I was reading this morning about some of Jesus’ miracles in Galilee – the man possessed with devils, the woman who had endured a haemorrhage for years, the daughter of Jairus, and the blind men. It seems, from the accounts, that everywhere Jesus went, there was someone who came to him for help; he hardly had the chance to rest before the next need arose. I imagine him exhausted but unable to cease his miraculous healings because he couldn’t deny these people. But he was the Son of God, not merely mortal, so I also imagine he had greater spiritual strength with which to do it. The last few verses of Matthew, chapter 9, illustrate the situation:
And Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people.
But when he saw the multitudes (this is after all the miracles mentioned in the last couple of chapters, including stilling the storm on Galilee), he was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted (“were harassed”), and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd.
Then saith he unto his disciples, The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few;
Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth labourers into his harvest. (Matthew 9: 35-38)
Those who say, “If there’s a God, why doesn’t he do something about all the suffering in the world?” haven’t read this scripture. Reading the New Testament makes so obvious Christ’s compassion – I love how it mentions, in the accounts of many of the healings, that he “had compassion on” them; as though he saw their need and could not help but be drawn out towards them. The account of his visit to those in the Americas, after his resurrection, also demonstrates this. In this account, he has taught the people much, and is about to leave so they can take it all in before he returns the next day. But as he looks out upon the multitude of people, he sees their tears and discerns their desire for him to stay “a little longer with them”. You can just imagine, as one of those people, feeling that. Then he says, “Behold, my bowels are filled with compassion towards you,” and invites them to bring all of their sick and afflicted in any way to him and he “will heal them, for I have compassion upon you; my bowels are filled with mercy” (3 Nephi 17). This compassion that becomes so evident through the scriptures fits with Jesus’ role as our Saviour; He fills that role because of his infinite love and compassion for our otherwise helpless state. We need Him. He knows it and doesn’t deny us. Continually, the invitation is to come unto Him and be healed. The glorious thing is that this power to heal (physically and spiritually) exists on the earth today.
It’s important to note that the healings that Jesus and his apostles performed were individual, not encompassing a whole nation or the whole earth all at once, as the “why doesn’t God do something about all the suffering” question seems to require. Each individual person had need, each came to him or was brought to him, and each one healed had to have faith in Christ’s power to heal them, just as they do today. Jesus said to the woman at the well of Jacob, “Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again; But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life” (John 4:12-13). The point of these healings wasn’t just physical; Christ desired them to be healed completely, made whole. He also desires people now to be made whole, and the only way for that to occur is for them to come to Him, learn of Him, and become His people. He focuses on the whole person.
The problems of the world won’t be solved by divine edict; they can only be solved by each person becoming pure, charitable, and good. This sort of lasting healing begins on the inside and moves outward; as we change ourselves – allow Christ and His gospel to change us – the world is changed.
So God doesn’t cause all the problems of our world to be solved in one fell swoop; He allows each person to make the choice to change within themselves. When they have been changed, they move outward to help change others. As Joseph Smith said, “A man filled with the love of God, is not content with blessing his family alone, but ranges through the whole world, anxious to bless the whole human race.” These individual changes require the process of time; and in helping each other become whole, each person grows better themselves. If God were to take that opportunity away from us and do it all (more obviously) Himself, we would miss this growth of becoming more loving creatures.
God is changing the world and saving it from all its suffering; but He isn’t doing it according to any of our schedules. He is doing it according to a divine schedule that He understands infinitely better than we do. I am grateful He allows us the opportunity to help Him do His work of peace and compassion; to be fellow-labourers in the harvest.