Sunday, July 18, 2010

"What shall we do, that this cloud of darkness may be removed from overshadowing us?"

The subject of healing in the scriptures has always sort of baffled me. We always hear about how Christ went around healing the sick, healing pretty much anyone who asked, just handing out healings like candy. I understand that the point of it was to reward the faith of these people, but I've still often wondered why He made it that easy. We talk so much of the benefit of trials, of their role in refining us and testing us, of building our faith and patience and all those good things that will mold us into the type of beings who will one day be exalted. Why, then, did Christ so easily remove these afflictions from people back in the day? Had they already proven themselves? Was this final act of faith - that is, asking to be healed - the last obstacle in the way of redemption? I can believe that for some, but for ALL those people? I just can't swallow that. It seems, at least, very different today.

These days it seems most people are allowed plenty of time for refinement and testing. And you know what, that's great. The present paradigm makes a lot more sense to me. Of course we should be allowed to muddle through our trials for a while, for months, even years, if that's what it takes for us to learn what we're supposed to be learning. And yet, we still read in the scriptures that if we simply cry unto the Lord and demonstrate faith, He will heal us. He will remove our afflictions. If it is indeed that simple, then I am sore confused. Does instant- gratification-healing seem counterproductive to anyone else? Why would the Lord, who loves us, cave in that easily and thus stymie our growth? Isn't that sort of akin to a parent who enforces some sort of punishment in order to teach a lesson, only to go soft at the first pleading and withdraw it? Isn't this how spoiled brats are developed? Maybe there are times when the test of faith is more important than the test of patience or long-suffering. If this is the case then it makes sense for a believing person to be healed. But what about when someone has the faith thing down and needs instead a lesson on enduring to the end? How is it that this person is given the same promise of healing?

Don't worry, I've taken the liberty of anticipating your counterarguments, so here are my concessions:

1. Timing - that is, healing might be promised, but maybe not right away

2. Will of the Lord - we know that this pretty much trumps everything. So, if a person is indeed healed as soon as he exercises faith and asks for it, we know that for whatever reason, the Lord saw fit to heal that person. Who knows, maybe that person had already proven himself in faith as well as in patience and long-suffering. Only the Lord knows his heart, after all. What looks like instant gratification to us may not actually be.

3. I thought I had anticipated more, but honestly this is all so confusing and mushy in my brain that it probably got lost somewhere by the wayside. Probably by my amygdala, everything gets caught there.

Refer back to my title quote. I find it interesting that people in the scriptures tend to ask questions like that - essentially, "Lord, what can I do to fix this?" They want a specific action that they can perform, an equation to run so that they might receive a desired outcome. And in our defense, the scriptures do seem to be rife with equations: seek-->find, ask-->receive, knock-->it shall be opened. But is it really that simple? When the Lamanites asked this question, they were told that if they repented, cried unto the Lord, and had faith, the cloud of darkness would be removed. And I can't help but wonder if maybe the point of that answer was not so much to show them how to remove the cloud, but rather, a way to get them to start doing those things for their own general benefit. Things they wouldn't have done if they hadn't thought there was a reward on the other side. It's really quite clever of the Lord, when you think about it.

Maybe the Lamanites were confronting a literal cloud of darkness, and maybe some of us have to confront a cloud of darkness not quite so literal. The procedure is the same. Maybe it'll be removed just as soon as we ask, or maybe it never will. Maybe it doesn't even matter what happens, so long as we're doing what we're supposed to be doing on our end.

But what do I know.


Karrot Soup said...

A lot of thoughts that may or may not be actually relevant...
First, what I've come to realize (but what is usually NOT reflected in happy gospel rhetoric though it's certainly in the scriptures a lot) is that we really are strangers here. Right now that's my answer to everything, that this life can possibly be happy, and the gospel helps it be happier, but that we're really not in our element and we need to yearn for a better place. If we don't, He shakes it up so we do. There are probably a lucky few for whom a healing binds their hearts to the Lord irrevocably, but the rest of us aren't humble/faithful enough to remember that miracle for very long.
As for spoiled brats, I have learned a few things as a parent about the psychology of punishment and rewards. It's hard to put into words, but beginning to enforce a consequence and then unexpectedly changing to mercy--every once in a while--has a hugely powerful effect for good. Just some thoughts while we're all under that cloud! :)

Mish said...

So true, Kristin! Well, I can't vouch for the parenting tip, though I do believe it. But you're right - I think the fact of our being strangers on this earth is a pretty sufficient answer to a lot of the questions that keep me awake at night. :)