Some years ago while serving as the ward mission leader, I accompanied a young missionary to an appointment with a family who were investigating the gospel. He humbly taught this family that Jesus Christ did not just suffer for every sin we will ever commit: “He also suffered for every bad day we will ever have.”
His statement sank deep into my mind. Over the passing years as I have continued to ponder the meaning of the Savior’s great atoning sacrifice, I have realized in a more profound way that the Atonement is not just about the Savior’s suffering—It is about healing.
A Miraculous Cure
Matthew 9:20-22, Mark 5:25-34, and Luke 8:43-48 tell the story of a woman who had an issue of blood for 12 years. She had suffered much and had spent all that she had in her attempts to be healed. Hearing of Jesus, she felt that if she could but touch his clothes she would be healed. Mark 5: 27, 29 records: “When she had heard of Jesus, [she] came in the press behind, and touched his garment. …And straightway the fountain of her blood was dried up; and she felt in her body that she was healed of that plague.”
We know that Jesus, when he felt that “virtue had gone out of him, turned him about in the press, and said, Who touched my clothes?” (Mark 5:30). The disciples thought this was unusual—after all there were hundreds of people around. Then we read: “But the woman fearing and trembling, knowing what was done in her, came and fell down before him, and told him all the truth. And he said unto her, Daughter, thy faith hath made thee whole; go in peace, and be whole of thy plague” (Mark 5:33-34).
Jesus Also Heals
While this story gives an account of faith and the resulting physical healing, it also contains important parallels with the healing power available through the Atonement. First, the woman sought for Jesus. She didn’t just pray and wait for Him to come to her. She reached out for Him, as we all should. He healed her, and He can heal us. As expressed in the hymn “Where Can I Turn for Peace”: “[He] reaches my reaching” (Hymns, no. 129).
Second, why did the Savior ask who had touched Him? Did it matter? And why did the woman fear and tremble? She knew and felt that her issue of blood had been cured. Couldn’t she just have gone her way rejoicing?
To discover the answers to these questions, we need to understand that curing and healing are not the same. While serving as Dean of the BYU College of Nursing, Elaine S. Marshall clarified: “Healing is not cure. Cure is clean, quick, and done … Healing, however, is often a lifelong process of recovery and growth in spite of, maybe because of, enduring physical, emotional, or spiritual assault. It requires time. …It requires all the energy of your entire being. You have to be there, fully awake, aware, and participating when it happens” (“Learning the Healer’s Art,” [Brigham Young University devotional, Oct. 8, 2002], speeches.byu.edu).
When the Savior asked who had touched Him, it forced the woman to “be there.” Had this not happened, she would have been cured physically but not fully healed. Perhaps she would have always felt guilty—thinking that she had not done things correctly or that she had somehow “stolen” her cure. Her acknowledgement of her actions enabled the Savior to prevent those feelings. He confirmed her cure and bestowed His peace upon her. He let her know that she, one single individual in the multitude, was infinitely important to Him. Each of us is a single individual in a loud and clamoring world, but we too are individually and infinitely important to Jesus Christ and loved by Him.
Healing is so much more than a cure, and healing is what the Atonement is about. The enabling power of the Atonement allows us to return to the presence of the Lord, clean and free from sin, and able to stand in His presence. On that night when the Savior suffered in Gethsemane for the sins of the world, He took upon Himself the pain and suffering for every wicked and vile thing ever done. He bore the blows of every crushing defeat, the shame of every weakness, the weight of every sickness and infirmity. He bore the burden of every temptation, the weight of every discouragement, the sorrow for every loss, and the terror of every fear. He bore all this so that He might know how to succor us. As the Apostle Paul explained, “For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succor them that are tempted” (Hebrews 2:18).
Christ’s Atoning Love Versus Satan’s Junk Mail
Ultimately, “Each of us will stand to be judged of Him according to our works and the desires of our hearts” (“The Living Christ: The Testimony of the Apostles,” Ensign, Apr. 2000). We need to recognize that Satan will use whatever means he can to lead us into captivity “for he seeketh that all men might be miserable like unto himself” (2 Nephi 2: 27).
Here are a few of the tactics Satan may use to influence our thinking:
Overgeneralization: “I always have problems; Nothing good ever happens to me.”
Negativity: “I really am worthless. They just said that to make me feel better.”
Jumping to conclusions: “They probably think….”
Comparisons: “Everyone else is so much better than me; I don’t even measure up.”
Blame: “It’s all my fault.”
Continual fear: “I’m afraid I’m not going to make it, so why even try.”
My wife calls such thoughts junk mail and says they need to be emptied—unopened— into the trash. None of them reflect Christ’s way of leading and nurturing. If we are feeling a constant sense of negativity, worthlessness, or fear, we need to know those feelings are not from Jesus. Satan wants to bind us. The Savior, however, can loose the bonds that come from sin, distorted thinking, and any challenges that might otherwise cripple us. Although it may not always be in the way we expect, as we struggle through life’s challenges the Lord can strengthen us, change us, and heal us. Satan would have us be victims. Christ wants us to be victors.
The Process of Becoming Healed
Think of the scripture “reproving betimes with sharpness, when moved upon by the Holy Ghost; and then showing forth afterwards an increase of love” (Doctrine and Covenants 121:43). That is the Savior’s way. He will guide us; He will correct us; He will reprove us; but always He will love us. His love will come with a sense of comfort and peace. We can also gain a deeper understanding for how to succor others as Christ succors us. We can become more like the Savior.
We need to reach out to Him as the chronically ailing woman did. Jesus can heal us too. As modern-day Apostles have testified, “He gave His life to atone for the sins of all mankind” (“The Living Christ,” Apr. 2000).