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Christ Will Bless Us In Our Afflictions

Kurt Fertig
May 02, 2023 11:15 AM

"Just because we are <b><i>waiting</i></b> for miracles, does not mean that we are abandoned, or that we have been forgotten. On the contrary, this time of waiting is when the Lord is nearest, when He is actively helping us, and bearing our burdens with us."
When I was a 14 year old boy, growing up on the East coast, I had never seen a general authority in real life. Until one day my young men’s leader convinced me to attend a Stake Conference, in Wilmington North Carolina, because there was going to be a general authority speaking. 

Well, I didn’t want to be there, but I managed to find a friend of mine who was in a similar situation and, before the meeting started, we amused ourselves in the hallway by throwing wadded up pieces of paper at people as they passed. We’d survey the hall, throw the paper at someone when their back was turned, and then look innocently in the other direction when they turned to see who’d done it. 

One man passed by us and we threw a wad of paper that barely missed his right ear. He seemed to know exactly where it came from because he paused and said over his shoulder to us, “You missed me, brethren.” 

Imagine my absolute horror when I sat down in the chapel a few minutes later and saw this man sitting on the stand and learned that he was the visiting general authority, Elder Alexander B. Morrison. 

I spent the entire meeting trying to sit as low in my seat as humanly possible–hoping he couldn’t see me. And as soon as the closing prayer was said, I moved quickly toward the back door to make my escape. 

But there at the door was my young men’s leader, who couldn’t understand why I was in such a hurry to leave. He took me by the arm and said, “Don’t go yet, come up to the front with me and we’ll meet the general authority together. You might never have an opportunity like this again in your life.” 

Well, at that moment I didn’t ever want an opportunity like this again in my life, because I was absolutely mortified that I had to face him, after what I’d done. I felt guilty, ashamed, and 100% unworthy. But despite my reluctance, my young men’s leader kept ahold of my arm and pulled me with him up to the stand. 

When it came our turn to shake hands, he pushed me toward Elder Morrison and he said, “Elder Morrison, This is Kurt. He’s a wonderful young man.” 

What happened next was not at all what I had expected. Elder Morrison, knowing full well that I had been throwing paper wads at him earlier in the hall, took my hand, held it for a moment, looked into my eyes with pure kindness, and genuine regard, and said, “Yes, I can see that he is a wonderful young man. And he is a good person. He’ll do so many good things in his life.” 

I’ve thought afterward, that maybe this is what it would be like to meet Jesus Christ–who would similarly be fully aware of our sins and our shortcomings and would know exactly what we have done. Yet, instead of anger, resentment, or condemnation, we would find in Him compassion, kindness, forgiveness, and encouragement. Knowing that he might be like this, has given me hope throughout my life. 

Joseph Smith taught that it is impossible for men to have faith in Jesus Christ, without first having “a correct idea of His character, perfections, and attributes.” (Lectures on Faith) 

This means that in order to have faith in Christ, and his atonement, we must understand what he’s like. What he thinks. What he feels. And how he loves us. 

The record of his life in the New Testament gives us some important clues about his character and attributes. One thing that is immediately apparent, is that He spent a great deal of His earthly ministry among the sick and the afflicted. He spent large amounts of His time in the presence of those who were cast out of society, who weren’t living right, or who were suffering. He seemed to genuinely want to be with them. This is a window into who he is, and illustrates why we can have faith in Him. 

Jesus was frequently rebuked for associating with these people– with the sinners, the tax collectors, the prostitutes, the lepers, with those who were physically damaged or disabled. This was not a common way to act around such people in those days. Even his followers would discourage him from being near those who were considered “unclean” or unworthy of his presence. He was sometimes told to ignore the cries of those who called after him–those who were begging for healing and for mercy. 

But the scriptures tell us that Jesus refused to be kept away from these people. Instead, he would actively seek them out. He would notice when they had touched him. He would make His way through crowds to find them. He would pause, and ask for them to be brought to him. And when he was finally face to face with them, he would heal them, forgive them, touch them, bless them, rejoice with them. This love for those who are suffering is one of the major attributes of Jesus Christ and a hallmark of his character. It seems to be a part of His very nature. 

