Monday, July 6, 2009

Why God lets hard things happen

Many people have wondered how God can allow so much evil and sorrow to exist in the world. Terrible things happen, even to very good people. If God is loving and all-powerful, some wonder, why does he not stop those determined to do evil from causing so much pain and destruction to innocent men, women, and children? Why does he not heal every disease and stay every storm? Because of the Latter-Day Saint view on the purpose of life, we have a unique perspective on why God permits this kind of suffering. Whether a challenge is sent by God or whether it is merely permitted by Him as the result of laws that He has established, there is a purpose in the trials that we must go through, and He has not left us to navigate the difficulties of life alone. As we learn through our trials to trust in God, we come to understand that He loves us and is faithful to us, even if He does not immediately relieve our suffering. If we trust in God, He will turn everything we experience to our benefit. "All things work together for good to them that love God." Rom. 8:28

If we could see things as God does, we would know that, compared to eternity, our time on this earth is very short. We lived with God before we came to this earth and will return to him after our experience here is finished. The brief time of this life is given to us for our benefit and the things which we experience here are necessary for our growth. "If we looked at mortality as the whole of existence, then pain, sorrow, failure, and short life would be calamity. But if we look upon life as an eternal thing stretching far into the premortal past and on into the eternal post-death future, then all happenings may be put in proper perspective." Kimball "No pain that we suffer, no trial that we experience is wasted. It ministers to our education, to the development of such qualities as patience, faith, fortitude and humility. All that we suffer and all that we endure, especially when we endure it patiently, builds up our characters, purifies our hearts, expands our souls, and makes us more tender and charitable, more worthy to be called the children of God … and it is through sorrow and suffering, toil and tribulation, that we gain the education that we come here to acquire and which will make us more like our Father and Mother in heaven. …” Whitney

Before we came to this earth, we lived in Heaven with God. There was a great war fought in Heaven over the agency of man: "Satan...came before me, saying—Behold, here am I, send me, I will be thy son, and I will redeem all mankind, that one soul shall not be lost...wherefore give me thine honor. But, behold, my Beloved Son, which was my Beloved and Chosen from the beginning, said unto me—Father, thy will be done, and the glory be thine forever. Wherefore, because that Satan rebelled against me, and sought to destroy the agency of man, which I, the Lord God, had given him, and also, that I should give unto him mine own power; by the power of mine Only Begotten, I caused that he should be cast down; And he became Satan, yea, even the devil, the father of all lies, to deceive and to blind men, and to lead them captive at his will, even as many as would not hearken unto my voice." Moses 4:1-4 For 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...the Lord God gave unto man that he should act for himself. Wherefore, man could not act for himself save it should be that he was enticed by the one or the other. 2 Ne. 2:11,16 And it must needs be that the devil should tempt the children of men, or they could not be agents unto themselves; D&C 36:39

Lucifer intended to force all men to do the will of the Father. God knew that we could not develop if we were not free to choose and if we never faced a trial of our faith. Christ's desire was to carry out the plan of His Father, not in forcing compliance to God's laws, but in providing a way for men to overcome, through his grace, the ill effects of the misuse of that great gift of free agency.

God respects our right to choose our own course. In the premortal world He taught us his ways, then sent us to earth where we would be free to choose whether we would follow Him. In order that we would be truly free, we were born into this earth without a recollection of our previous experiences, but the Spirit of Christ is given to every man, that he may know good from evil. Moroni 7:16 The Light of Christ is an influence which encourages people to do good and to seek for God. It prepares them to receive the Holy Ghost. All things which are good cometh of God; and that which is evil cometh of the devil; for the devil is an enemy unto God, and fighteth against him continually, and inviteth and enticeth to sin, and to do that which is evil continually. But behold, that which is of God inviteth and enticeth to do good continually; wherefore, every thing which inviteth and enticeth to do good, and to love God, and to serve him, is inspired of God. Moroni 7:12-13

God set into motion the laws that govern our universe and gave to man his agency. He does not break his own laws or force the mind of man. Men who wish to do evil are not prevented, for doing so would destroy their agency. God encourages all men to do good but does not compel them. No one could choose good if he were not also free to choose evil; he would not be truly free if his evil intentions were continually thwarted to protect the innocent. That God does not protect us from all sorrow, does not mean that He doesn't care. And he will take upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people; and he will take upon him their infirmities...that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities. Alma 7:12 He hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows Isaiah 53:4 God offers solace to those who are injured, and the blessings of eternity to those who will turn to Him. God cares deeply about us and truly grieves at our sorrows. He understands our suffering perfectly. He has lived in mortality and has taken upon himself the pains of every man. He has the power to heal every grieving heart.

Though God knows that we must pass through trials to learn the things that we came to earth to learn and He allows us to experience the growth that comes from hardship, He often protects us from harm and sorrow. If we focus only on the trials of life, we neglect to notice the miracles that happen. Every day people are healed from disease and are preserved from harm. Every day people change for the better, disasters are quietly averted, and broken hearts are mended. God's miracles are all around us, it is up to us whether we choose to see them. I recall, as a child, enjoying a pleasant walk with my sister in another neighborhood, when a truck passed by and parked a short distance ahead of us. I had a very powerful feeling that I must not pass that truck. When I altered my course and turned into the driveway of a nearby home, the truck drove away. I believe that the Holy Ghost protected my sister and me that day. I have had other similar experiences that have convinced me of the concern that God feels for us. I know that the Lord actively assists us in avoiding both big and little sorrows in our lives if we turn to Him. This is one of the ways that He teaches us faith. I know when God does not intervene, that there is a reason for it and that He will give me the strength and support that I need to overcome.

"The entire message of the New Testament breathes a spirit of awakening to the human soul. Shadows of despair are dispelled by rays of hope, sorrow yields to joy, and the feeling of being lost in the crowd of life vanishes with the certain knowledge that our Heavenly Father is mindful of each of us. The Savior provided assurance of this truth when He taught that even a sparrow shall not fall to the ground unnoticed by our Father. He then concluded the beautiful thought by saying, “Fear ye not therefore, ye are of more value than many sparrows. Monson

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 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? Therefore, hold on thy way... 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. D&C 122:5-9

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