Similar tragedy struck two families I love and admire during the same week–with drastically different outcomes. In both families (who don’t know each other), a beloved and only teenage son felt sick. Unknown to them, both teenagers had a cancerous T-cell lymphoma tumor restricting their breathing.
One family took their son to the emergency room as breathing capability audibly decreased. Doctors admitted him immediately and began treatment and said he was lucky to be alive. The other son’s struggle was less obvious. He thought he had a severe cold. He suffocated on the living room couch with a parent nearby ready to administer to his needs.
Both families loved their son. Both sons are talented and awesome. Both families believe in God. Both families have faith in priesthood power. Both families have seen miracles in their lives. Both reacted and coped with amazing faith.
But one son lived and the other son died.
We believe in miraculous healing. The scriptures are full of miraculous exceptions. The Shunammite woman rushed Elisha to her son’s side and Elisha raised him from the dead. Jairus’ daughter came back to life. Nephi raised his brother from the dead. The widow’s son in Nain came back to life on the way to his burial. Lazarus lived again.
But this good son, and so many other beloved children, didn’t revive.
I’ve realized that Heavenly Father sees this situation play out every day. From His perspective, every day, wonderful old, medium, and young people die and wonderful old, medium, and young people live.
I realized, while pondering about this that we encounter miraculous circumstances that keep us alive every day–from Holy Ghost’s warning of danger to God granting us the very breath we need to live.
Our Days Are Numbered
I began to ask, like Job, “Is there not an appointed time to man upon earth?” Job reiterates what he already knows in a later chapter. “Seeing his days are determined, the number of his months are with thee, thou hast appointed his bounds that he cannot pass.”
The Lord told Joseph “Therefore, hold on thy way, and the priesthood shall remain with thee; for their bounds are set, they cannot pass. Thy days are known, and thy years shall not be numbered less; therefore, fear not what man can do, for God shall be with you forever and ever.”
And in one of the most beautiful verses, the Lord revealed that “thus did I, the Lord God, appoint unto man the days of his probation—that by his natural death he might be raised in immortality unto eternal life, even as many as would believe.”
Repeatedly, the Lord testifies that He knows us, that our life’s duration is determined, and that through death we achieve our ultimate goal—eternal life.
It’s a glorious, and hard, truth for those left behind. Russell M. Nelson acknowledged that “Irrespective of age, we mourn for those loved and lost. Mourning is one of the deepest expressions of pure love. It is a natural response in complete accord with divine commandment: ‘Thou shalt live together in love, insomuch that thou shalt weep for the loss of them that die.’
Moreover, we can’t fully appreciate joyful reunions later without tearful separations now. The only way to take sorrow out of death is to take love out of life.”
There Is a Work to Do
At the appointed time, Heavenly Father’s only, begotten Son died, too. Jesus Christ constantly emphasized that He knew His life’s time frame and He zealously focused on fulfilling His life’s mission and purpose.
“I came into the world to do the will of my Father, because my Father sent me. And my Father sent me that I might be lifted up upon the cross; and after that I had been lifted up upon the cross, that I might draw all men unto me, that as I have been lifted up by men even so should men be lifted up by the Father, to stand before me, to be judged of their works, whether they be good or whether they be evil—
And for this cause have I been lifted up; therefore, according to the power of the Father I will draw all men unto me.”
God the Father declared His purposeful intention for mortality. “For behold, this is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.” And this is the work tasked to all of us. We’re given amazing opportunities to fulfill God’s purpose through the unique talents and perspectives He’s given each of us.
The Lord taught Abraham the workings of the universe “before ye go into Eygpt, that ye may declare all these words.”
When rebuilding the temple, people flocked to the house of the Lord and “they gave after their ability unto the treasure of the work.”
In administering to the poor and needy during a great famine, “the disciples, every man according to his ability, determined to send relief unto the brethren.”
None of our efforts or offerings will be the same because we are not the same. The gifts God grants us differs between us.
“For all have not every gift given unto them; for there are many gifts, and to every man is given a gift by the Spirit of God. To some is given one, and to some is given another, that all may be profited thereby.”
You have a unique purpose. Your voice matters. Your gifts and talents are from God enabling you to gloriously contribute to the Kingdom of God.
And what of that beloved, only son’s death? His life honored God. And his death testified of a plan of happiness and salvation to all who knew him. His obituary, so beautifully written, conveyed his family’s deep love for him, faith in Christ, and hope in an everlasting life. And you know what? His spirit still lives!
If we choose, every aspect of our existence can glorify God’s will and purpose.
“If they live here let them live unto me; and if they die let them die unto me; for they shall rest from all their labors here, and shall continue their works.”
I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I have moved 64 times and have not tired of experiencing this beautiful earth! I love the people, languages, histories/anthropologies, & especially religious cultures of the world. My life long passion is the study & searching out of religious symbolism, specifically related to ancient & modern temples. My husband Anthony and I love our bulldog Stig, adventures, traveling, movies, motorcycling, and time with friends and family.