“Lessons on Healing,” Ensign, Apr. 2004, 57
I remember the first day I set out to practice healing. I could hardly sleep the night before I began working as a qualified nurse. Two conflicting feelings left my heart pounding. First, I felt courage and couldn’t wait to perform my first procedure. On the other hand, I was afraid that by sheer inexperience I would violate my promise to “do no harm.” I carefully pulled on my support hose, white nylon dress, and ugly prescription shoes. My crowning glory was the starched white cap that held my long hair tucked tightly beneath. I couldn’t wait. I wanted to cure; I wanted to care; I wanted to heal.
I have learned a lot about healing since that day. I have learned that healing is a process of restoring and becoming whole. And I have come to realize that the process involved in physical healing mirrors in many ways the spiritual healing we all require at difficult times in our lives. Through caring for my patients and enduring my own heartaches, I have learned six lessons about “the healer’s art.”1
First, healing hurts. When I was a young nurse in the hospital, hardly a day went by that a patient did not ask, “Will it hurt?” If I had been truthful, the whispered answer would nearly always have been, “Yes, it will hurt.” I have learned that healing hurts. Life hurts. Healing really begins only when we face the hurt in its full force and then grow through it with all the strength of our soul. For every reward of learning and growing, some degree of pain is always the price. Author M. Scott Peck suggests that if you do not want love or pain, you “must do without many things.”2 I think you would do without friendship, dating, working, getting married, or having children.
Sometime in your life you will know a crashing crisis or heavy heartache that will threaten all sense of logic or hope or certainty, from which, no matter how you emerge, nothing will ever be the same. Hurts come as unique losses, unwelcome surprises, fading hope, or grief.
You may not get your first choice in school or career. Perhaps that special person did not have the same “revelation” you think you had. Maybe this is the best you will ever look. Maybe someone you counted on didn’t help or support you. Perhaps someone in your past hurt you deeply. I know that pain. I also live a little of every day waiting for heaven to see my son and mother again. Last year two of my nursing students lost their fathers. I imagine that no success in school or career or life will be quite the same for them.
Some of us suffer the wrenching consequences of sin or just poor judgment. You may now be entangled in activities with others—or perhaps on the Internet—that you wish you had never started. Or you may have fallen into a trap of debt. We hurt when we see our own failures or helplessly watch the unwise decisions of others. Our lives are changed forever not only by the pain but by facing our need to heal.
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles warned:
“The world around you is an increasingly hostile and sinful place. Occasionally that splashes onto us, and perhaps, in the case of a few of you, it may be nearly drowning you. …
“… You can change. You can be helped. You can be made whole—whatever the problem. All he asks is that you walk away from the darkness and come into the light, his light, with meekness and lowliness of heart. … Christ has ‘borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows,’ Isaiah declared, ‘and with his stripes we are healed’—if we want to be (Isa. 53:4–5).”3
We can partake of the healing offered through the Atonement of our Savior, who promised, “I have heard thy prayer, I have seen thy tears: behold, I will heal thee” (2 Kgs. 20:5; see also 3 Ne. 18:32).
My second lesson is that healing is active—you have to participate. Your friend, your husband or wife, your mother cannot do it for you. You have to face the problem and the pain. To begin healing, you must acknowledge and feel the hurt. Only those who don’t feel, those without conscience, cannot heal.
My mother told me of an experience she had one winter morning as she drove to check the cattle in the lower pasture. She noticed a car off the side of the road. Inside she recognized a young mother and three children. When my mother asked if they needed help, the woman tearfully reminded her that this was the place of the accident that killed her husband two weeks earlier. She said, “We are just here to feel the hurt.”
On that first day as a nurse, I assumed cure and healing to be synonymous. I have learned they are not necessarily the same. Cure is clean, quick, and done—often under anesthesia. The antibiotic kills the pathogen; the scalpel cuts out the malignancy; the medication resolves the distorted chemistry. But healing may involve a lifelong process of recovery and growth in spite of—perhaps because of—enduring physical, emotional, or spiritual assault. It often requires time. We may pray for cure when we really need healing. Whether for cell reconstruction, for nerve and muscle rehabilitation, for emotional recovery, or for spiritual forgiveness, healing can require work and time and energy.
Elder Neal A. Maxwell of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught:
“There is, in the suffering of the highest order, a point that is reached—a point of aloneness—when the individual (as did the Savior on a much grander scale) must bear it … alone. Even the faithful may wonder if they can take any more or if they are in some way forsaken.
“Those who … stand on the foot of the cross often can do so little to help absorb the pain and the anguish. It is something we must bear ourselves in order that our triumph can be complete.”6
Private healing is not healing by abandonment. Healing is not only private, it is sacred. There is something so sacred about partaking of the power of the Atonement to overcome suffering, disappointment, or sin that it happens in the privacy of that special relationship between the mortal and the divine. Healing involves a private, personal communion with the Savior, the Master Healer. It inspires a very personal reverence and awe. While on the earth, Jesus often began the healing process in private and then departed. He often charged, “See thou tell no man; but go thy way” (Matt. 8:4; see also Luke 8:56).
