“Laying Our Burdens at the Feet of Our Savior”
I’m grateful for the opportunity to speak on the topic of “Laying our Burdens at the Feet of Our Savior.”
One of my favorite scripture stories is contained in 3rd Nephi, when the resurrected Christ comes to visit the Nephite people. The scriptures tell us that a thick darkness covered the land for three days, following Christ’s death. During that time, thunder, lightening, earthquakes, fires and all manner of destruction took place. Although the more righteous part of the Nephites had been preserved, death and destruction surrounded them. They no doubt had suffered unimaginable loss, as well as physical, mental and emotional injuries. In 3 Nephi 17:7, Christ said, “Have ye any that are sick among you? Bring them hither. Have ye any that are lame, or blind, or halt, or maimed, or leprous, or that are withered, or that are deaf, or that are afflicted in any manner? Bring them hither and I will heal them, for I have compassion upon you; my bowels are filled with mercy.” The Book of Mormon tells us that the multitude “with one accord”, brought forward “all them that were afflicted in any manner.” (vs 9) and He did heal every one.
Alma prophesied that Christ would, “go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; and…he will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people. That his bowels may be filled with mercy…that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities.” (Alma 7:11-12)
We too, like the Nephites, are invited individually to Come unto Him, who are afflicted in any manner; who carry burdens, both seen and unseen. He suffered for them. He suffered for me. He suffered for you.
President Eyring said, “It will comfort us when we must wait in distress for the Savior’s promised relief, that He knows, from experience, how to heal and help us…And faith in that power will give us patience as we pray and work and wait for help. He could have known how to succor us simply by revelation, but he chose to learn by His own personal experience.”
Christ CHOSE to experience our earthly pains and afflictions in order to understand us. It only makes sense that in order for us to understand HIM, we must also experience adversity. I would like to share with you a few personal experiences, which taught me the reality of Christ’s Atonement and His power to heal us.
A year and a half ago, I became very ill. Following a week in bed, and several undiagnosed trips to the doctor, we knew something was terribly wrong. Sharing my concerns with my mother-in-law on the phone, she packed a bag and drove through the night to assist us. When my husband took me to the doctor the next afternoon, we were immediately sent to the emergency room. Tests revealed a racing pulse, high fever, low blood-oxygen levels, both lungs filled with fluid, and a white blood cell count of 72,000. The doctor informed me that I was VERY SICK, and that my condition would best be treated at Sacred Heart Medical Center in Spokane. I was quickly loaded into an ambulance, hooked up to oxygen and through a dark and rainy evening, was transported to Spokane. My thoughts turned to my young family, and temporal motherly concerns raced through my mind: “Moms can’t get sick! Our library books are overdue! Will someone remember to sign my Kindergartener’s Friday folder? Will my one-year-old be okay tonight? I had never to that point been away from her for a single night since she was born. And as if that weren’t enough, we’re out of milk! My temporal concerns masked my deeper worry that I would possibly not survive to see my children again in this life. “Please Heavenly Father. (I prayed) Take care of my family.” I felt as helpless as I looked - strapped flat on my back to a board. I was unable to carry ANY of it, and I knew it. I needed to Lord to carry my physical and emotional burden that I could not carry on my own. The words to a favorite hymn came quickly came into my mind, “Fear not, I am with thee. Oh be not dismayed. For I am thy God, and will still give thee aid. I’ll strengthen thee, help thee, and cause thee to stand…”
Once I arrived at the hospital, I was quickly joined by my anxious husband, and the critical care doctor. Dozens of questions were asked about my medical history, the timeline of my illnesss, my age, 34, number of children: 3, ages: 6, 5, and 1. Occupation: “I am a mother.”
I was diagnosed with bacterial pneumonia in both lungs, with a dangerous secondary infection called Empyema. Tubes were placed in my lungs to drain the infected fluid surrounding them, and although they had already drained two liters of fluid, my condition continued to worsen. The doctor pulled my husband aside and said, “You know your wife is very ill. As infections go, this is as bad as it gets. We’ll do everything we can.” Imagine hearing that news!? Our families and friends were alerted, and immediately prayers and fasts began in petitioning the Lord in my, and my husband’s behalf. My mom and father-in-law were asked to come. Priesthood blessings were given and received.
The doctor who had been treating me, later quietly shared the following experience, which happened that first night in the ICU. After he had finished his shift, he went home for the night and went to bed: "I got into bed and couldn't stop thinking about this ill young mother with these three young children at home. I tried to sleep, but I couldn't. I just couldn't put you out of my mind. I knew I had to put another chest tube in the right lung, and I knew it had to be done that night. I got out of bed, got dressed, and came back to the hospital, and ordered the third chest tube." I have no doubt in my mind that my doctor was inspired and guided in his decisions and actions that night, the timing of which most likely saved my life. I testify that prayer and fasting are real and they are powerful.
