Sunday, February 17, 2008

If There is a God, Why Does He Let People Suffer?

I have heard many people question why a God, a merciful and loving being, would let his children suffer. If he is God, why would he not step in and stop all suffering, make all people healthy, wealthy, and equal in every way possible. By this same line of thinking, if God loves everyone the same, he certainly would make everyone equal,

Rather, because there is an all-knowing, all-loving, and wholly-merciful God, he does let us experience good and bad. He allows us to learn by letting us experience sweet and bitter, pleasure and pain, health and sickness, prosperity and poverty, equality and inequality, strength and weakness, knowledge and ignorance, love and hate, good and evil. Without experiencing opposing feelings or situations, would it be possible for us, the children of God to truly know the difference?

Lehi, an ancient prophet in The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ taught:

11 For it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things. If not so, my first-born in the wilderness, righteousness could not be brought to pass, neither wickedness, neither holiness nor misery, neither good nor bad. Wherefore, all things must needs be a compound in one; wherefore, if it should be one body it must needs remain as dead, having no life neither death, nor corruption nor incorruption, happiness nor misery, neither sense nor insensibility.

12 Wherefore, it must needs have been created for a thing of naught; wherefore there would have been no purpose in the end of its creation. Wherefore, this thing must needs destroy the wisdom of God and his eternal purposes, and also the power, and the mercy, and the justice of God.

13 And if ye shall say there is no law, ye shall also say there is no sin. If ye shall say there is no sin, ye shall also say there is no righteousness. And if there be no righteousness there be no happiness. And if there be no righteousness nor happiness there be no punishment nor misery. And if these things are not there is no God. And if there is no God we are not, neither the earth; for there could have been no creation of things, neither to act nor to be acted upon; wherefore, all things must have vanished away. (2 Nephi 2:11 – 13)

So, without opposing forces in existence, the creating of the Earth and humankind would have been a waste of time, there would have been no reason for it to occur. Without sin there could not exist its diametric opposite, righteousness. What this all really means is if suffering or bad things did not exist there would not be a God. Why does God let bad things happen to good people? Because he is God, as the all-knowing being he knows the best way for us to have joy is by learning what is good as opposed to what is bad. Lehi also taught: “Men are, that they might have joy” (2 Nephi 2:25). So God’s purpose is for us, his children, to have joy! But to have joy, we must learn what joy is, and the only way to learn what joy is is to experience the opposite of joy.

Elder Richard G. Scott, one of Jesus Christ’s Apostles on the Earth today said:

No one wants adversity. Trials, disappointments, sadness, and heartache come to us from two basically different sources. Those who transgress the laws of God will always have those challenges. The other reason for adversity is to accomplish the Lord’s own purposes in our life that we may receive the refinement that comes from testing. (Trust in the Lord, Ensign, Nov 1995, 16).

Adversity or suffering is certainly biblical. The Proverb says: “My son, despise not the chastening of the LORD; neither be weary of his correction: For whom the LORD loveth he correcteth; even as a father the son in whom he delighteth (Proverbs 3:11 – 12 KJV). Elder Scott also commented on this verse saying

Just when all seems to be going right, challenges often come in multiple doses applied simultaneously. When those trials are not consequences of your disobedience, they are evidence that the Lord feels you are prepared to grow more. He therefore gives you experiences that stimulate growth, understanding, and compassion which polish you for your everlasting benefit. To get you from where you are to where He wants you to be requires a lot of stretching, and that generally entails discomfort and pain . . . Your Father in Heaven and His Beloved Son love you perfectly. They would not require you to experience a moment more of difficulty than is absolutely needed for your personal benefit or for that of those you love. (Trust in the Lord, Ensign, Nov 1995, 16).

It is clear from the words of this Apostles of Jesus Christ that experiences of bad things that happen to us are for our good, that God and Jesus Christ know exactly how much adversity we need in our lives to grow to our full potential and that is exactly what they bless us with.

What each of us chooses to do with our trials is up to us. We can choose to be bitter or choose to endure them well, learning from them. Often, what happens to me is I look back and learn even more, because as I gain more experience in life, I am able to better understand the impact and benefit particular trials have had on me and continue to have on me. I know that I have a Father in Heaven, who is God, who loves me and knows what is best for me. I know that Jesus Christ is his son, a separate being, who atoned for my sins and was resurrected so I can be forgiven of my sins and my body and spirit can be reunited again one day, so I can live in the eternities with God, Jesus Christ, and my family. I know this is true because the third distinct personage in the Godhead, the Holy Ghost has testified of it to me. I share this testimony in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

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