To say that healing is private is not to diminish the marvelous power that comes from the help and compassion of others. Indeed, private healing often may not happen without the help of others. Nevertheless, much of the work of healing is done alone, inside the heart, in the company of the Spirit of the Lord.
Such secret healing is not a single event. It happens as a process of living. You cannot simply take a day off and return healed. It happens quietly, while you face the pain, and over time as you live, work, study, and give to others.
The fourth lesson of the healer’s art is that healing teaches us. When we have a terrible loss or pain, we may seek to get back to normal or to the way things were before, but they will never be the same. Pain changes us but not in the same way healing teaches us. Healing can help us become more sensitive and more awake to life. Healing inspires repentance and obedience. Healing invites gifts of humility and faith. It opens our hearts to the profound complexities of truth, beauty, divinity, and grace.
Elder Orson F. Whitney (1855–1931) of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles wrote: “No pain that we suffer … is wasted. It ministers to our education, to the development of … patience, faith, fortitude and humility. All that we suffer … , especially when we endure it patiently, builds up our characters, purifies our hearts, expands our souls, and makes us more tender and charitable, more worthy to be called the children of God … and it is through sorrow and suffering, toil and tribulation, that we gain the education that we [came] here to acquire and which will make us more like our Father and Mother in heaven.”7
The fifth lesson of learning the healer’s art is the obligation and great gift it is to help others heal. President Gordon B. Hinckley has admonished: “As members of the Church of Jesus Christ, ours is a ministry of healing, with a duty to bind the wounds and ease the pain of those who suffer. Upon a world afflicted with greed and contention, upon families distressed by argument and selfishness, upon individuals burdened with sin and troubles and sorrows, I invoke the healing power of Christ.”8
Every day someone in your path is hurting, someone is afraid, someone feels inadequate, or someone needs a friend. Someone needs you to notice, to reach out, and to help him or her to heal. You may not know who that is at the time, but you can give encouragement and hope. You can help heal wounds of misunderstanding and contention. You can serve “in the cause of the Master Healer.”9
The last and greatest lesson of healing is that it is a divine gift always available from a loving Heavenly Father. If you have a pain or sorrow or disappointment or sin or just a grudge that needs healing, the Savior simply says, “Come unto me.”
For a few weeks, I studied the scriptures by reading only the accounts of Jesus’ healing. I have been humbled and amazed at how much of the Lord’s mission on this earth was devoted to healing. When Jesus called and ordained the Twelve, He specifically gave them the power to heal (see Matt. 10:1; Mark 3:14–15) and instructed them to go about using their gifts “freely” (see Matt. 10:8).
As Jesus healed, the scriptures say, “All the people were amazed” (Matt. 12:23). They brought their sick, their “blind and dumb” (Matt. 12:22), those that were “possessed with a devil” (Matt. 12:22; see also Mark 1:32), and their dead. So great were His reputation and His healing power that they sought to “only touch the hem of his garment: and as many as touched were made perfectly whole” (Matt. 14:36). “Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching … and preaching the gospel … , and healing every sickness and every disease among the people” (Matt. 9:35).
When Nephi was shown the vision of his father, Lehi, he saw the multitudes and the sick who were “healed by the power of the Lamb of God” (1 Ne. 11:31). When the Savior appeared in the Americas, He healed “every one as they were brought forth unto him” (3 Ne. 17:9).
President Hinckley has promised: “Jesus of Nazareth healed the sick among whom He moved. His regenerating power is with us today. … His divine teachings, His incomparable example, His matchless life, His all-encompassing sacrifice will bring healing to broken hearts, reconciliation to those who argue and shout, even peace to warring nations if sought with humility and forgiveness and love.”10
“We make solemn covenants based on Christ’s atoning sacrifice, and … we take upon us his name,” Elder Holland reminds us. “In as many ways as possible, both figuratively and literally, we try to take upon us his identity. We seek out his teachings and retell his miracles. We send latter-day witnesses … around the world to declare his message. We call ourselves his children, and we testify that he is the only source of eternal life. We plead for him to swing open the gates of heaven in our behalf and trust everlastingly that he will, based upon our faithfulness.”11
Each of us may come to know the Master Healer, partake of the gift of the Atonement, and learn the healer’s art. I know He lives, the Savior, the Master Healer, the One “with healing in his wings” (Mal. 4:2).
Invite family members to think about or share memories of when they needed healing (emotionally, spiritually, or physically). What did they or others do to help the healing? What did the Lord do? Read the last section of this article and bear testimony of the power of the Atonement in your life.
Discuss the different ways we can experience pain in this life. List the six lessons the author learned about healing. Read each section and discuss how believing and living each lesson could help draw us closer to the Master Healer.
Using the scriptures, the Topical Guide, and this article, find a story from the life of Jesus Christ that illustrates each of the six lessons. What can we learn from the Savior about “the healer’s art”?