Recently I was honored to attend the funeral services for my uncle Robert DePoe. Uncle Robert had suffered for several years with a debilitating disease and for the last several years couldn’t walk. His wife told our family gathering that he would have dreams about walking again. During our family time I was also able to visit with my cousin who is dying of cancer. In a private moment I asked him what lessons he has learned from having cancer. His reply to me was that he knew that God had a plan for each person and if we can accept that plan we can find happiness, but to always remember God is in control.
During our visiting, I reflected on my Grandpa’s death (1988) and told my Dad I remembered exactly what he was wearing and where we sat in the chapel at that funeral. Though I was five, I recall those events perfectly. My tender father, seeing how much I was crying allowed me to sit between him and my mom and I cried as he put his arm around me. Since that time I have been thinking about death, healing, and faith. In our own situation with a special needs child, occasionally, because of our religious beliefs, some ask if Elise has ever had special prayers or blessings invoking the power of the priesthood to heal her. The answer to these questions is quite personal; nevertheless, the answer is yes. Similarly prayers, blessings, fasting, etc. have been a part of every family who has a loved one suffering.
The nature of healing is really subsidiary to other elements of being Religious. A caring father once explained, “Our family’s faith is not dependent on outcomes.”[i] This statement is true for me. Similar to Daniel, when explaining that he would not act contrary to God’s will even if it meant certain death. Daniel and his brothers were so certain in God’s ability to save them they responded: “If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace . . . but if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods . . .” (Daniel 3:17-18). Their faith was not dependent on outcomes. It was faith regardless of circumstance.
Sometimes death, suffering, and yes special needs children can seem arbitrary, unjust, and even faithful people sometimes ask why? Or why me? I have learned from our circumstance that asking why (which I have done) is rather fruitless. The answers to that question are really quite limited to very few responses. Each boil down to God’s desire to give us experience and because we live in a mortal, difficult world. Instead of asking why, Richard G. Scott suggests:
It is so hard when sincere prayer about something you desire very much is not answered the way you want. It is difficult to understand why your exercise of deep and sincere faith from an obedient life does not grant the desired result . . . Fourteen years ago the Lord took my wife beyond the veil. I love her with all my heart, but I have never complained because I know it was His will. I have never asked why but rather what is it that He wants me to learn from this experience. I believe that is a good way to face the unpleasant things in our lives, not complaining but thanking the Lord for the trust He places in us when He gives us the opportunity to overcome difficulties.[ii]
So Elise isn’t healed and to some extent our hearts (really everyone’s hearts for some reason) still are not healed completely. But what are we to learn?
In the process of moving from why or why me? And asking what am I to learn? I have actually learned something special about special needs—including my own. Is my faith based on outcomes? Do I have faith to heal or be healed? Do I have faith not to heal or be healed?[iii] Additional questions such as, “Why is my loved one not healed, while someone else’s is?” In my family, I wonder, “Why did my Grandpa die of cancer and yours was healed? Why does my daughter have special needs and yours does not?” And specifically I have struggled wondering what does it say about my faith and testimony if combined they don’t warrant healing?
As I read the scriptures I came across some verses about healing that really caused me to struggle. They said: “. . . he that hath faith in me to be healed, and is not appointed unto death, shall be healed. He who hath faith to see shall see. He who hat faith to hear shall hear. The lame who hath faith to leap shall leap.”[iv]
These verses seemed almost mocking. In a way I interpreted them saying to me: “Hey if you just have a little faith it will happen—it’s that simple. Need to hear? Well, just get some faith and then you’ll hear. Need your daughter healed of special needs, just get some faith, pray a little, and it will happen. And if it doesn’t, well there must be something wrong with you, because it all seems pretty simple here. Need to walk? Get some faith and you can leap.” Now that isn’t exactly a prophetic interpretation of those scriptures—but honestly—it is how I felt. In my own head I responded to those verses, “Well, I guess I just don’t have that kind of faith. I guess I just don’t quite cut it in this whole Christianity thing than do I? Obviously I’m the problem, and my daughter suffers because I can’t muster up enough faith.”
Those feelings were so real. When doctors can’t seem to help, when hundreds of hours of therapy seem to make very little difference and you’re the dad and you’re supposed to fix things and solve the problems, I guess I was the problem. I couldn’t do it. Now, I do understand the role of God’s will and timing in our situation and in all similar situations. His will pervades and permeates all of it. Nevertheless, I still felt so hopelessly responsible for not being capable of having the kind of faith to make miracles.
Then, as sweet experiences in the scriptures usually do, I was prompted to continue reading. “And they who have not faith to do these things, but believe in me, have power to become my sons . . .”[v] I can’t explain the feeling or the tenderness of that verse very well. But to me, it was God saying to me, “Ezra, it’s okay, you don’t need that kind of faith. Even if you don’t have that type of faith you can still have power to become my Son. You can still be with me, you are still worthy enough, you are still my Son. You need faith to come home—not to heal.” I get a little teary eyed when I think of those verses. You see, faith to heal isn’t really part of the picture. I don’t need faith to heal, but the faith to believe. For whatever reasons, I really don’t have enough faith or it isn’t God’s will for Elise to be healed, and, I’m okay with that. I hope I have faith enough to believe.
In whatever special struggles occur in life, whatever special needs arise, faith to believe is the type of faith God cares about. No wonder “. . . to some it is given to have faith to be healed; and to others it is given to have to heal. And again, to some is given the working of miracles.”[vi] Notice it is for some—a select few. Contrast that with “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosover [anybody] believeth in him should not perish but have everlasting life.” It seems the faith to believe, and I might add regardless of outcomes, is the most profound type of faith any person can have. Even if I don’t have faith to heal, I hope I have faith to make it home.
[i] See Dallin H. Oaks, “Healing the Sick.” General Conference, April 2010.
[ii] Richard G. Scott, “Temple Worship: The Source of Strength and Power in Times of Need.” GC April, 2009.
[iii] See David A. Bednar, “That We Might Not . . . Shrink (D&C 19:18).” CES Devotional, March 3, 2013.
[iv] D&C 42:48-51
[v] D&C 42:52
[vi] D&C 46:19-21