“I just can’t believe that you were able to walk for so long! Was it because you were literally ‘on a mission’ do you think?” The surgeon, an enthusiastic man whose arms waved in the air like he was telling a story whenever he spoke looked at me expectantly – and I realized that he actually wanted an answer.
I leaned forward in my chair, the smell of alcohol wipes and medical supplies wafting around me, and squeezed my right ankle. Three cuts to the bone- that’s what it would take for me to walk again. Just thinking about it made my ankle throb with pain.
My mind swept over the last 18 months- both the challenges I had faced and the joy that I had felt. I had always dreamed of serving a full-time mission for my church, but actually getting there had been more difficult than I ever imagined. There were many times where I didn’t think that I would make it to the end- but some way, somehow, I had done it. Was it grit and determination that allowed me to accomplish this? That probably would’ve been the easiest thing to tell my surgeon- but it wouldn’t have been true. if I had been left to myself I wouldn’t have lasted 3 weeks, let alone the 18 months that I served.
The Fire That Just Kept Burning
It was a hot, stifling summer, and I had been serving my mission for about a year. The forests around Oregon and Washington had caught fire and covered the town of Washougal in a layer of soot. A blood red sun peered gloomily through the haze, and the air was so thick with ash that it was almost impossible to breathe. Everything stunk with the scent of burnt pine needles. My companion and I did our best to stay out of the heat- jumping from appointment to appointment as we strove to teach the Word of God to everyone we met.
That fire would serve as a prelude for the rest of my time in Washougal- as the challenges of the next 3 months wrapped around me like that smoke and tried to wipe away my very will to continue. Soon, everything I had built would disappear. A woman who I taught for the past 3 months dropped contact with us, and it devastated me to lose someone who had become like a sister to me. We struggled to find people to teach, and I felt like I wasn’t a good companion for the missionary that I was serving with. And my foot? Well, it was absolutely killing me.
My right ankle had never been very stable. Over the years, I had twisted it dozens of times, if not hundreds. But it had never hurt me, so I hadn’t thought much of it. About a year into my mission, however, that all changed- and it felt as if the forest fires of Washington had descended into my foot and set it ablaze with pain.
Within a couple of weeks, I could hardly walk. Even with our car, it was getting difficult for me to do missionary work, especially when we didn’t have any appointments or had to stand for long periods of time. During one particularly hard day, I had burst into tears, overwhelmed by both my pain and my inadequacies. It was time to reach out for help.
After All That I Could Do
I decided to get a priesthood blessing, which is done when one or more priesthood holder put their hands on another person’s head and speak for God as the spirit directs. I was hoping for a miracle- Instead, I received encouragement. I was promised that ideas would come into my mind about how to care for my foot and that I would be able to overcome this challenge.
So I did as the blessing directed. I got the most supportive ankle brace available and wore it every day. I met with a physical therapist and was given exercises to strengthen my arches and improve my endurance.
Nothing seemed to help. I did all of my exercises faithfully, but every day that I did them my foot hurt so badly that it was practically impossible for me to walk. Progress was slow, if not non-existent, and the condition of my ankle continued to deteriorate. 3 weeks later, I wasn’t sure how much longer I could last. If I could hardly walk down the hall and back again, how on earth could I survive for the remaining months of my mission?
A Blessing Of Healing
Unable to handle the pain any longer and desperate for direction, I decided to get another blessing- this time from a fellow missionary. As this missionary placed his hands on my head, he spoke of Jesus Christ and of His love for me. He reminded me that the Savior had already felt and carried my pain. Then, the missionary promised through the power of God that my pain would be lightened and that I would be able to finish my mission.
Tears streamed down my face. I stood up, thanking him for the blessing. I walked to the car with a spring in my step, hopeful that his words were true. My companion looked towards me and smiled, “Hey- I haven’t seen you walk on your ankle like that in weeks!” she said.
Within a few days, the ankle brace was off my foot and I was back to work. I still had a lot of challenges ahead of me, but my ankle wasn’t one of them. I hardly even thought about it over the course of the next 5 months! There was still some pain in my ankle, but it never became more than I could handle.
My ankle didn’t even bother me on the day that I returned home from my mission, filled with joy that I had been able to serve the Lord and learn and accomplish so much along the way. But the next day? Let me tell you, I was thinking about that ankle again! Within a few weeks, I was in even more pain than I had been the previous summer. Even tasks as simple as doing the dishes or cleaning my room were too painful for me to do on my own. The only solution? A complex, painful surgery that would take months to recover from.
The Power Of Deliverance
“So, what do you think it was?” the surgeon asked again.
I looked up, startled, trying to find the words to explain something so complex in just a few sentences. “It wasn’t anything I did,” I said, “It was God- he must’ve really wanted me to finish my mission, or else I would’ve come home a long time ago.”
The surgeon paused and looked at me with thoughtful eyes, “I guess you could be right.” he said.
I smiled and nodded my head in agreement. To him, it was a possibility that God had worked a miracle in life. But to me, it was a truth as real as the rising of the sun. God lived, loved me, and wanted me to succeed. He had lessons for me to learn and people for me to help on my mission, so he lightened the pain in my foot so I could stay. He allowed me to do all that I could and to reach my breaking point before healing me so that I would know that it was He that had delivered me, and not myself.
I have no doubt that God could’ve healed my foot completely right then and there, but he didn’t. And I have to believe it is because God has a NEW lesson for me to learn- one that I can only learn from being sick.
So do miracles still happen today? Absolutely! But they only happen in God’s way and by His time table, according to our faith. In the Book of Mormon, Nephi promises that “The tender mercies of the Lord are over all those whom he hath chosen, because of their faith, to make them mighty even unto the power of deliverance.”
If God can work miracles in the life of someone as imperfect and full of doubt as myself I know that he can work them in your life as well! All it takes is a willing heart, a desire to serve God, and faith that He will deliver you. He may not take your problems away – or maybe he will, who knows! – but I know that He will strengthen you, comfort you, and lighten your burdens as you put your trust in Him. And through those things, you will come to know for yourself that God is good and loves you on a deep and personal level.