Gospel Q&A is a series from LDS Daily that strives to answer important gospel questions from readers. Today, we’ll be answering the question, “Why do bad things happen to good people?” Do you have a question you’d like to see answered? Send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave it in the comments below.
Why Do Bad Things Happen to Good People?
This heavy question is a tough one for most people and touches us all sooner or later. We may be asking for ourselves, or for other people who seem to be innocent of wrongdoing, but who are suffering nonetheless. We may wonder how a God who loves us can watch us suffer instead of intervening. Let’s look at a few important points to remember when we or other loved ones suffer.
God Doesn’t See Things the Way We Do
I had a doctor friend whose family really wrestled with the question of why children had to suffer and die. It’s important to remember that God doesn’t generally view death as the tragedy we do.
D&C 122:9 says, “Thy days are known, and thy years shall not be numbered less; therefore, fear not what man can do, for God shall be with you forever and ever.”
When God has ordained the time for death, He isn’t punishing His children. The death of an innocent child is not tragic to God; it’s simply time for them to come home.
From His perspective, we can see that death isn’t a tragedy because, through Christ, we can all be reunited—without the suffering that accompanied life on earth.
Sometimes, our suffering is not unto death but comes at the hands of others. To be clear, it is never God’s will that one of His children abuses or mistreats another. He weeps with us in our sorrows. His Son quite literally has suffered from our suffering. Elder David A. Bednar taught, “The Savior has suffered not just for our sins and iniquities —but also for our physical pains and anguish, our weaknesses and shortcomings, our fears and frustrations, our disappointments and discouragement, our regrets and remorse, our despair and desperation, the injustices and inequities we experience, and the emotional distresses that beset us.
There is no physical pain, no spiritual wound, no anguish of soul or heartache, no infirmity or weakness you or I ever confront in mortality that the Savior did not experience first. In a moment of weakness we may cry out, ‘No one knows what it is like. No one understands.’ But the Son of God perfectly knows and understands, for He has felt and borne our individual burdens. And because of His infinite and eternal sacrifice (see Alma 34:14), He has perfect empathy and can extend to us His arm of mercy. He can reach out, touch, succor, heal, and strengthen us to be more than we could ever be and help us to do that which we could never do relying only upon our own power.”
God has provided deliverance from our suffering through the Savior, Jesus Christ. While some suffering will not end in this life, all suffering will cease in the life to come. If we are called to endure through this life, let us endure “with a firm hope that [we] shall one day rest from all [our] afflictions” (Alma 34:41). God will stand with us as we endure. And He will be sure justice is meted out on those who have used their agency to cause us harm.
God Will Not Remove Others’ Agency—But He Will Let Them Pay the Consequences of Their Choices
When the Book of Mormon missionaries Alma and Amulek were forced to watch faithful followers of Christ being murdered by evil men, Amulek wanted to intervene and stop the suffering. While this is a good impulse, Alma said the Spirit stopped him from intervening. Alma 14:10-11 says,
“And when Amulek saw the pains of the women and children who were consuming in the fire, he also was pained; and he said unto Alma: How can we witness this awful scene? Therefore let us stretch forth our hands, and exercise the power of God which is in us, and save them from the flames.
But Alma said unto him: The Spirit constraineth me that I must not stretch forth mine hand; for behold the Lord receiveth them up unto himself, in glory; and he doth suffer that they may do this thing, or that the people may do this thing unto them, according to the hardness of their hearts, that the judgments which he shall exercise upon them in his wrath may be just; and the blood of the innocent shall stand as a witness against them, yea, and cry mightily against them at the last day.”
Sparing the victims would have meant they stayed on the earth with the great pains of having been burned and would have continued on suffering the pains of a fallen world. It also would have spared the perpetrators from the consequences of their sins. Instead, God received the innocent unto Himself and would ensure that justice befalls the guilty.
Growth Happens in the Pain
In my own life, I have found that sometimes my prayers to be more like Him have been answered through my times of trial. My broken leg taught me to have more sympathy for physical suffering. My miscarriages taught me to be more compassionate. My depression taught me to be less judgmental.
The scriptures teach us that Jesus Christ is “a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief” (Isaiah 53:3).
Additionally, Moroni admonishes his son Mormon “to pray with all the energy of heart . . . that when he shall appear we shall be like him” (Moroni 7:48).
How can we hope to be like Him unless we have also become acquainted with grief? Elder Neal A. Maxwell taught, “How can you and I really expect to glide naively through life, as if to say, ‘Lord, give me experience, but not grief, not sorrow, not pain, not opposition, not betrayal, and certainly not to be forsaken. Keep from me, Lord, all those experiences which made Thee what Thou art! Then let me come and dwell with Thee and fully share Thy joy!'”
Becoming Like the Savior is Worth All Costs
The Savior gave us this commandment: “I would that ye should be perfect even as I, or your Father who is in heaven is perfect” (3 Nephi 12:48).
While this perfection won’t be attained in this life, the commandment is in place so we continue to strive for better.
Elder Clark G. Gilbert of the Seventy said, “Our future will be determined far less by our starting point and much more by our slope. Jesus Christ sees divine potential no matter where we start. He saw it in the beggar, the sinner, and the infirm. He saw it in the fisherman, the tax collector, and even the zealot. No matter where we start, Christ considers what we do with what we are given. While the world focuses on our intercept, God focuses on our slope. In the Lord’s calculus, He will do everything He can to help us turn our slopes toward heaven.”
And if we, too, focus on our slope and not our present circumstances, we may find that the changes wrought in us by faithful endurance through our challenges are directing our slope toward Him.
If you are finding yourself in trying circumstances, use it as a launching pad for growth, and believe that better days are ahead.
In the words of Elder Holland, “Keep Trying. Keep trusting. Keep believing. Keep growing. Heaven is cheering you on today, tomorrow, and forever.”
And may I add, be faithful. Be hopeful. Becoming like the Savior will be worth all costs.
Disclaimer: While all of my answers will use scriptures and/or words of modern prophets, I do not represent The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I don’t believe any of my answers are comprehensive. I’m just one person using the gospel I have been blessed with to bring hope, peace, and answers to other seekers of truth.