46 . . . and as he went out of Jericho with his disciples and a great number of people, blind Bartimæus, the son of Timæus, sat by the highway side begging.

47 And when he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out, and say, Jesus, thou Son of David, have mercy on me.

48 And many charged him that he should hold his peace: but he cried the more a great deal, Thou Son of David, have mercy on me.

49 And Jesus stood still, and commanded him to be called . . .

51 And Jesus answered and said unto him, What wilt thou that I should do unto thee? The blind man said unto him, Lord, that I might receive my sight.

52 And Jesus said unto him, Go thy way; thy faith hath made thee whole. And immediately he received his sight, and followed Jesus in the way. 

The Lord also wanted to associate with, and bless those who were considered sinners–those whose were suffering due to their own decisions, who were hoping for a different kind of healing. When asked why he associated with them, he simply explained: 

12 . . . They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick.

13 . . . go ye and learn what that meaneth, I will have mercy . . . 

37 And, behold, a woman in the city, which was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at meat in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster box of ointment,

38 And stood at his feet behind him weeping, and began to wash his feet with tears, and did wipe them with the hairs of her head, and kissed his feet, and anointed them with the ointment …

48 And [Jesus] said unto her, Thy sins are forgiven. 

He also found a way to associate with those who experienced physical ailments–often so severe they couldn’t even move to seek out the Lord when he was near. In those cases, the Lord went to them. 

2 Now there [was] at Jerusalem by the sheep market a pool, which is called in the Hebrew tongue Bethesda, having five porches.

3 In these lay a great multitude of impotent folk, of blind, halt, withered, waiting for the moving of the water . . .

5 And a certain man was there, which had an infirmity thirty and eight years.

6 When Jesus saw him lie, and knew that he had been now a long time in that case, he saith unto him, Wilt thou be made whole?

7 The impotent man answered him, Sir, I have no man, when the water is troubled, to put me into the pool: but while I am coming, another steppeth down before me.

8 Jesus saith unto him, Rise, take up thy bed, and walk.

9 And immediately the man was made whole,

These examples teach us something about the attributes and character of Jesus Christ. They paint a picture of how he feels about those who suffer–physically, mentally, or spiritually. They show us that he seeks after them, he wants to be with them, and he yearns to bless them, and to heal them. 

Nehemiah described Christ’s attributes this way:

“. . . but thou art a God ready to pardon, gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness . . . ” 

Isaiah wrote:

13 Sing, O heavens; and be joyful, O earth; and break forth into singing, O mountains: for the Lord hath comforted his people, and will have mercy upon his afflicted. 

And Paul said to the Romans:

38 . . . I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come,

39 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.

Part of Christ’s ability to have compassion on others stems from the fact that he understands our suffering. He knows what we’re going through. He knows where it comes from. Furthermore, He understands that we often suffer through no fault of our own. 

1 And as Jesus passed by, he saw a man which was blind from his birth.

2 And his disciples asked him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?

3 Jesus answered, Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him . . .

7 And [he] said unto him, Go, wash in the pool of Siloam . . . He went his way therefore, and washed, and came seeing. 

He doesn’t blame us for our afflictions. He doesn’t think less of us for having them. He understands that they are a part of living in this mortal life. He experienced them, himself. Alma taught that the coming Christ would: 

11 . . . go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people.

12 . . . 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. 

When we suffer, he understands it. He knows how to help us through it. He feels our pains deeply, even to the point that he mourns when we mourn: 

1 Now a certain man was sick, named Lazarus, of Bethany, the town of Mary and her sister Martha.

. . . 5 [And] Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus.

. . . 17 Then when Jesus came, he found that [Lazarus] had lain in the grave four days already.

. . . 32 Then when Mary was come where Jesus was, and saw him, she fell down at his feet, saying unto him, Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died.

