In church today my friend and RS president spoke. She referred to a talk by Elder Bednar who was quoting Elder Maxwell when he had cancer. In my personal opinion, Elder Maxwell was one of the greatest speakers, even though he sometimes was hard to follow because of his deep thoughts. Elder Bednar says, "During the course of our conversations that day, I asked Elder Maxwell what lessons he had learned through his illness. I will remember always the precise and penetrating answer he gave. “Dave,” he said, “I have learned that not shrinking is more important than surviving.”
Elder Bednar continues, "In his October 1997 general conference message, entitled “Apply the Atoning Blood of Christ,” Elder Maxwell taught with great authenticity: “As we confront our own … trials and tribulations, we too can plead with the Father, just as Jesus did, that we ‘might not … shrink’—meaning to retreat or to recoil (D&C 19:18). Not shrinking is much more important than surviving! Moreover, partaking of a bitter cup without becoming bitter is likewise part of the emulation of Jesus” (Ensign, Nov. 1997, 22).
'Elder Maxwell’s answer to my question caused me to reflect on the teachings of Elder Orson F. Whitney, who also served as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles: “No pain that we suffer, no trial that we experience is wasted. It ministers to our education, to the development of such qualities as patience, faith, fortitude and humility. All that we suffer and all that we endure, especially when we endure 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 come here to acquire” (quoted in Spencer W. Kimball, Faith Precedes the Miracle"' (I've quoted this before because it is one of my most favorite quotes.)
Elder Bednar goes on to tell a story about a young man who got the devastating diagnosis of cancer shortly after he was married. He quoted this young man who said, "I knew that having faith—at least in my circumstance—was not necessarily knowing that He would heal me, but that He could heal me. I had to believe that He could, and then whether it happened was up to Him."
This quote really touched me as tears slid down my face after my friend quoted this, I realized that maybe the reason I had to go through this again was to teach me that even though I have the faith to be healed, I also need to have the faith that what ultimately happens is up to the Lord.
This same friend visited me this week on a day I hadn't showered and had mostly spent on the couch. (Let's just say I wasn't looking my best.) In her talk she shared the conversation we had that day. I had told her that I felt like I needed to serve more and asked her who needed my service. Her response was not what I had expected. She said something like this, "Your service to many is the testimony you bear and the example you are to do hard things. So often we think that in order to serve people we think we need to bring in a meal or provide some manual service. But the service you give to our ward is the person you are and how you have endured your trials."
I was completely taken back by this response and humbled. I look around me and see so many others going through much harder trials than I am going through. I often wonder why I had to go through this again, but I know that it is wasn't all just for me. I also have learned that the trials we go through aren't always just for those around us, but for me and you and everyone so that we can become closer to Christ through serving. I've had so many people serve me from taking me to chemo, to bringing me meals, but mostly for including me in their daily and family prayers. I'm ever so grateful for the faith and prayers of so many friends, family, children and strangers. My dad gave me a blessing when I went through cancer the first time and in it he told me that I needed to have faith in the prayers of those who were praying for me. I've taken this advice to heart and have great faith that my simple prayers are heard, but the prayers of many are what has healed me.
And so I wait for 3 weeks to have my PET Scan and blood tests, with hope that my faith to be healed will be seen on the Scan and that I will have a long healthy, happy, successful, service filled life. I know what I want, I have the faith that He can heal me, but whether I'm healed is ultimately up to Him.