Why do Bad Things Happen to Good People?

This is perhaps one of the most common questions asked by the faithful. However, it reveals a doctrinal misunderstanding. Nowhere in the scriptures does the Lord promise roses and sunshine all of the days to the faithful. The Lord said he “sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matthew 5:45). Our Savior himself, although the most righteous of us all, suffered more trials and adversity than us all. As the Lord reminded Joseph Smith in his trials “The Son of Man hath descended below them all. Art thou greater than he?” (D&C 122:8). Elder Maxwell taught, “We should not complain about our own life’s not being a rose garden when we remember who wore the crown of thorns” (Neal A. Maxwell, Ensign, May 1987, 72). If we have the idea in our minds that if we are righteous we won’t suffer, that is a mistaken idea we need to change. We will all go through heartache, trial, disappointment, and adversity. It is part of the plan—part of the test.


We are refined by adversity

But WHY do we need to suffer? Why couldn’t life just have been roses and summer days? President Kimball taught:

Is there not wisdom in his giving us trials that we might rise above them, responsibilities that we might achieve, work to harden our muscles, sorrows to try our souls? Are we not exposed to temptations to test our strength, sickness that we might learn patience, death that we might be immortalized and glorified?

If all the sick for whom we pray were healed, if all the righteous were protected and the wicked destroyed, the whole program of the Father would be annulled and the basic principle of the gospel, free agency, would be ended. No man would have to live by faith.

If joy and peace and rewards were instantaneously given the doer of good, there could be no evil–all would do good but not because of the rightness of doing good. There would be no test of strength, no development of character, no growth of powers, no free agency, only satanic controls.

Should all prayers be immediately answered according to our selfish desires and our limited understanding, then there would be little or no suffering, sorrow, disappointment, or even death, and if these were not, there would also be no joy, success, resurrection, nor eternal life and godhood” (Spencer W. Kimball, Faith Proceeds the Miracle, [1972], 97).

Paul taught that Jesus was “made perfect” because of the things he suffered (see Hebrews 5:8-9). For this reason, Elder Bruce R. McConkie taught: “The greatest trials of life are reserved for the saints” (Bruce R. McConkie, Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, [1965-1973], 3:318). Why?

“The myopic and despairing soul-cry and question, “If there is a God, why does He permit suffering?” reflects a basic failure to understand the very nature of life with its components of chastening and suffering. And as for that question, it is not difficult to imagine who originated it, however understandably sincere some are who now raise it. The question strikes at the heart of Father’s plan, because it comes from him who rejected that plan!

The future duties to be given to some of us in the worlds to come by an omniscient God will require of us an earned sense of esteem as well as proof of our competency. Thus the tests given to us here are given not because God is in doubt as to the outcome, but because we need to grow in order to be able to serve with full effectiveness in the eternity to come” (Neal A. Maxwell, All These Things Shall Give Thee Experience, [1980], 26).

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