I know that someone is going to read the title of this article and their first thought is going to be, “Keith, I think that you might have that a little backwards. Shouldn’t the title read “Why do bad things happen to good people?” Perhaps it should, for that seems to be the question that is asked with great frequency these days. People have a hard time understanding why it is that the harder they try, there always seem to be some obstacle that stands in their way of succeeding. They believe that they are good people, so why do bad things always seem to happen to them? Why is it that they are always the ones that seem to find themselves in financial distress, without employment, in marriages that just don’t seem to work and sometimes ultimately end in divorce, or always in poor health or constantly sick? Why is it that it seems they are always the ones who suffer while the bad people of the world seem to have it all and never have to deal with such adversities in life? Some even take it to the far extreme as to say and believe that God does not love them and that He is punishing them for one reason or another.
It would be easy to answer the question by simply saying that into every life a little rain must fall, and that rain does fall on both the just and the unjust. But that would not prove to be a satisfactory answer for most, as perhaps their next question would be, “Ok Keith, if that is the case, then why does it always seem to downpour on me and only sprinkle on others? Why isn’t the amount of rain evenly distributed on good people as well as bad people?” That leads right back to the idea behind the question that was originally asked, and so we find that the discussion leads us into a continuous, endless circle without any real resolution.
First of all, and perhaps in some cases we will have to agree to disagree, we need to establish the fact that we are all children of our Heavenly Father and He does love each of us equally and unconditionally. However, we have been reminded in the scriptures that this earth life is a time to prepare, a time to learn, and a time to progress (see Alma 34:32-34). Each of us has been given the ability to choose. Therefore, we have the opportunity to make bad choices as well as good choices. In other words, a lot of the suffering and bad things that occur in our lives happen because of our poor choices. In some cases, not all, we are the ones who “allow” bad things to happen.
Sometimes the bad things that happen are a result of evil choices by others that cause suffering to the innocent. An excellent example of this is found in the Book of Mormon in the book of Alma. While two great men, Alma and Amulek, were preaching to the ancient people of Ammonihah, they were thrown into prison. They were forced to watch as the believers, including women and children, were thrown into a fire and burned along with the scriptures. Distressed, Amulek asked if they could call upon God’s power to stop it. But the Spirit told Alma that “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” (Alma 14:11). The good news is that those who are innocent will be received by the Lord in glory, and those who have injured the innocent will be judged by the Lord.
The book of Job in the Old Testament also addresses this issue. God had allowed Satan to do everything he wanted to Job except kill him. Job responded to this by saying, “Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither: the Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21). Throughout all of his trials, afflictions, and adversities, Job continued to testify of his confidence and trust in the Lord and said, “Wherefore do I take my flesh in my teeth, and put my life in mine hand? Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him: but I will maintain mine own ways before him. He also shall be my salvation: for an hypocrite shall not come before him” (Job 13:14-16). Job did not understand why God had allowed the things He did, but he knew God loved him and so in spite of his situation and circumstances he “sinned not, nor charged God foolishly” (Job 1:22). Ultimately, in our times of trials and adversity, instead of doubting God’s goodness, we should learn to “Trust in the Lord with all [our] heart; and lean not unto [our] own understanding. In all [our] ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct [our] paths” (Proverbs 3:5, 6).
In other cases, accidents take place where fault or choice is not an issue. In those cases, the Lord has promised us the strength to cope with the things we must live with. Often people who are injured permanently will tell you that they have learned many great things and have become better people even though they may wish that their accident had never occurred. Doctrine and Covenants 58:2–5 reminds us:
For verily I say unto you, blessed is he that keepeth my commandments, whether in life or in death; and he that is faithful in tribulation, the reward of the same is greater in the kingdom of heaven. Ye cannot behold with your natural eyes, for the present time, the design of your God concerning those things which shall come hereafter, and the glory which shall follow after much tribulation. For after much tribulation come the blessings. Wherefore the day cometh that ye shall be crowned with much glory; the hour is not yet, but is nigh at hand. Remember this, which I tell you before, that you may lay it to heart, and receive that which is to follow.
And so, that is why I propose that the better question to ask is “Why do good things happen to bad people?” In Romans 5:8 we are taught, “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Despite the evil, wicked, sinful nature of the people of this world, God still loves us. He loves us so much that He gave His only begotten Son to be the propitiation for all of our sins – past, present, and future. Truly He is the Lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world, for He who knew no sin became the sacrificial lamb. He willingly gave His life to pay a debt that He did not owe, and one that none of us could have ever paid on our own. Because of His atoning sacrifice a way has been made possible for each of us, both good people, as well as bad people through the process of repentance, to one day return home to live eternally with our Heavenly Father.
Yes, sometimes bad things happen to people who seem undeserving of them. However, regardless of our situations or circumstances in life we must remember that God is good, just, loving, kind, and merciful. The Lord is aware of us all. He has shown us the way to return to Him. But, we have the choice whether to remain faithful or turn away from Him. The Lord can make weak things become strong, including our faith. We will be blessed exceedingly through the eternities if we will have faith and put our trust in Him and endure to the end!