33 When Jesus therefore saw her weeping, and the Jews also weeping which came with her, he groaned in the spirit, and was troubled 

[. . . He was feeling their pain . . . he felt their sorrow so deeply, in fact, that the narrative continues with the words:] 

35 Jesus wept.

36 Then said the Jews, Behold how he loved him! 

[And I would add, how he must have loved Mary and Martha, as well, to feel their loss so deeply with them.] 

Isaiah wrote of the Lord, “Surely he hath borne our griefs and carried our sorrows”

We have all come into a world full of challenges–challenges that often bring us grief or sorrow. We are exposed to different types of physical, or mental illness, to disabilities and infirmities, weaknesses, addictions, abuse, trauma, loneliness, and pain. As Isaiah explained, Christ has born the grief and carried the sorrows that life brings. And so he knows how to help you carry them. He understands what you’re going through–perfectly, and therefore He has perfect compassion for you. And just like those he went among, in Jerusalem, the character and attributes of Christ lead him to look for you, as well, to find you in the midst of your own afflictions, and to bless you. 

When Christ appeared to the people in the Americas after his resurrection, he sensed their needs just as surely as he had the needs of those he walked with in Jerusalem: 

5 And it came to pass that . . . Jesus . . . cast his eyes round about again on the multitude, and beheld they were in tears . . .

6 And he said unto them: Behold, my bowels are filled with compassion towards you.

7 Have ye any that are sick among you? Bring them hither. Have ye any that are lame, or blind, or halt, or maimed, or leprous, or that are withered, or that are deaf, or that are afflicted in any manner? Bring them hither and I will heal them, for I have compassion upon you; my bowels are filled with mercy.

8 For I perceive that ye desire that I should show unto you what I have done unto your brethren at Jerusalem, for I see that your faith is sufficient that I should heal you. 

Again, that’s who he is. He is the same compassionate Savior after his resurrection, as he was before, and he remains that way, and he will continue to seek out his suffering children, anywhere they are to be found on earth, to bless them, and to heal them. 

But perhaps you are wondering, when is it my turn? I also have afflictions, and challenges in life that cause me suffering. I’ve prayed to have them removed. When will the Lord heal me? 

Joseph Smith asked a similar question as he languished in Liberty Jail.

Unable to help the members of the church who were suffering terrible persecutions, unable to be with his family who were suffering, and wading through great personal affliction himself, he too asked, “Lord, How long?” 

1 O God, where art thou? [he prayed]

2 How long shall thy hand be stayed, and thine eye, yea thy pure eye, behold from the eternal heavens the wrongs of thy people and of thy servants, and thine ear be penetrated with their cries?

3 Yea, O Lord, how long shall they suffer these wrongs and unlawful oppressions, before thine heart shall be softened toward them, and thy bowels be moved with compassion toward them? 

The Lord answered without a timeline but with the promise of His peace and of eternal blessings: 

7 My son, peace be unto thy soul; thine adversity and thine afflictions shall be but a small moment;

8 And then, if thou endure it well, God shall exalt thee on high; thou shalt triumph over all thy foes. 

The man at the Pool of Bethesda had waited 38 years to be healed. Many of those whom Christ healed had been waiting all their lives for such a miracle. We don’t know how long we will have to wait, but we can be sure that the compassionate Lord of the universe is aware of us, and that our time will come.

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland taught:

“Some blessings come soon, some come late, and some don’t come until heaven; but for those who embrace the gospel of Jesus Christ, they come.”

He Continued: “Whatever your struggle, my brothers and sisters—mental or emotional or physical or otherwise—do not vote against the preciousness of life by ending it! Trust in God. Hold on in His love. Know that one day the dawn will break brightly and all shadows of mortality will flee . . .

“Believe in miracles . . . [he continued] . . . I have seen so many of them come when every other indication would say that hope was lost. Hope is never lost.”

