The Agony of Agency: When God Let’s Terrible Things Happen

The Agony of Agency: When God Lets Terrible Things Happen

In Sunday School recently, we discussed the story of Cain and Abel. As we reached the tragic conclusion that left one brother dead and another forever cursed, a classmate said something I’ll never forget.

“God cared more about the agency of Cain than the life of Abel.”

It was a strong statement and one I’ve thought a lot about. I think this statement reflects one of the greatest agonies we experience on earth. It is the agony of agency.

Agency. It’s what we fought for before this life. It is essential to God’s plan of salvation. It is one of God’s greatest gifts. It is a part of our everyday life. It can also, really, really, hurt.

We feel the sting of sin. We worry when others go astray. We mourn the state of the world. We suffer when atrocities are committed against those we love. We feel like dying when those atrocities are committed against us.

Yet, it all continues and we are left in a quandary. Agency, this beautiful gift that allows us to choose Christ, also allows us to choose Satan. When the latter occurs, so does misery. Suddenly, we are not so grateful for agency.

Through the ages, so many have cried out to God, asking, “Where were you?” “Why did you let this happen?” “How could you let this happen?”

“If there really is a God, and if God really is good, he wouldn’t let this happen.”

If you have asked these questions, you are not alone. So, what do we do? How can we hold to our faith when the misuse of agency causes us tremendous pain?

The Nature of God

First and foremost, we should begin with an assessment of our understanding of God.

If we do not know who God is and if we do not have a personal relationship with him, our opinion of his nature and even of his existence can be easily changed.

God is our loving Heavenly Father. He has a body of flesh and bone. We lived with him before this life and we desired to become like him. In his grace, God prepared a plan that would allow us to gain infinite glory and progression.

The Nature of the Test

The plan God created, known as the plan of salvation, required we be tested and face separation from him. To become like God, the test would stretch and change our souls.

The test is centered on two things: agency and Jesus Christ. Ultimately, we all must ask: will we choose Christ? Will we stand by him? Will we follow him? Will we believe and trust in the plan?

This choice is made over and over again in so many different circumstances. God will never step in-between this choice. He will never take away someone’s agency. Consider this quote from President Boyd K. Packer:

“Do not suppose that God willfully causes that, which for His own purposes, he permits.”

It is the choice we made together as the plan was created. God would permit evil to exist so that we may gain experience by choosing Christ in the midst of it and in spite of it.

It is the choice of our lives and our eternity.

The Choice of Christ

In all things, Christ is our exemplar. He gives us the perfect example of how to react when agency brings us agony. He experienced this choice himself.

He was under no obligation to be our Savior. Do we realize that? Christ made conscious use of his agency in the most extreme circumstances.

As he faced the full weight of our every agony and misery, Christ even asked if the cup could be removed. In that moment, he could have said no when God made his will clear. He could have walked out of the garden. He could have come down from the cross.

We didn’t earn or deserve his redemption. There was no logical reason for Christ to press forward. Why should he die for us?

He chose it all because he loved us and he trusted God’s plan.

He did it, and God asked him to do it, so when we walk through Gethsemane Christ can sob with us, can hold us, and can remind us that he can transform our suffering into something greater.

The Choice You Make

So, you are there. You are in your Gethsemane moment. You face pain you don’t deserve and God is asking you to hold the weight of it. Why?

Christ became the Savior of all mankind when he chose to stay true as he bore agony he didn’t deserve, the consequences of mankind’s agency.

Likewise, we become like the Savior when we stay true in our own sacred version of those circumstances.

It is a way to exaltation. It is the way.

It doesn’t make it easy. It doesn’t make it fair. It doesn’t change your circumstances. However, this knowledge can help us change the choice we make when faced with the agony of agency.

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