Several years ago my younger brother, Jon, was diagnosed with a terminal illness. We were told there was nothing we could do: no medication, no procedure, no therapy. Nothing was going to change the inevitable outcome of his disease.
I cannot begin to describe the anguish our family knew when we heard the diagnosis. We were heartbroken at the thought of our brother suffering, at the possibility of his very small son growing up without a father, and of his wife being denied his association. Selfishly, I hated feeling pathetically inadequate and helpless to change any of those things.
Then my husband, Jay, and I remembered the law of the fast. We are converts to the Church and feel grateful for truths learned through the restored gospel. The law of the fast is one of those truths. Turning to this divine spiritual practice, we realized we were not helpless after all; here was something we could do. And because fasting with prayer is the Lord’s law, it gave us access to all He can do—and He can do anything. What a tremendous difference this realization made in our attitudes, our outlook, our energies—to know that we were not necessarily limited by the perspective of the worldly experts. Anything was possible, if it were the Lord’s will.
In the two and a half years following my brother’s diagnosis, Jay and I fasted often and for many different reasons related to Jon’s health. We fasted most often to know the Lord’s will in this situation, to understand our part in bringing it to pass, and to ask for help in doing our part in a manner pleasing to the Lord. And while there was no miraculous physical healing for my brother, I witnessed a real and miraculous healing in me.
My feelings of insignificance gave way to a sure knowledge that Heavenly Father loved me, He loved my brother, and He loved our family. My sense of helplessness turned to a profound confidence in the vast resources available to anyone who draws near to the Lord. The grief and broken heart were replaced with an overwhelming sense of gratitude for the blessing this brother had been in my life and for his example of loyalty, of courage, and of living with a grateful heart.
I recognized that while I was losing much, it was possible only because I had been given so much, and that the Lord continues to give abundantly. I was given a testimony of the nature of eternity and the eternal nature of families, and I was reminded of the promise given through the Prophet Joseph Smith that the “same sociality which exists among us here will exist among us there, only it will be coupled with eternal glory” (D&C 130:2).
I had prayed for the opportunity to enjoy my brother’s company on earth a little while longer. Yet I have been given the opportunity to enjoy his company through all eternity. And for the 31 years while Jon was with us on this earth, I was given a preview of what that eternity with my brother might be like.
I have been given a testimony of our Heavenly Father’s unfailing love for each of us. I can now say, as did the Apostle Paul, “For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 8:38–39).
The healing and peace I experienced through fasting several years ago continue to be available to me today and are not limited to matters of health. The power of fasting can be brought into many situations in all our lives. I think of some of the concerns we face in our wards, our families, or in our individual lives where we might feel there is nothing we can do. The adversary, I am convinced, has a vested interest in our believing that. If we believe there is nothing we can do, we will do nothing.
The adversary would have us believe there is nothing we can do to bring back into activity an individual whose testimony has faltered, who has shown no interest in Church activity for years. But fasting is something we can do to invite the Spirit to touch that individual’s life with a desire to come back and enjoy all the blessings of the gospel.
The adversary would have us believe there is nothing we can do to obtain secure employment in an uncertain economy. Fasting is something we can do to connect ourselves and others with real opportunities. More important, through fasting we can gain the absolute confidence that our Heavenly Father, who feeds the fowls of the air and clothes the flowers of the field, will surely provide for His children.
Maybe we feel there is nothing we can do to change a lifelong habit of poor financial management, or poor time management, poor home management, or unhealthy habits related to nutrition and fitness, or attitudes and temperament. But fasting is something we can do to see ourselves clearly as the person Heavenly Father intended us to be and to gain insights into how we can grow and progress through eternity.
I know God lives and loves us. I know Jesus Christ is His Son and the Savior of mankind.
I do not know how the Atonement was accomplished, but I do know that every good thing comes through it and I do know that it was something only He could do, when there was nothing more we could do.