Just because we are waiting for miracles, does not mean that we are abandoned, or that we have been forgotten. On the contrary, this time of waiting is when the Lord is nearest, when He is actively helping us, and bearing our burdens with us.

And this is a very important principle that I have only recently understood: The Lord has promised that we may partake of the healing blessings of His atonement WHILE we suffer?

There were a people in the Book of Mormon who suffered for a long time with no relief, who prayed often for help that never seemed to come. After spending some time, in misery, at the hands of cruel oppressors . . .

12 . . . Alma and his people (the scripture says). . . did pour out their hearts to [God]; and he did know the thoughts of their hearts.

3 And it came to pass that the voice of the Lord came to them IN their afflictions, saying: Lift up your heads and be of good comfort, for I know of the covenant which ye have made unto me; and I will covenant with my people and deliver them out of bondage.

14 And I will also ease the burdens which are put upon your shoulders, that . . . you cannot feel them upon your backs, even while you are in bondage; and this will I do that ye may stand as witnesses for me hereafter, and that ye may know of a surety that I, the Lord God, do visit my people IN their afflictions.

15 And now it came to pass that the burdens which were laid upon Alma and his brethren were made light; yea, the Lord did strengthen them that they could bear up their burdens with ease, and they did submit cheerfully and with patience to all the will of the Lord.

Eventually the Lord did set these people free, and brought them rejoicing into a new land. But it did not happen quickly, nor in the time frame they’d prayed for. However, as they waited, they learned the important lesson that God was with them in all their suffering, bearing their griefs for them, carrying their sorrows with them, and succoring them through every trial. It is often in a time of suffering, that we most clearly see how much love God has for us, through his son, Jesus Christ.

During our own time of waiting, we will grow closer to Him and come to know him in a personal way THROUGH our suffering. We will become so certain of his love, compassion, and power to heal, that we will be able to stand as future witnesses to the world, and testify that He truly visits his children IN their afflictions.

And at some point, whether sooner or later, all of our suffering will be “consecrated for our own gain” (2 Nephi 2:2), and in a glorious day, everything will be made right.

Elder Holland stated:

“I testify of the holy Resurrection, that unspeakable cornerstone gift in the Atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ! With the Apostle Paul, I testify that that which was sown in corruption will one day be raised in incorruption and that which was sown in weakness will ultimately be raised in power. 11 I bear witness of that day when loved ones whom we knew to have disabilities in mortality will stand before us glorified and grand, breathtakingly perfect in body and mind . . .”

The apostle John saw this moment in vision when he stated:

1 And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away . . .

2 And I . . . .saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven . .

3 And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people . . .

4 And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain:

I testify that Christ’s atonement applies to anything you are suffering. He is with you WHILE you suffer, and He is full of love and compassion for what you are going through. He wants to be with you. When you call after him, he will make his way through the crowds to find you. Then he will ease the burdens which are put upon you, mourn with you, comfort you, watch over you, and work miracles for you.

That, brothers and sisters, is simply who He is, and who He has always been. It is the Jesus Christ I have come to know, and of whom I testify, in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen

About the Speaker

Kurt Fertig

Kurt Fertig began teaching at Ensign College in the Summer of 2021. He teaches courses in Political Science and American History and is currently the Program Chair over four distribution areas in General Education. 

Before coming to the college, Brother Fertig spent 21 years in law enforcement, working as a patrol officer, a detective, a SWAT team member, and Chief of Police. 

He has a Bachelor’s degree in Conservation Biology from Brigham Young University, a Master’s Degree in Criminal Justice from Weber State University, and a Doctorate degree in Political Science from Idaho State University. 

Brother Fertig served as a full-time missionary in the New Hampshire, Manchester mission and has continued his church service by accepting every church calling that has ever been extended to him. He currently serves as the Stake Clerk. 

Although he was raised in North Carolina, Brother Fertig decided he would stay in Utah after he met his wife, Larissa Rice, who is from Salt Lake City. They have been married for over 25 years and have 5 children.
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