Sunday, July 20, 2008

Why Bad Things Happen to Good People

A few weeks ago, I read the comments of an anonymous writer who was angry at God and stopped believing in Him because He didn't stop one of her family members from raping her. My heart aches for her, and my remarks today, hopefully, will help her to reconcile herself to God. And I hope all of you who read this will also understand a little better why bad things happen to good people. While I don't know all the answers, I hope it helps.


You Are in Good Company

If you have ever suffered unjustly, you need to know that you are among very good company. Jesus Christ is the Son of God and the only perfect person to have ever walked the Earth. He went about doing good. He healed the sick, raised the dead, and caused the lame to leap, the blind to see, and the dumb to speak. He forgave sins. And He blessed children.
Yet His own community rejected Him. His brothers and sisters, although they did eventually believe in Him, rejected Him. The ruling classes of the Jews sought to destroy Him. Some tried to stone Him.
In Gethsemane, Jesus' suffering for the sins of the world was so great that He bled from every pore, and one of His best friends, Judas Iscariot, betrayed Him for thirty pieces of silver. He was taken and judged by the rulers of the Jews. They mocked Him, beat Him, spit on Him, and delivered Him to Pilate to be crucified.
Pilate sent Jesus to be scourged. Chunks of His flesh were torn away by the whip the Roman soldiers used. Then the soldiers made a crown of thorns and forced it onto His head. They mocked Him and eventually laid a cross on His back. The strain was so great that He could not carry it and a spectator was forced to carry the cross for Him.
The Roman soldiers nailed Him to a cross. Passers by continued to mock Him. And in the darkness of Golgotha, God Himself forsook Jesus.
He was alone in His agony.
But He did not suffer in vain. His willing sacrifice saved us. And on the third day, He arose from the tomb, triumphant over suffering, sorrow, death, and hell.
No one was or will be better than Jesus. And no one has or will suffer more than Him. Take comfort in knowing that not even the Best Person who ever lived, even God's own Son, escaped suffering and sorrow.
Free Will
God gave us all free will. We had free will before we came to Earth. During our pre-Earth life, free will was so important to God, that He allowed one third part of the hosts of heaven led by Lucifer to rebel and fight against Him, and because they rebelled, they were cast out of heaven. (Revelation 12:7-11; D&C 29:36).
Our right to choose continues on this Earth. Adam and Eve had the choice to eat the forbidden fruit or not. Joshua counseled Israel to choose to serve the Lord. (Joshua 24:15). And the Book of Mormon teaches that we have been instructed to know good from evil and that we are free to choose liberty and eternal life through Jesus Christ or captivity and death through the power of the devil. (2 Nephi 2:5, 27).
But there is a problem with free will: Inevitably someone will choose evil, and we know too well the horrors that mankind has inflicted on others, sometimes in the name of God.
Still, we can't attribute that evil to God. The prophet Enoch had a vision that revealed what God thinks about the destruction, evil, and carnage that fills the Earth:

And it came to pass that the God of heaven looked upon the residue of the people, and he wept; and Enoch bore record of it, saying: How is it that the heavens weep, and shed forth their tears as the rain upon the mountains?

And Enoch said unto the Lord: How is it that thou canst weep, seeing thou art holy, and from all eternity to all eternity?

And were it possible that man could number the particles of the earth, yea, millions of earths like this, it would not be a beginning to the number of thy creations; and thy curtains are stretched out still; and yet thou art there, and thy bosom is there; and also thou art just; thou art merciful and kind forever;

And thou hast taken Zion to thine own bosom, from all thy creations, from all eternity to all eternity; and naught but peace, justice, and truth is the habitation of thy throne; and mercy shall go before thy face and have no end; how is it thou canst weep?

The Lord said unto Enoch: Behold these thy brethren; they are the workmanship of mine own hands, and I gave unto them their knowledge, in the day I created them; and in the Garden of Eden, gave I unto man his agency;

And unto thy brethren have I said, and also given commandment, that they should love one another, and that they should choose me, their Father; but behold, they are without affection, and they hate their own blood;

And the fire of mine indignation is kindled against them; and in my hot displeasure will I send in the floods upon them, for my fierce anger is kindled against them.

Behold, I am God; Man of Holiness is my name; Man of Counsel is my name; and Endless and Eternal is my name, also.

Wherefore, I can stretch forth mine hands and hold all the creations which I have made; and mine eye can pierce them also, and among all the workmanship of mine hands there has not been so great wickedness as among thy brethren.

