I was sick over the bitterest month of the winter. It was just one grueling, annoying, or depressing illness after another. First it was a flu, which turned into a sinus infection, and then an awful throat infection, followed by a cold. I was miserable, and, no doubt, miserable to be around.
Late one night in the middle of it all, I considered my roommate. He was a friend of mine and also the Elders Quorum President. It came to my mind to ask him for a blessing, using consecrated oil. I desperately wanted to be healed from this chain of horrible sicknesses, and the prayer in my heart went something like this: “Lord, I know when I get blessings for these things, they usually don’t work, and I might be selfish to ask. But could you just do me a solid this one time? People got healed constantly of much worse than this in the Scriptures. I’m not testing you, I think. I just want to get better.” My roommate then administered the blessing, and, much to my dismay and anger, it didn’t work.
Let me pause for a moment to say that I have a strong testimony in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I’ve testified time and time again that Joseph Smith is a prophet and that the Book of Mormon is true and comes from God. So it’s moments like this that give me pause. I was a little irritated that the Lord wouldn’t just heal my illness. It had gone on too long, I had missed so many days of work, I had spent a lot of money on doctors and even antibiotics for the sinus infection, and I still wasn’t healed. I was having trouble sleeping, and, during the time I had the throat infection, I couldn’t eat solid food, so I was losing weight. It was all awful. I was doing everything I could in my life, I wasn’t guilty of any grievous sins, so why couldn’t the Lord just throw me a freakin’ bone and heal my illness just once? He healed all kinds of people in the Bible, why wouldn’t he heal me? What’s the point of Priesthood blessings if they don’t work?
In my feverish, angry mind, I went over some possibilities, in this order:
- Maybe my roommate didn’t do it right? He performed both parts of the blessing, maybe I should have gotten two people to do it?
- Maybe I simply don’t have the faith to be healed.
- Maybe blessings are pointless rituals.
- Maybe we don’t really have the Priesthood like we think we do.
- Jesus healed many people over His ministry. What happened? Shouldn’t we be able to identify His church based on the miracles that occur?
- Is this really His church?
- Will the Universe really end someday in a Big Crunch and take us all with it? How can God stop it?
At this point, needless to say, I wasn’t thinking very clearly, so instead of trying to answer these questions that night, in my frenzied state, I decided to just take some Ny-Quil (sweet, precious Ny-Quil) and go to sleep.
Two weeks later, I woke up and went to work just like any other day. I brushed my teeth like any other day. I ate my morning Pop-Tart (brown sugar and cinnamon, which is the best flavor ever) just like any other day. As the dry pastry went down my throat I remembered for an instant that two weeks previously I couldn’t have eaten such a dry food because it would have been too painful, and it was at that moment that I realized I had been symptom-free for at least three days.
I offered up a prayer to the Lord and thanked Him for my health. With a more complete fullness of joy and gratitude than I’d had for months, I told Him that I was thankful that I felt better, thankful that I could go to work without being faint and queasy from lack of solid food, thankful that I could eat my dry little Pop-Tart for breakfast. I felt so good. In hindsight, let me say that it would have been very unusual for me to offer up a prayer such as this before I got sick, and that’s where the lesson for me was.
The purpose of my blessing at this time was to consecrate my illness unto the Lord. There are so many difficulties in this life, and for me, illness is a difficulty because I hate being sick. As a singer, and as a person who relies on food to stay not dead, I hate it when my throat hurts. I hate congestion, I hate having a fever, I hate aches and pains, I hate not getting a good night’s rest. But this time, asking for a blessing in the middle of my illness caused my thoughts to turn towards the Lord, even if they were confused and angry. It was like fasting, but instead of a fast from food it was a fast from health, and when I returned to full health, my heart was bursting with gratitude.
Am I denying that miraculous healings occur? Absolutely not. But God decided not to heal me during this illness, and that’s why I think that sometimes God gives men the Priesthood, the power to act in God’s name, in order to consecrate illness unto Him. To make our illness and affliction holy.
What if we looked at every hardship in this way? What if we saw every blessing of comfort, strength, and healing as a consecration of our hardships, that we might be open to the lessons God wishes to bestow upon us? Most importantly, and on the flip side of all of this, how do we avoid the strange but very possible temptation of taking too much glory in our affliction?
“What if we looked at every hardship in this way? What if we saw every blessing of comfort, strength, and healing as a consecration of our hardships, that we might be open to the lessons God wishes to bestow upon us?” UGH…this is not what I wanted to wake up to! 🙂 If I look at my hardships like you have stated, then I can’t whine or moan and groan anymore and what fun is that?
