One of the most common questions I received as a missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was this: “If there is a God, why does he let bad things happen? We’ve done what we’ve thought has been right, why did God let [insert trial here] happen to my family?” When I was asked this for the very first time I was a little stumped – why? As I grew in understanding I began to realise AN answer (for we will never fully understand in this life) – and even though people were still not interested despite receiving an answer, I knew I could try in some way to further their understanding.
The Problem and maybe the Why
Up until my mission I had a pretty easy life – I had a loving family, good friends, a knowledge of God and His Son Jesus Christ, an excellent opportunity for education and pretty much everything temporal I would need. Because of this it was pretty hard for me to relate to people who asked this question (although, 5 years of marriage and 2 children later, I am starting to have plenty of opportunities to apply this knowledge of trials). Did I not receive many trials because I have been living the Gospel of Christ in my life? I may have possibly avoided certain trials because of the life I’ve lived up until now. However, there are much better people than me who have been through hell on earth. So, this cannot fully be the answer…
In Matthew 5:45, it says “…for he maketh his sins to rise on the evil and the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.” This is telling us that ALL will receive trials in their life, no matter how ‘good’ or ‘bad’ we live our lives.
“For it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things. If not…righteousness could not be brought to pass, neither wickedness…neither good or bad.” (2 Nephi 2:11). It is well known that we need opposition to show we are righteous – similarly we need trials so that we can fully appreciate the good times. These answers can, in part, soften the blow that trials present to us.
Another reason, and one that is critical, is because they are for “our own personal development,” said Elder Quentin L. Cook in the October 2008 General Conference. He says this in cross-reference to D&C 122:7 which says “…and above all, if the very jaws of hell shall gape open the mouth wide after thee, know then, my son, that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good.” We are given opportunities to grow through trials. One cannot deny that when they look back at difficulties faced, they haven’t come through wiser or, at least, more resilient against future challenges.
Despite this, people may ask why does God allow ‘bad’ people to hurt or afflict ‘good’ people (I insert the inverted commas as we are not to judge who is good or bad). We would do well to remember that we have our agency to choose! God is not happy when people make bad choices – in Moses 7:26, 28-29, 32-33, Enoch is witnessing this and sees God weeping; Enoch asks the Lord why He weeps and He replies “…gave I unto man his agency…who given commandment that they should love one another…but behold, they are without affection, and they hate their own blood.” So God cannot prevent His children choosing their own will, but in Alma 60:13, Captain Moroni explains to the chief judge, Pahoran, why this is not something to be upset about. He explained “the Lord suffereth the righteous to be slain that his justice and judgement may come upon the wicked…” – so the wicked will be dealt with this life or the next. Not only that, he continues on saying the righteous “enter into the rest of the Lord their God.” Just as the wicked receive their ‘reward’ of their actions, so too will the righteous and are taken home in a state of rest and peace.
Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin in the October 2008 General Conference spoke on overcoming trials and spoke of this compensation of the Lord. He said “the faithful will know that every tear today will eventually be returned a hundredfold with tears of rejoicing and gratitude.” He then gives an example of this – of his autistic grandson Joseph. I feel I can relate to this as I have grown up with an autistic brother. At times it was not easy. In fact, I have occasionally shed tears of frustration at having a brother who I could not communicate with properly. However, as he has grown, our family has seen Nathan grow impressively and over the years there has been times he’s given us great joy. I cannot wait for the moment we will meet after this life…and he will thank us for the family that we have tried to be for him…that is a true principle of compensation!
Trials also prove us in the sight of God. 1 Peter 1:7 speaks on how the trials of our faith are “more precious than of gold,” and if we endure then we will “be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ.” This again links to the compensation, we will be blessed FOR our trials, because we have struggled IN them.
Clearly, trials are good for us in the long run. They give us the experience that Heavenly Father sent us here to receive. However, how can we overcome them?
Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin in his previously mentioned talk gave four ways:
- Learn to Laugh – He said that when travelling, he and his family would “invariably get lost. Instead of getting angry, we laughed. Every time we made a wrong turn, we laughed harder.” He also said that, not only will this make you happier but it will also “make the lives of all those around you more enjoyable.”
- Seek for the eternal perspective – This leads me onto one of my favourite scriptures – “My son, peace be unto thy soul; thine adversity and thine afflictions be but a small moment; And then, if thou endure it well, God shall exalt thee on high; thou shalt triumph over all thy foes.” (D&C 121:7-8) This passage was the Lord speaking to the Prophet Joseph Smith in Liberty Jail, in which he suffered more trials than I could ever face. However, I still find great comfort in these verses – I remember the first time I read these words in Seminary and the words jumped out at me and I felt immense peace – seek for the eternal!
- Trust in our Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ – Elder Wirthlin said “The Lord Jesus Christ is our partner, helper, and advocate. He wants us to be happy. He wants us to be successful. If we do our part, He will step in.” After all, Christ has already been through the trials we face today, and everyone else’s tribulations also. In Alma 7:12 it says “…and he shall take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people…” Christ descended below all things so that He may comfort us through our trials. What great love is that! If we put our trust in Him and our loving Heavenly Father, they will comfort us in our time of need.
We all face trials, no matter our righteousness, age, situation etc – we all will! Some may face different trials than others but one thing is for sure – we will face them! I know that my Redeemer lives and that He can help us overcome these trials and so can the guidance of His living prophets and apostles. If we follow their words, we can prevent so many trials so we have less challenges to overcome before the trials we cannot prevent come along. Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin concluded “The simple secret is this: put your trust in the Lord, do your best, then leave the rest to Him!”