But behold, their sins shall be upon the heads of their fathers; Satan shall be their father, and misery shall be their doom; and the whole heavens shall weep over them, even all the workmanship of mine hands; wherefore should not the heavens weep, seeing these shall suffer? (Moses 7: 28-37
It is not God's will that motivates the horrors that mankind afflicts on each other but mankind's.
Life Is a Test
It seems strange then that God wants to us love and serve one another and that He weeps when He sees what we do to each other but He won't stop us. But we must remember this life is a test to see if we will choose to serve Him. (Abraham 3:24-25). And there will be a final judgment. (See Revelation 14:7).
How could God judge us if He didn't allow us to act? We would all be spotless because never allowed us to sin. And if He sent us to Hell, it would be unjust because we never did anything wrong.
But I don't think we recognize the gift that God has given us in our free will. None of us like being forced to do something. And that is exactly what He will not do. He loves us enough to let us do what we will. Yet He longs for us to choose Him, to love Him, to serve Him, and that mean loving and serving our fellow man.
That is what life is about: learning to choose God.
And a difficult part of life is opposition. There must be opposition in all things because if we never tasted bitter, we could not taste sweet. If we never experienced sorrow, how could we recognize joy? If we never felt anxiety, we could never know peace. (See 2 Nephi 2:11-13).
Joseph Smith was imprisoned unjustly for several months in Liberty Jail. At the same time, the Mormons in Missouri were driven out under an extermination order. Joseph's jailers were abusive and at one time even tried to feed him human flesh. But God was with Him:
My son, peace be unto thy soul; thine adversity and thine afflictions shall be but a small moment;

And then, if thou endure it well, God shall exalt thee on high; thou shalt triumph over all thy foes.

Thy friends do stand by thee, and they shall hail thee again with warm hearts and friendly hands.

Thou art not yet as Job; thy friends do not contend against thee, neither charge thee with transgression, as they did Job. (D&C 121:7-10).
If thou art called to pass through tribulation; if thou art in perils among false brethren; if thou art in perils among robbers; if thou art in perils by land or by sea;

If thou art accused with all manner of false accusations; if thine enemies fall upon thee; if they tear thee from the society of thy father and mother and brethren and sisters; and if with a drawn sword thine enemies tear thee from the bosom of thy wife, and of thine offspring, and thine elder son, although but six years of age, shall cling to thy garments, and shall say, My father, my father, why can’t you stay with us? O, my father, what are the men going to do with you? and if then he shall be thrust from thee by the sword, and thou be dragged to prison, and thine enemies prowl around thee like wolves for the blood of the lamb;

And if thou shouldst be cast into the pit, or into the hands of murderers, and the sentence of death passed upon thee; if thou be cast into the deep; if the billowing surge conspire against thee; if fierce winds become thine enemy; if the heavens gather blackness, and all the elements combine to hedge up the way; and above all, if the very jaws of hell shall gape open the mouth wide after thee, know thou, my son, that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good.

The Son of Man hath descended below them all. Art thou greater than he? (D&C 122:5-8).
Life is hard. And even harder is that usually the only way through a trial is through it! But there is good in our suffering. And I have learned that during and after a trial I am closer to God than before.