In all seriousness, I am in the middle of my own personal “illness” and the priesthood blessings I have recieved in relation to it have spoken of the Lord sustaining me, giving me the strength and capacity to make it through the day, etc. I have to admit there have been times when I have thought, “why don’t you just TAKE AWAY the burden!?! I don’t want to be sustained, or given strength, I want it all to GO AWAY!” But then, of course, what lessons would I learn and how could I ever become a better person if I didn’t have trials and afflictions?
I think when we seek the Lord and His healing power in our lives, it is not about whether we will experience it or not…..it is only WHEN. For some, death is the healing that they have waited for as they are finally relieved from illness, be it physical or mental. For others, they are healed before death and are able to live longer on earth. In both instances, the Lord has been present, but it is diffcult for us to see that sometimes. Do you think if He would have healed you immediately from your miserable health that it would have given you more gratitude towards Him? Or do you think that having to suffer through it a little bit longer opened your heart to be more grateful and compassionate towards others who suffer as well? I often wonder if the Lord’s decision to immediately heal or to not immediately heal (or take away burdens) is always based upon greater opportunities and blessings for us, but we get too angry or sidetracked to realize that that could be the case.
I think the Lord is trying to teach us how to love one another and to do this…we must suffer. Suffering creates a void within us and it opens our eyes to see what we cannot see any other way. When the Lord withholds His healing power from us, is it possible He is trying to help us to gain healing power within us that we might know how to love and serve others? Much of what heals the human heart is an understanding, compassionate heart. I believe as we suffer, we come to understand, and as we understand, we gain power to heal others. Meanwhile, He is consecrating all of our experiences (suffering and all) for our own good….as annoying as that may be.
I was thinking about the questions you asked:
Maybe my roommate didn’t do it right? He performed both parts of the blessing, maybe I should have gotten two people to do it?
Maybe I simply don’t have the faith to be healed.
Maybe blessings are pointless rituals.
Maybe we don’t really have the Priesthood like we think we do.
Jesus healed many people over His ministry. What happened? Shouldn’t we be able to identify His church based on the miracles that occur?
Is this really His church?
Will the Universe really end someday in a Big Crunch and take us all with it? How can God stop it?
Another question that came to my mind is “What have you been praying for lately and/or what have others who love you and want the best for you been praying for in relation to you?” Before this creates a big stir, let me explain. I had a friend once say to me that she prayed to be more humble and after that her life turned to into a living hell. Did she get an answer to her prayer? Many of us know how living in difficult circumstances can humble the most proud. I have been wondering how much our prayers and the prayers of others can influence our lives. For example, maybe I say a general statement in my prayers each day “please help me to be more like Thee” or “please help me to be more patient.” Maybe others that I confide in are praying for me that I might be able to gain a stronger testimony, etc.” Is it possible that our prayers are being answered much more than we realize but not in the ways we expect or desire? I wonder if your prolonged illness had nothing to do with any of those questions you posed, but had more to do with what you are wanting in your life or what others are praying for you to find. In other words if you have been seeking to be more grateful, is it possible the Lord gave you what you needed to be so? Would He do that if someone else was praying for you to be more grateful? Is that idea too annoying to even consider?
Most people don’t seem to realize that the fact that they got better in the end WAS the healing. Most of the time the healing takes its natural course, and the spirit helps it along a bit, but is not going to necessarily be a notable “miracle.” To expect that even the minority of the time is irrational. More often we should expect that type of miracle in an exceptional circumstance. We shouldn’t expect that the God of nature should always do something unnatural. He doesn’t create a man out of a child in two minutes. He waits decades for a fully formed adult. That is the God of nature using the natural process.
I had a professor at BYU (while an undergraduate there) who spoke in class (it was a religion class, though he wasn’t a religion professor) about blessings on food. He talked about how casually he had approached such blessings for pretty much all of his life. Then he and his wife had one of their very young children develop a condition that prevented him from correctly absorbing or even keeping down most foods. The child was put on a special diet, but even with that, he was losing weight and not getting sufficient nutrition. This father spoke about how fervent, heartfelt, and anything-but-rote his and his wife’s prayers were when they would bless this child’s food each time before feeding it to him, and how it changed his entire outlook on such blessings.
