“Why does God let bad things happen to good people? Why would He allow us to suffer?” It seems many of us have asked these questions at some point in our lives. For some, these questions become a kind of evidence that there is in fact no God, because with all the power and love He’s supposed to have, He would never let us suffer so much. And yet the suffering happens, even to people whose actions in no way make them deserving of such suffering. Therefore, God cannot and does not exist.
This line of thinking doesn’t sit right with me. God is real, and He always will be real to me. Yet I still can’t help but sometimes wonder why He allows certain things to happen to me, and then I wonder if there’s something I’ve done to make me deserving of such difficult and trying circumstances. I mean really, why does God let bad things happen to good people? These questions have frequented and puzzled my mind recently–during the hardest period of my life by far, if I’m being honest.
My questions and perspective changed while listening to a particularly meaningful devotional by Jonathan G. Sandberg, Healing = Courage + Action+ Grace. He states, “I have come to realize that [God] cares more about my growth than He does about my comfort. One evidence of His love is that He does not spare me from the suffering I need for my development and progression.”
And with that, a light bulb turned on in my head. I realized that wondering why I was suffering and what made me deserving of it had been the wrong questions. They would always be the wrong questions. Such questions assume that my perpetual comfort is of utmost importance. Turns out it’s not. When it comes down to it, God doesn’t care much about my comfort. He does, however, care about my development and progression.
Do I deserve to grow in my life, to become better, stronger, wiser, more humble, more compassionate? I do. And so in that sense, I absolutely deserve my struggles and hard times, because “Good timber does not grow with ease. The stronger the wind, the stronger the trees” (Thomas S. Monson). Why does God let bad things happen to good people? Because unlike me, He has an eternal perspective. He knows what experiences will lead me to my ultimate potential, and He’s not going to protect me from those hard things if it’s going to hold me back, keep me weak and doubtful and afraid.
As a parent myself, I know all about letting my child experience hard things for his own good. My son is 3 1/2–his life experience is fairly limited. He knows little of what he will face in years to come, and while I don’t know exactly what awaits him, I have a fairly good idea. It’s my job to prepare him for the rest of his life, and some of my biggest goals as Mom are to teach him to be responsible for his own actions, that good and bad consequences are inevitable, that sometimes things happen which aren’t a direct result of anything he did, but he still has to face them head-on and deal with them the best he can.
Some of my son’s greatest challenges currently include eating the vegetables I give him because they’re good for him, going to bed on time because it’s good for him, having limited media time because it’s good for him, practicing politeness and kindness to everyone because it’s good for him. Do I love the tantrums caused when I instigate these “challenges?” Do they make him happy and comfortable, do they make me happy and comfortable? No. But I enforce them because my perspective is much greater than his in-the-moment one. I want him to learn values and proper behaviors, to grow and develop to be the best possible version of himself, and if that means both of us experience unhappiness and discomfort at times, so be it.
Just as my perspective is much greater than my son’s, God’s is much greater than my own. When it comes to having an eternal perspective, my ability and understanding is no greater than a 3 1/2-year-old. And so I’m trusting that God knows what’s best for me. That while it doesn’t make Him happy to see me miserable, He knows this period of time is small when compared to the measure of happiness that will ultimately be mine. I’m choosing to have faith in Him and the joy that awaits me.
This faith doesn’t make my problems go away, it doesn’t make them any less difficult right now in this moment and the foreseeable future. But it makes them a bit more bearable. It gives them some kind of meaning for me to cling to, to know that this hardest-part-of-my-life is not all for nothing. While I have felt alone and abandoned, I haven’t been. Why does God let bad things happen to good people? Because he is loving and all-knowing enough to allow us to struggle for our own good.
That makes sense to me. That line of thinking sits right with me. It gives me a sense of peace in the midst of great turmoil. And so I cling to my newly-discovered truth, that God cares more for my growth than my comfort, and that’s why He allows hard things to happen to me, despite and because of the fact that I’m a good person. I deserve the best possible version of myself.