My own ancestors were Mormon pioneers who crossed the American plains pulling handcarts. They started late and were caught in an awful snowstorm on the high plains of Wyoming. Many in their handcart company died. Of those who survived, most lost fingers, toes, feet, hands, legs, etc . . . to frostbite.
Years later, members of the Church criticized the leaders of the Church for allowing my ancestors and their company to go through such an awful trial. A man who was in that company stood and responded to them:
I ask you to stop this criticism. You are discussing a matter you know nothing about. Cold historic facts mean nothing here, for they give no proper interpretation of the questions involved. Mistake to send the Handcart Company out so late in the season? Yes.But I was in that company and my wife was in it and Sister Nellie Unthank whom you have cited was there, too. We suffered beyond anything you can imagine and many died of exposure and starvation, but did you ever hear a survivor of that company utter a word of criticism? …
I have pulled my handcart when I was so weak and weary from illness and lack of food that I could hardly put one foot ahead of the other. I have looked ahead and seen a patch of sand or a hill slope and I have said, I can go only that far and there I must give up, for I cannot pull the load through it.
I have gone on to that sand and when I reached it, the cart began pushing me. I have looked back many times to see who was pushing my cart, but my eyes saw no one. I knew then that the angels of God were there.
Was I sorry that I chose to come by handcart? No. Neither then nor any minute of my life since. The price we paid to become acquainted with God was a privilege to pay, and I am thankful that I was privileged to come in the Martin Handcart Company. (James E. Faust, "The Refiner’s Fire," Ensign, May 1979, 53, emphasis added).
The price of knowing God is to pass through the trials of life. But know that God is with us. There are unseen forces helping us. And They will continue to help us, if we let them.
Condemn the Wicked
As I said that there will be a judgment, another reason why God allows people to do wicked things is so that the judgment against them will be just.
In ancient America, two missionaries, Alma and Amulek, succeeded in convincing many in a city called Ammonihah that there is a God and that His Son, Jesus Christ would come to redeem all mankind. But most of the people in Ammonihah rejected the missionaries. And they burned the women and children who believed in Jesus Christ and forced Alma and Amulek to watch.
Amulek could not stand it and he wanted to stop it:
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.
Please note two things. First, the wicked will not go unpunished. Second, the Lord receives the victims of mankind's horrendous acts of brutality and depravity "unto Himself."
There Is Hope Through Jesus Christ
Finally, remember that you do not suffer alone. Jesus Christ truly did descend below all things. And His sacrifice was not just to heal us of our sins and death. No. He also suffered our sorrows, our sickness, our afflictions, our trials, and our troubles. (Alma 7:11-12).
He knows what you're feeling because He felt it. In a way that we don't understand, He felt it. He know what it's like to be raped, beaten, tortured, murdered, hated, sick, depressed, anxious, and what any other trial feels like.
He knows.
And I know He knows because He has succored me in my trials and troubles. Thankfully, they have not been anything near what others have suffered. But Jesus Christ has come to me, has
held me, and has healed me.
And I know that He will heal all those who suffer and come to Him.


Anonymous said...

I agree with the humans causing pain piece, but I can't go with you on the God testing us part. I never saw Jesus test people by putting them through pain- I saw Jesus love people and call them to follow him. The following proves to be a challenge with the whole dying to self bit but it is not in any way similar to the feeling of death that someone feels when physically or mentally abused. A God that tests us would be like an inverse Garden of Eden- meaning that there would be a forbidden fruit but we wouldn't know which one it was until after we had eaten it- the whole while God waiting to see how we would react.

Craig said...

But what about Job?

Anonymous said...

Good question. At the most Job wasn't being tested by God as much as God was allowing Satan to touch Job. More importantly this is done before Christ. Like I said I never saw Jesus test people by putting them through pain- have you?

Craig said...


Before I say anything else, your first comment reminded me of a talk given by Richard G. Scott, an Apostle of the Lord, Jesus Christ. He addresses the awful consequences of abuse. Maybe you would like to read it:,5232,23-1-851-15,00.html

I don't see much of a difference between God willing us to pass through a trial and God permitting someone else to try us. Either way, He has power to stop it. And so often, He doesn't.

Have you considered John 15:2? "Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit."

Also consider Hebrews 12:5-11:

5 And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him:
6 For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.
7 If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not?
8 But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons.
9 Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live?
10 For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness.
11 Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.

Consider Mosiah 23:22-24, too:
21 Nevertheless the Lord seeth fit to chasten his people; yea, he trieth their patience and their faith.
22 Nevertheless—whosoever putteth his trust in him the same shall be lifted up at the last day. Yea, and thus it was with this people.
23 For behold, I will show unto you that they were brought into bondage, and none could deliver them but the Lord their God, yea, even the God of Abraham and Isaac and of Jacob.
24 And it came to pass that he did deliver them, and he did show forth his mighty power unto them, and great were their rejoicings.

And yes, I have seen very good Christians pass through severe trials including incapacitating disease, the death of a loved one, depression (my own current trial, not that I'm a very good Christian), and other problems.

Craig said...

p.s. and when I say trial, I am referring to a Job-like trial. Not being the victim of murder, rape, abuse, etc. . . .

Anonymous said...

Like I said I never saw Jesus test people by putting them through pain- have you?

Also I think there is a crucial difference between acting and not acting, God causing pain versus God not stopping pain. Again a God that causes us pain to test us in some way is not at all consistent with the God that sent his only begotten son to die for us so that we may have eternal life. A God that loves us that much, and his Son who loves us that much don't seem like the kind of people who would hurt us in order to make us love them more.