source of pain often without removing the physical problem itself. What goes on outside might continue, but what goes on inside is drastically changed. Physical grief is transformed into a life of gratitude. Frustration is overwhelmed by the heavenly gift of patience. Bitterness is soothed by the divine endowment of acceptance. The prayer of faith is answered with the healing blessing of peace. Through the influence of the Holy Ghost, wholeness is given: a gift of oneness and unity with God through body, mind, and spirit—a healing that can influence a believer daily and last much, much longer than a healed joint or cell, sinew, or bone. Is that not miraculous? Thus, consistently and profoundly, Christ heals us even if he does not cure us. This healing blessing can be ours today if we seek it in faith.


Image titleA favorite hymn of the Latter-day Saints supplicates Christ for His help in "every hour." And while that's certainly true, how is it true? Are we such sinners that we need constant access to Christ's Atonement? Or is there something more to the Atonement, something in addition to forgiveness for our sins? What help does Christ offer in moments when we may not need His forgiveness but do need help beyond our own capacities? We know Christ's Atonement can save us from death and sin, but we may not always remember that we can draw on His Atonement for help in other ways.

In Christ in Every Hour, gospel educator Anthony Sweat explores six of Christ's divine powers, explaining what they mean, why they're relevant, and what they can do for us as we live life each day. Discover more about Christ's power to cleanse, heal, restore, identify with, strengthen, and transform us, and learn how to draw upon the Lord's grace and power in every hour of your life. Which power of Christ's Atonement do you need today? Or in this very hour?

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