In recent weeks, several families in our Ward have experienced tragedies and traumas. Then today, we had our Sunday Service and I left the meeting feeling depressed in spirit; depressed because of the words of a leader who said: "Why do bad things happen to good people? I simply don't know."
To clarify, I must say that our stake leaders are good men and women, probably doing the best they can with the time they have, and yet how can a top leader in our stake not know? With the continual cycling (and déjà vu) of "bad things"—with the prolific witness of scripture and history, how can our leaders not be able to articulate the principles of why "bad things happen to good people"?
1. The principle of agency. Children, spouses, friends, strangers, and we ourselves make choices—and choices have consequences. Many, many times those consequences are painful—sometimes so agonizing they seem unbearable, unforgivable, unending.
2. The principle of progression. The comfortable, "untroubled, blessed life," plus fame, money, power (The Three Temptations), and so forth are status-quo and distractive impediments to spiritual and eternal progression which is The Great Plan. Without some motivation to reassess priorities, perspectives, and purposes, we seem to forget that life is, at core, about eternal lives and relationships—not about transient, 3-D material and personal attachments.
3. The principles of law and necessity. Without perfecting faith, hope and charity1 we cannot be trusted with the greater powers that accompany progression. And like so much else, increasing in faith, hope, and charity comes line upon line, choice upon choice—mostly triggered by reevaluations and recommitments wrung from out of suffering.
4. The principle of submission.2 However anything appears to us, things do not just happen randomly—without God's awareness. And furthermore, God is not asleep, nor dead, nor fickle, nor sadistic. He is a loving God who said:
For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts. (Old Testament Isaiah 55:8-9)Is He not telling us that the principle of progression (#2 above) means more than we can possibly comprehend in our 3-D world?3 That we don't know enough to judge what is best for our or another's progression? And that every "bad thing" that flows from agency (or from whatever cause) can be turned to good if we apply it to increasing our faith, hope, and charity?
5. The principle of comfort.
... I am not alone, because the Father is with me. These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world. (New Testament John 16:32-33)Are we open to that comfort? Are we open to the principle of submission to God? Or are we so immersed in our own sense of what is "rational and just"4 that comfort is rejected out of hand?
I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you. (New Testament John 14:18)
But God's witness and the witness of unnumbered sufferers is that when we remain open, even when understanding is elusive, we shall be comforted (in God's way and timing). Remember Job.5
Someone said: "The gospel message is to disturb the comfortable and to comfort the disturbed."
How much peace, comfort, and understanding do we deny ourselves and others when we cannot witness (in appropriate times and ways) about the why of suffering?
The following are related posts that also address these issues (in greater depth):