Even though we do not seek suffering, in some instances suffering may be essential. Elder Ballard stated, “Pain and suffering [serve] a necessary purpose in the process of healing” (M. Russell Ballard, A Chance to Start Over: Church Disciplinary Councils and the Restoration of Blessings, Ensign, Sep. 1990). When we sin, we experience the loss of the spirit of the Lord. The small or large measure of suffering we experience can help us desire to repent and again feel the Holy Ghost. The Savior’s suffering was essential so that we all had a way to be resurrected and to be forgiven of our sins. Without His suffering, we could not be saved. In turn, when we sin, if we do not suffer to some degree we won’t fully learn the impact of our sins or the sweet mercy of forgiveness. Adam and Eve were taught that they would understand the bitter so that they could appreciate the sweet. This is why we should not be scared of suffering – it is a natural part of life and helps us learn to appreciate the good in our lives. We do not seek it, but we can find meaning in it. We can also turn to the Lord and partake of the assuaging mercy of the Atonement. We can find that Balm in Gilead.
Many years ago there was a great military leader named Naaman. He was not only a good leader but also a good man. However, he was a leper. A maid to Naaman’s wife was an Israelite. She told Naaman’s wife that there was a man in Israel who could cure Naaman. Naaman went to his king (the king of Syria) who then sent a letter in the hands of Naaman to the king of Israel. The king of Israel was distraught because the king of Syria had asked the king of Israel to cure Naaman of his leprosy, and the king couldn’t do it; he thought the king of Syria was seeking offense – looking for a reason to start a war. However, the prophet Elisha heard about the request and stated, “Wherefore hast thou rent thy clothes? let him come now to me, and he shall know that there is a prophet in Israel” (2 Kings 5:8). In response, the king of Israel sent Naaman to Elisha.
The story continues: “So Naaman came with his horses and with his chariot, and stood at the door of the house of Elisha. And Elisha sent a messenger unto him, saying, Go and wash in Jordan seven times, and thy flesh shall come again to thee, and thou shalt be clean. But Naaman was wroth, and went away, and said, Behold, I thought, He will surely come out to me, and stand, and call on the name of the Lord his God, and strike his hand over the place, and recover the leper. Are not Abana and Pharpar, rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? may I not wash in them, and be clean? So he turned and went away in a rage. And his servants came near, and spake unto him, and said, My father, if the prophet had bid thee do some great thing, wouldest thou not have done it? how much rather then, when he saith to thee, Wash, and be clean?” (2 Kings 5:9-13).
Naaman was firstly offended that Elisha did not come out to great him personally. Then he was offended that the way to be cleansed seemed so minor. He was like the Israelites who did not believe they would be healed by looking upon the snake on the staff Moses held up. However, Naaman was a good man and he listened to his servants; he repented of his initial pride and did as Elisha said.
“Then went he down, and dipped himself seven times in Jordan, according to the saying of the man of God: and his flesh came again like unto the flesh of a little child, and he was clean” (2 Kings 5:14). Naaman washed himself in the river Jordan (where, incidentally, the Savior was baptized) and not only was cured of his leprosy, he came forth effectually reborn with skin like that of “a little child.” By following the counsel of the living prophet, Naaman was reborn and made a new man. By following the prophet, Naaman was relieved of his suffering. It was not the water that cleansed Naaman but the power of the priesthood and his faith in God (or at least his faith that Elisha might be a representative of the One True God).
Naaman had the desire to believe and was blessed. From this we learn that the desire to believe is a sufficient start to having our sufferings washed away in Christ. “But behold, if ye will awake and arouse your faculties, even to an experiment upon my words, and exercise a particle of faith, yea, even if ye can no more than desire to believe, let this desire work in you, even until ye believe in a manner that ye can give place for a portion of my words” (Alma 32:27).