My mom later wrote the following about her experience: On Saturday I was reminded of one of the greatest blessings of my life. It was Jon’s birthday (he is my oldest brother). The beginning of what has been the most fulfilling journey I could imagine, that of being a mother. That particular morning we received a call from Josh explaining how seriously ill Amy was, and could we please come. I immediately asked the Lord for his help and comfort as I have done countless other times when I felt my children were in danger. A very calming spirit came over me. I could not say I was assured she would be fine, but I definitely felt peaceful. The morning was dark and foggy much like the feelings of that day. As I drove up the canyon my impression was to “Be believing, fear not.” And then as I rounded the bend the clouds lifted, the sun poured down on me and the radiant blue sky made my heart fill with peace and joy, I knew our prayers were heard. And so began the second joy of this experience. I began watching my children all of whom are the absolute joy of my life begin reaching out to help one another. From one end of the country to the other; children, aunts, and cousins, even across the ocean, flooded lines to the temple, offering prayers of faith for Amy. It was an experience I will always remember. Like so many others our family has been through, the experiences, which refine are not easy but are there for us to learn and be tested.
Elder Oaks taught, “Healing blessings come in many ways, each suited to our individual needs, as known to Him who loves us best. Sometimes a ‘healing’ cures our illness or lifts our burden. But sometimes we are ‘healed’ by being given strength or understanding or patience to bear the burdens placed upon us…Our mortal circumstances may not immediately change, but our pain, worry, suffering and fear can be swallowed up in His peace and healing balm.”
I was intubated at that point, and put under, and while I was asleep I had a beautiful dream. I was lying comfortably on the exact same hospital bed, with the same machines in the same room. I was granted permission to have visitors. Any visitors that I desired. This made me so happy, and in the next instant, both sets of my Grandparents (who have all passed away) appeared. They were all elderly and in regular clothes (just as I remembered them), but were smiling and surrounding my bed and in perfect health. Although my grandfathers were present, their roles were more supportive, as they stood behind their wives with a hand on her shoulder or casually in their pocket, seemingly content to just wait patiently for their wives to finish their visit. My paternal Grandma was first, and she placed her hand on my cheek and patted my face (as she always did) and said, "Oh, Amy my darlin'. " (as she always did ) Then my maternal Grandmother held my hand and as I turned to look at her, the tip of her tongue was curled and sticking out, as it always did when she was concentrating on something like baking biscuits in the kitchen or washing dishes. It's an endearing trait that I always remembered, and was so familiar to me. There were no profound words exchanged or insights shared. We just sat there like that for a while. A hand on my face, and a hand in my hand. I felt empowered, comforted and lifted by these women in my time of need. - by these faithful, vigilant mothers.
No one but the Lord would know at that moment the very visitors I needed most. I needed my mother, but in her absence, he sent my Grandmothers, not to preach or expound, but to hold my hand and pat my face, and remind me of my own divine role as a woman and mother. He truly suited the relief to the one in need.
Several weeks went by, and with it surgery and several complications, which read like a medical drama on TV. I’ll spare you all the details, but suffice it to say, I experienced periods of physical pain, discomfort, homesickness, and discouragement. I was anxious to return home to my family, and my simple, but precious life! But, through those challenges as well, my mind constantly returned to my Savior, and the thought that “He experienced this exact feeling too. He knows how this felt. He felt this already. He knows. He knows.”
Not all of us will endure an illness of this sort, but we each of us have our own challenges and adversity - our “tutorial trials and customized challenges,” as Elder Maxwell called them.
For me, those long days in the hospital, gave me much time to ponder and reflect upon my past shortcomings, my covenants, and my role as a wife and mother. My life had been spared and I felt a rebirth of dedication and commitment to living the gospel more closely, and keeping my covenants more fully. Our time here on earth is so short, and our work here is important. It is valued. It is essential. As a family, this event changed us forever. It tested and strengthened our faith in HIM.
When I was finally released from the hospital, two weeks later, I was far from whole physically, with a large incision, weakened lungs, and muscles. The flights of stairs in our home seemed mountainous. The short walk to the bathroom left me gasping for air. Too much talking made me winded. My “mom muscles” which in the past allowed me to cook dinner, quickly pick up the house, and hold a baby simultaneously, seemed gone forever. I couldn’t lift my baby from her crib, or even heft a laundry basket. I needed help. Enter the relief society, and our ward family. Our RS president said, “There is an army of hands, waiting to serve. You let us know when you’re ready for us.” And serve us they did: Delicious, warm meals were lovingly prepared and delivered to our door. Thoughtful flowers, cards and e-mails were sent, rides to and from school were easily handled. Play dates and outings for my children were freely offered, so I could rest. I had to be patient with myself, and rely on family and friends to do for me, what I could not do for myself. They truly strengthened the feeble knees, and lifted up hands, which hung down. Many times, the Lord lifts our burden through others. They were “the Lord’s hands” in serving us.
A year later and a half later, and I feel healthy and strong. Although my wounds have completely healed, I carry several fading scars, which serve as a reminder to me of Heavenly Father's love and awareness of me and my family. I bear testimony of our Savior, our Redeemer, our Physician, even Jesus Christ. He lives. He loves us. He feels for us, and can "wipe away all tears from (our) eyes..." (Revelation 21:4) Through the Atonement, He can heal us all (perfectly and completely), of the wounds physical and spiritual, mental and emotional, both seen and unseen, if we will but come unto Him.