Asking Big Questions
Three reasons bad things happen to good people
In a world full of natural disasters, instability, wars, and conflicts, many people wonder why terrible things continue to happen. It feels like we are constantly being bombarded with bad news, heartache, and grief. Through our time here on Earth, we will go through various trials and tribulations that can be hard to understand. So, why do bad things happen to people who are trying to do good? There are three main reasons:
- To help us learn.
- To help us come closer to Jesus Christ through His Atonement.
- To help us have empathy for those around us.
We were put on this Earth to learn. Trials and hardships are what enable us to learn, grow, and use the agency with which we have been blessed. They are not a reflection of our righteousness; everyone has trials they will experience in this life. Even prophets, like Wilford Woodruff, go through hard times. Wilford Woodruff dealt with illness, injuries, the deaths of loved ones, natural disasters, and so much more. But despite the challenges he experienced, he was always grateful to the Lord. On March 1, 1880, he wrote in his journal, “I Wilford Woodruff am 73 years of age this day. I thank my Heavenly Father for the Preservation of my life for this long Period and for his blessings over me.”1
Even though life can be hard, we should keep an eternal perspective and remember that this mortal life is all about learning and growing through our trials. We knew how difficult life would be before we came to Earth, and we still chose to come and experience it all. President Russell M. Nelson said, “Difficult trials often provide opportunities to grow that would not have come in any other way.”2 As we experience adversity, we have the choice to learn and progress along the covenant path.
To Know Jesus Christ through His Atonement
In the midst of the affliction and heartache that come with life, we can learn to grow closer to Christ through His Atonement. Coming to Him can provide us with comfort, peace, and healing through our trials.
Elder David A. Bednar said,
The Savior has suffered not just for our iniquities but also for the inequality, the unfairness, the pain, the anguish, and the emotional distresses that so frequently beset us. You and I in a moment of weakness may cry out, “No one understands. No one knows.” No human being, perhaps, knows.
But the Son of God perfectly knows and understands, for He felt and bore our burdens before we ever did. And because He paid the ultimate price and bore that burden, He has perfect empathy and can extend to us His arm of mercy in so many phases of our life.3
Jesus Christ can provide peace and comfort even in our hardest times. We can turn to Him in times of distress and need. Because of the healing power of Christ’s Atonement, we can come to see our trials as opportunities to grow and come closer to Him.
To Gain Empathy
One of the greatest blessings of trials is that they can help us understand those around us better. When you have personally experienced illness, grief, sadness, or any kind of hardship, you are given a unique perspective. This can enable you to help others around you navigate their own trials.
Doctrine and Covenants 81:5–6 says, “Wherefore, be faithful; stand in the office which I have appointed unto you; succor the weak, lift up the hands which hang down, and strengthen the feeble knees. And if thou art faithful unto the end thou shalt have a crown of immortality, and eternal life in the mansions which I have prepared in the house of my Father.”
As we experience our own trials, however hard they may be, we will be able to better help those around us. We will become more like Christ as we “succor the weak” and “strengthen the feeble knees.”
A Prophet’s Advice
Wilford Woodruff shared this prophetic advice:
If I could live 1,000 years here in the flesh, and had to labor in poverty and hunger all the days of my life, and if by my acts and course of labor I could secure unto myself the privilege of having my wives and children with me in the morning of the first resurrection and could have them with me in my family organization in the celestial world, to dwell with me in that state and glory, I should feel amply repaid; it would more than reward me for any trials and inconveniences and troubles that I may have to endure here.4
Even though life can be hard, we can find peace in knowing that our trials come for a reason. They help us learn, come closer to Christ through His Atonement, and have empathy for those around us. We are promised time and time again in the scriptures that as we endure faithfully, “all things shall work together for [our] good” (Doctrine and Covenants 90:24).The trials we face will eventually come to an end, and we have a loving Heavenly Father who will eventually resolve all of the “whys” we face now.
Some original historical text has been edited for clarity and readability.
Maddie Christensen is the Public Relations Manager for the Wilford Woodruff Papers Foundation. She recently graduated from Brigham Young University with a degree in public relations. Maddie has always loved learning about Church history and enjoys learning from the writings of Wilford Woodruff. She is passionate about sharing his insights with everyone and is grateful to be part of such an incredible work.
The Wilford Woodruff Papers Foundation’s mission is to digitally preserve and publish Wilford Woodruff’s eyewitness account of the Restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ from 1833 to 1898. It seeks to make Wilford Woodruff’s records universally accessible to inspire all people, especially the rising generation, to study and to increase their faith in Jesus Christ. For more information, visit wilfordwoodruffpapers.org.