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?