In September of 2002, I was diagnosed with severe cancer. I had four surgeries and two grueling months of chemotherapy. One evening during my second week of chemotherapy, I was resting in an overstuffed chair in my parents’ living room. I was exhausted, without the strength or will to do anything more than think. The question that I had repeatedly pushed aside came back with greater force: why me? Sorrow overwhelmed me, and I could do nothing but cry out as Joseph Smith did from the darkness of Liberty Jail, “O God, where art thou? And where is the pavilion that covereth thy hiding place?” (D&C 121:1).
As sorrow threatened to swallow me, the gentle and loving rebuke came to my mind: “The Son of Man hath descended below them all. Art thou greater than he?” (D&C 122:8). Instantly my thoughts were drawn to the suffering the Savior willingly took upon Himself for me—suffering that caused Him, “even God, the greatest of all, to tremble because of pain, and to bleed at every pore, and to suffer both body and spirit” (D&C 19:18). Lying there in my own pain and sorrow, I gained some sense of the eternal vastness of Christ’s agony and pain. How small my suffering seemed when compared to that of the Infinite and Eternal.
Gratitude filled my heart as I thought about how He loved me so much that He willingly took upon Himself my suffering and more! Peace entered my soul as I felt His love comfort me. How true Alma’s words are: “And he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities” (Alma 7:12). I understood and felt that He truly did know what I was feeling and shared in my sorrow, as His gentle words testify: “Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee.
“Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands; thy walls are continually before me” (Isaiah 49:15–16).
As this light and understanding lifted my heart from the depths of sorrow, I felt as Alma the Younger did when he expressed, “Oh, what joy, and what marvelous light I did behold; yea, my soul was filled with joy as exceeding as was my pain!” (Alma 36:20).
That day I learned firsthand that just as the Atonement can make our scarlet sins as white as snow (see Isaiah 1:18), it can also ease our pain and change our sorrow to hope. As we answer the Lord’s call to come unto Him, He will truly “ease the burdens which are put upon [our] shoulders, that even [we] cannot feel them upon [our] backs” (Mosiah 24:14).
Life will never be easy. When those difficult times come, it is up to us whether we curse God, as Job’s wife would have had him do (see Job 2:9), or trust in the Lord and seek to learn what He would have us learn. Elder Richard G. Scott said: “Just when all seems to be going right, challenges often come in multiple doses applied simultaneously. When those trials are not consequences of your disobedience, they are evidence that the Lord feels you are prepared to grow more (see Proverbs 3:11–12). He therefore gives you experiences that stimulate growth, understanding, and compassion which polish you for your everlasting benefit. To get you from where you are to where He wants you to be requires a lot of stretching, and that generally entails discomfort and pain. … This life is an experience in profound trust—trust in Jesus Christ.”1
Through my experience I have come to understand many things about myself and about my relationship with my Heavenly Father that I would not have gained otherwise. I only hope that I can continue to say “not as I will, but as thou wilt” (Matthew 26:39) and seek to be what my Heavenly Father would have me be.