As a 55-year-old father of nine, and as someone who has been an active member of the Church for 42 years, I have given scores of consecrated oil blessings. I can’t say that I’ve got a great track record. I’ve seen near-immediate recoveries, but I’ve also seen illnesses that have hung on as well, in spite of promises made under what I felt was inspiration. I have no easy or simple answers. But I still give the blessings. ..bruce..
I have had enough amazing experiences with blessings that I can’t discount the power of being able to voice the will of the Lord through them, but I also have come to believe that is the key – that is blessings represent the faith that God will speak through me **whenever the situation is such that He chooses to do so**. Sometimes, He does; often He doesn’t; my part is voicing a prayer of faith and hope those times He chooses not to speak directly and being there to be the conduit when He chooses to speak Himself.
I can’t find a better way to express this, but I believe sometimes (most times) He simply doesn’t care about healing someone miraculously – that removing the suffering simply isn’t part of the plan. Other times it is. I need to be willing to “go through the ceremonial motions” all the time, so that when He does want to intervene He will have a way to do so that will be recognizable by the recipient as divine intervention.
I also think we tend to discount blessings as a conduit of comfort and counsel, distinct from healing. Two of the most powerful blessings in which I have been involved were instances where the words promised NO healing but, instead, sweet peace and ultimate joy – with specific words that identified difficulties of which I was unaware when I placed my hands on their heads. They were beautiful, miraculous experiences, but there was no “healing” involved.
I like your focus on “the lessons God wishes to bestow upon us”.
I’ve learned that a Priesthood Blessing for a physical ailment may be answered with a spiritual healing rather than a physical one. Illness often brings despair. A spiritual healing takes that away and replaces it with hope. I’ve mentioned this on another thread, but a I gave my wife a blessing for a condition that have given us despair. I did not feel inspired to promise a healing of that condition. Later, we found that the condition did disappear, by healing or by natural progression of the condition, I’m not sure which. The blessing we felt, however, was the calm assurance that we had done all we could and were content to accept the Lord’s will. I believe the Lords will was that nature take its course. Thankfully it went in the course we were hoping for. I wondered why I was not inspired to promise a healing if that is what turned out to be the ultimate outcome. I believe it was because a physical healing is not what was needed, or at least needed to be pronounced. We NEEDED a spiritual healing. The physical healing was received with joy, but what we absolutely positively needed was something else!
I’ll never forget going to a nursing home about 10 years ago to conduct a sacrament meeting (EQP at the time) and being asked to give a blessing to a woman who was going to have surgery the next day. She was clearly full of anxiety but asking with faith, and it was obvious that she wanted a blessing that said “everything will be fine and you’ll recover quickly.” And she had the faith for that, if it had been the Lord’s will. So I wasn’t exactly happy that the words that came to mind were to the effect of “this is going to hurt really bad, and for a long time. And you’ll never be closer to the Lord or comprehend him better than you will in the upcoming days and weeks.” I think she had enough faith to get a blessing like that. I’m not sure what I would have said if someone with less faith had been the one asking for the blessing.
I’ll vouch for the comments to the effect that the giver needs to be very much in tune with what the Lord wants the person to say, and go in with no preconceptions about what he’s supposed to do. At the same time, the person asking for the blessing needs to be in tune with what the Lord wants him to ask for. It’s like prayer — when the Spirit tells you what to ask for, and you ask in faith and trust (and are willing to accept outcomes that are different from your wishes), then powerful experiences can start to happen. Very often, these are in unexpected directions.
Not sure whether this applies specifically to Arthur’s case. Some people simply have the gift of healing or the gift to be healed. I also think the EQP should have performed this blessing in a proper manner — it should be two priesthood holders except in real emergencies. (I’ve been a non-“voice” in a blessing or two where it was clear to me that the “voice” was not speaking for the Lord.)
In any case, I’ve learned that having the faith sufficient to be healed is generally always married to a faith sufficient to NOT be healed.
For several years, my wife and I lived in a ward that had a large number of elderly people at or near the end of their lives. The high priests group leader was a wonderful, loving man (an artist by trade) who was called on regularly to give administrations to these older members, quite often when they had been taken to the hospital for one crisis or another. He talked matter-of-factly about how many of the blessings he gave were releases rather than healings, saying in effect, “You’ve hung in there, you’ve been faithful, now it’s time to go home.” ..bruce..
Jen, that makes perfect sense. And I think you’re right… I’m starting to see priesthood blessings not necessarily as a way to look at a Celestial Menu and pick out the blessings you want, but rather a way to turn our hearts towards the Lord during our trials (instead of cursing Him as many do).
Great comments everyone. Thanks for reading and commenting.