Why Does God Let Good People Suffer?

Each Sunday, I go thru old General Conference talks and BYU Devotional Speeches and print off copies of the talks I’d like to read. Then, I let those talks direct my personal study each morning during the week.

When I find a talk that I really enjoy, I also like to get an audio copy of it so I can hear the emotion in the voice. This morning was one of those talks.

In 1955, Spencer W. Kimball (who was then a member of the Quorom of the Twelve Apostles gave a talk titled “Tragedy or Destiny?” It was directed toward those who wonder why “God would allow bad things to happen to good people.” In it, he offers comfort to those who may be suffering and also gentle rebukes to those who may be bitter over sickness or untimely death. He speaks of the “big picture.” From the talk:

If we looked at mortality as the whole of existence, then pain, sorrow, failure, and short life would be calamity. But if we look upon life as an eternal thing stretching far into the premortal past and on into the eternal post-death future, then all happenings may be put in proper perspective.

He goes on to talk about how if a person had all power and authority to have their prayers answered without respect to the will of the Lord, than imagine all that would have failed. Would you not have saved Abinadi from the flames or Joseph Smith from the bullet? In doing so, you would have robbed them of the martyr’s reward. Or the ultimate example is whether you could have stayed your hand when Christ was suffering in the garden and on the cross. By “saving” him there, it would have meant certain death for all mankind.

It boils down to one thing. The greatest gift from God is our free agency. This allows us to choose between good or evil. Unfortunately, this means that the poor choices of some can hurt and affect the righteous hearts of others. But I know that even in those times of suffering or pain, God is very aware of you and very much in control.

It’s amazing to me that this talk was given in 1955 but is still so applicable to many of the thoughts and events of today. You can get this talk as a free download here.

12 replies on “Why Does God Let Good People Suffer?”

Brian – I think that is a great talk too. I’ve had similar thoughts: how wonderful that someone, years ago, could have written something that makes so much sense today; the best things I have read in church or other great literature seem to have the timelessness you’re referring to here.

Nathan and I are giving a talk on Forgiveness this Sunday, and I so I have been studying my rear off on basically the same idea. This quote has my mind spinning: “Every trial and experience you have passed through is necessary for your salvation”. (Brigham Young.) I am also reading about the Amish people and the killings there. Talk about bad things happening to good people. It is almost mind-boggling how they reacted to it.

This topic has a special place in my heart. I am grateful for my eternal perspective that has allowed me to have an optimistic and happy mind in the face of all of the trials that I have faced. Life is too good to waste with regret and anger.

@ Blake, I agree completely. It’s suprising how often that is heard on news and talk shows. Most often it seems more used as an attack on religion than an honest question.

@Rachel, I thought about your situation a lot while listening to this talk. There is a quote he uses from Jospeh Smith in this talk that I’ve never heard, but really is nice.

“The Lord takes many away even in infancy, that they may escape the envy of man and the sorrows and evils of this present world; they were too pure, too lovely, to live on this earth. Therefore, if rightly considered, instead of mourning we have reason to rejoice as they are delivered from evil and we shall have them again. The only difference between the old and the young dying is, one lives longer in heaven and eternal light and glory than the other, and is freed a little sooner from this miserable world.”

Rachel, your life is good BECAUSE you aren’t full of regret and anger. It could be very easy to have a bitter and angry life for someone who has had your trials. I don’t know how you did it.
Blake Snow, expound on your comment. Why is that a selfish thing to ask? Just curious.

I have concluded we GET to suffer through things so we can learn traits like strength, faith, long suffering and especially empathy for others etc. It’s strange but after I’ve gotten through tough stuff, I’ve almost “missed” the feeling of comfort I had deep inside. (Not that I want to go through rough times again! But it seems to find you in life whether you want it or not eventually.)

Also, you learn the difference of when suffering is a. self imposed or b. when it comes from outside of your control. Both situations teach you lessons that hopefully, I try to remember!

Of course I had a copy of this cd on my window this morning before leaving for work. What a wonderful thing to listen to in starting your day. It makes all the stress and problems seem so minor.

I just found this by accident this morning and it seems to be saying EXACTLY what I was thinking yesterday:

“Sometime in the eternities to come, we will see that our trials were calculated to cause us to turn to our Heavenly Father for strength and support. Any affliction or suffering we are called upon to bear may be directed to give us experience, refinement, and perfection.”

–Delbert L. Stapley, “The Blessings of Righteous Obedience”, Ensign, Nov. 1977

Great talk, thanks for the suggestion. I’m a huge fan of Elder Holland’s “Cast Not Away Therefore Your Confidence”. Such a classic!

Connor, that was the talk that got me hooked on Elder Holland as well. I was just a few months into my mission when he gave it and it sure helped.

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