Why do bad things happen to good people? It’s probably the oldest question in the book, and no one really has a good answer. In a world where children get cancer, where college students are abducted, where marriages dissolve, and where typhoons rage across archipelagos, it’s easy to wonder where God is in all those sorrows. If God encompasses everything good, why is this world full of so many bad things?
1. Perfect truth in an imperfect world
Yes, God is perfect. He’s perfectly good. This world, however, and the people in it, are not perfect. When God sent us here, He gave us our moral agency – the ability to choose between right and wrong. This means that He won’t ever interfere with someone’s right to choose, even if that choice is a harmful one. Sometimes we make choices that may be right for us individually, but that may still hurt others (like breaking off a relationship).
This earth is also imperfect. This means that natural disasters are par for the course: earthquakes, hurricanes, wildfires, floods, tsunamis, and typhoons. In the Bible God sometimes used natural disasters to wipe out wickedness, but there’s no way we can make those judgments now. Our job is simply to prepare as much as we can, and give as much as we can in time, money, and supplies to those who need it.
2. We need adversity
If we came to this earth to make choices, then we need opposition in those choices. In the Book of Mormon (a book of ancient scripture chronicling the civilizations in the ancient Americas) we read that “it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things. If not so . . . righteousness could not be brought to pass, neither wickedness, neither holiness nor misery, neither good nor bad” (2 Nephi 2:11). Without opposition we wouldn’t be able to make choices.
If bad things never happened to us, we wouldn’t ever naturally feel the need to change or repent or seek God. If we never experienced adversity we wouldn’t truly know what happiness or peace is. When we undergo hardship, we come to know the Savior in more precious and real ways.
President Henry B. Eyring, First Counselor in the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (inadvertently referred to as the “Mormon” Church), said this about adversity:
We must all deal with adversity. There may be periods, sometimes long ones, when our lives seem to flow with little difficulty. But it is in the nature of being human that comfort gives way to distress, periods of good health come to an end, and misfortunes arrive. Particularly when the comfortable times have gone on for a while, the arrival of suffering or the loss of material security can bring fear and sometimes even anger. (Henry B. Eyring, “Adversity,” Ensign, May 2009).
No one can go through mortality and escape bad things. It is part of the experience, and God will be with us through all of it.
3. We learn to turn to God
Sometimes when bad things happen, it’s hard to accept them gracefully. Sometimes we are angry and scared and consumed by thoughts of unfairness. This is normal to feel this way, though it’s not the most productive. When we’re in the midst of challenges and tragedy, Heavenly Father is always with us, even when we choose to reject His love. Conversely when we choose to open ourselves to His compassion, we come closer to Him and feel more thoroughly of the love He has for us.
My purpose today is to assure you that our Heavenly Father and the Savior live and that They love all humanity. The very opportunity for us to face adversity and affliction is part of the evidence of Their infinite love. God gave us the gift of living in mortality so that we could be prepared to receive the greatest of all the gifts of God, which is eternal life. Then our spirits will be changed. We will become able to want what God wants, to think as He think, and thus be prepared for the trust of an endless posterity to teach and to lead through tests to be raised up to qualify to live forever in eternal life. (Henry B. Eyring, “Adversity,” Ensign, May 2009).
4. Adversity teaches us compassion
The most important characteristics we could ever hope to cultivate in this life are those our Savior lived: love, kindness, compassion, and mercy. Adversity in our lives and in the lives of others gives us opportunities to seek out those more tender qualities. If bad things didn’t happen in this world, where would we learn how to give, how to accept help, how to feel for people we may never even meet? Trials can be divisive, but they can also be unifying in our communities, countries, and even throughout the world.
Without adversity, our world would be flat, and unprogressive. Adversity challenges the human spirit to grow, to overcome, and to believe. Facing hardship refines us and makes us better people than we would be otherwise. We don’t have to be excited when bad things happen, but through Jesus Christ, we will find opportunities to make ourselves more like Him.
5. We’re reminded that God is always with us, in times of peace and trial
Just because bad things happen doesn’t mean that God has abandoned us. Disaster isn’t proof that God doesn’t exist. Hardship, whether in the form of personal injury, illness, or widespread catastrophe, actually supports the existence of a loving Heavenly Father. No matter who we are or where we are we can call upon Him for strength and comfort, before, during, and after adversity. The truth is that each and every one of us will experience adversity. We can do it alone, or we can do it with God. When we deal with our hardships alongside Heavenly Father, we will find a singular peace that we couldn’t find anywhere else. Jesus Christ suffered for all of us, and His sacrifice qualifies Him to be the perfect salve to our pains, it enables us to help and comfort others. We can become better men and women because of Jesus Christ.
God is with us always, in good times and hard times. He allows hard times to happen because He wants us to grow and change. Sometimes those trials are almost unbearable. Sometimes they even mean that a loved one has left this world. Because of Jesus Christ, we will see our friends and families after this life. Because of the Savior adversity doesn’t have to be hopeless. Rather, adversity is proof of a loving and ever-present Father in Heaven.
Charlotte graduated from Brigham Young University with a bachelor's degree in English, with an emphasis in editing. During her education she interned with the Neal A.Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship, BYU Publications, and the New Era magazine. Charlotte currently lives in Portland, Oregon, with her husband and son. She's a stay-at-home-mom and has been able to keep up her writing through maintaining a personal blog (smallandtrivial.blogspot.com).