“Why Does God Allow Bad Things to Happen?” Ensign, August 2018
This seems like one of the most commonly asked questions in life, right? And it’s straightforward and simple. But more often than not, we don’t get a straightforward answer to this seemingly simple question, and not getting all the answers can definitely test our faith. When bad things happen, we might sometimes wonder where God is. If He’s really there. If He could have prevented it. If He could have sent a miracle.
We know He is all-powerful. We know He is in control. We know He wants what’s best for us. But there continue to be horrific tragedies and pain and suffering throughout the world. And we continue to face temptation, sorrow, and a multitude of trials within our own lives.
Sometimes we just want to know why. What’s the purpose of all this suffering? Why does He allow bad things to happen?
Unfortunately, we might not always know the reason “why.” But we can always draw faith and strength from remembering the things we do know.
One vital part of the plan of salvation is that every single being who has ever lived on the face of this earth was given agency—we are able to choose for ourselves, and consequences, both good and bad, stem from those choices. Heavenly Father knows that choice and accountability for those choices are both necessary for our spiritual growth. Because He knows this and loves us, He doesn’t usually interfere with the consequences of our choices. If He forced us to make the right decisions, it would be impossible for us to grow and reach our divine potential. It would be impossible to live by faith in Him and His plan for our happiness.
Because of the beautiful gift of agency, people make their own choices, both good and bad. Many good things have happened in the world because of agency, but many terrible things have come about as well. In those bad moments when the wrong choices of others cause you pain, remember what President Dallin H. Oaks, First Counselor in the First Presidency, taught:
“God rarely infringes on the agency of any of His children by intervening against some for the relief of others. But He does ease the burdens of our afflictions and strengthen us to bear them. … He does not prevent all disasters, but He does answer our prayers to turn them aside. …
Have you ever gone through something difficult and that experience allowed you to empathize with friends or even strangers who were facing a similar challenge? Or have you seen others experience sorrow from difficult circumstances and turn their pain into a moving, empowering cause? The trials we face allow us to develop compassion for others and can inspire us to make a difference in the world, in big and small ways. They enable us to truly be “willing to bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light” (Mosiah 18:8).
Think of times when natural disasters or horrific accidents occurred in the world. Remember how many people you saw on social media, on the news, or even in your own community who stepped up to raise money, donate necessities, and provide any bit of service they could to those in need? Sometimes when bad things happen, they empower us to act and serve. Even the Savior, our example, suffered infirmities, “that his bowels may be filled with mercy” and so that He could know “how to succor his people” (Alma 7:12). Trials can open our eyes to those who are suffering. They can enable us to show others genuine compassion and love. They can refine us to be more charitable, empathetic, and influential humans. They can instill in us a powerful need to serve.
When bad things happen, when you’re facing heavy challenges, when you don’t understand all the reasons behind your struggles, here is one thing to always remember: No matter what trial you’re facing, when you’re feeling lost, alone, defeated, or broken, the Savior’s arms are open to receive you. Maybe one reason for the tragedies and difficulties in our lives is so we can use our agency and faith to rely on and see the infinite power of Jesus Christ in our lives. Doing so allows us to better understand Him. To build our relationship with Him. To become more like Him. To fully comprehend that He truly did sacrifice everything He had for all of us.
Yes, life can be hard. Really hard. But when life knocks you down and you still manage to use your last drop of energy to turn to the Savior, you will see that He is always there, and He will always come to your rescue. Because He knows exactly what you’re going through. He’s felt it all before. Jesus Christ’s Atonement included suffering of all forms—mental, physical, and spiritual. Everything. He understands. He will not abandon you.
So, when you are struggling to find the answer to the question, “Why did God allow this to happen?” try asking Him to help you understand through sincere prayer. Even though He might not be able to give you the full answer yet, He can help you find comfort and gradual understanding.
Take a moment to think about what you’ve learned because of bad things that have happened. There’s no doubt you will recognize those moments when you were able to sincerely understand someone else’s sorrow because of something you once faced, those moments of tragedy that motivated you to serve others, those moments when the Savior carried you, and those moments when you fully realized that Heavenly Father is aware of you and will always be there to guide you. Your answers are there.
Heavenly Father is in control. He has a plan for each of us, and “in that day when the Lord shall come, he shall reveal all things” (Doctrine and Covenants 101:32). Despite what difficulties and challenges may come, despite some lingering questions we may have in this life, we can move forward with faith and peace, knowing that one day we will understand everything. One day, we will be able to look back at everything we had to overcome in gratitude because it helped us become exactly who we were destined to be.