We may sometimes feel that we will never heal from things that have happened to us, or from regrets for things we have done or have not done. The Lord has promised that in the next life, He “shall wipe away all tears from [our] eyes, and there shall be no more … sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain …” (Revelation 21:4). How is He going to do that? How can the memories of past pain or of our regrets ever be sweet or holy to us?
Elder Dale G. Renlund of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints addressed this topic at a multi-stake women’s meeting in Provo, Utah, on 11 November 2017. Elder Renlund quoted the Christian scholar C. S. Lewis, who wrote in The Great Divorce: A Dream (2001), 69 (chapter 9) [Elder Renlund also quoted this in his conference talk in April 2018, “Family History and Temple Work: Sealing and Healing,” available at lds.org]:
[Mortals] say of some temporal suffering, “No future bliss can make up for it,” not knowing that Heaven, once attained, will work backwards and turn even that agony into a glory. … The Blessed will say, “We have never lived anywhere except in Heaven.”
Our Savior can, through His mercy, help us to gain a celestial perspective on the painful experiences of our lives. In this way, heaven can “work backwards” to turn the painful and difficult experiences of mortal life into glorious remembrances. The Lord’s holy and heavenly therapy for these post-traumatic stresses will “sanctify to [us our] deepest distress” (Hymn 85, “How Firm a Foundation”).
The Old Testament prophet Joel told of a terrible drought and plague of locusts that occurred in the land of Judah. However, after the people had repented and turned their hearts to the Lord, God promised in Joel 2:25:
I will restore to you the years that the locust hath eaten.
He who was sent to “heal the brokenhearted” (Luke 4:18) will restore us to wholeness. That which we thought was lost will be found (see Luke 15:11–32)—presented to us with His redeeming love: not new, but burnished with the deep, blazing light of mature reflection and gratitude. As He promised the prophet Joseph Smith, whatever happens, “All these things shall give thee experience and shall be for thy good” (D&C 122:7).
Meanwhile, as Elder Jeffrey R. Holland taught in his talk, “Like a Broken Vessel”:
Above all, never lose faith in your Father in Heaven, who loves you more than you can comprehend. As President Monson said … : “That love never changes. … It is there for you when you are sad or happy, discouraged or hopeful. God’s love is there for you whether or not you feel you deserve [it]. It is simply always there.” Never, ever doubt that, and never harden your heart. Faithfully pursue the time-tested devotional practices that bring the Spirit of the Lord into your life. Seek the counsel of those who hold keys for your spiritual well-being. Ask for and cherish priesthood blessings. Take the sacrament every week, and hold fast to the perfecting promises of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. Believe in miracles. I have seen so many of them come when every other indication would say that hope was lost. Hope is never lost. If those miracles do not come soon or fully or seemingly at all, remember the Savior’s own anguished example: if the bitter cup does not pass, drink it and be strong, trusting in happier days ahead.
(Available at lds.org, footnotes omitted.)
Here is a poem I wrote in winter 2017 about this idea:
I will restore to you the years that the locust hath eaten. Joel 2:25.
Some years I chose drought,
and all but invited the locusts to descend.
Other times I neglected the fields.
At times others caused the drought
or sent the locusts;
my joy was withered by their decisions.
I thank Thee for the promises:
Thou hast felt my fasting with me.
I thank Thee for the healing:
I knew it would come someday
like the rustle of wings.
I thank Thee for those who
take my hands and bring me into the
solemn assembly of tear-stained hopes,
and at last to the harvest of rejoicing.
But I wonder about the fields I never saw green,19
the gathering I did not help,
the altars where I did not kneel.
My heart wilts for all I did not choose
and all that others chose to deny me.
And yet—Thou hast always known the
righteous desires of my heart;
and in Thy mercy promised,
to meet my regrets with grace—
I trust Thy loving kindness
to restore all that I lost.
—Lisa Bolin Hawkins
Edited 19 September 2018.