Why Do Bad Things Happen to Good People?

By Jared

I have often been asked, “If God really exists, and He is really as great as the scriptures say, why does He let so many good people suffer and so many bad people succeed?” It’s a good question. The scriptures seem to make it so simple: If you keep God’s commandments, you’ll be blessed; if you break God’s commandments, you’ll be punished. Why, then, does this not seem to hold true when you look around the world?

There are a number of answers to this question. None of them make the pain and suffering any less real, but they do help us understand why a just and loving God allows pain and suffering to happen.

The first important thing to understand is why God has put us here in the first place. We learn from the scriptures and modern revelation that we are here to learn and grow. The purpose of our lives is to one day become perfect like our Heavenly Father and return to live with Him (see Abr. 3:22-23, Moses 1:39).

In order for us to accomplish this purpose, God gave us agency, or the freedom to choose. When we use that agency to do good, we grow closer to God and become more like Him, bit by bit. When we use our agency to do bad, we have to face the consequences of those bad choices. Learning from our own choices is one of the main ways we grow and develop.

At some point in all of our lives, even when we’re choosing to do good, bad things happen to us.  Sometimes these bad things are the result of someone else using their agency poorly. Other times they are simply the result of accidents or natural disasters. No matter how they come, these trials are an essential part of our mortal existence. They stretch us and help us to grow.

Spencer W. Kimball taught, “If pain and sorrow and total punishment immediately followed the doing of evil, no soul would repeat a misdeed. If joy and peace and rewards were instantaneously given the doer of good, there could be no evil — all would do good and not because of the rightness of doing good. There would be no test of strength, no development of character, no growth of powers, no free agency.”

So what is the bottom line? God loves us and wants us to grow and develop so that we can one day become like Him. In order to accomplish this, we need to exercise our agency (freedom to choose) and go through trials. When and how our trials come is partially up to us and partially up to God, but whenever they come, we can rest assured that our Heavenly Father knows about them and will help us learn from them and overcome them.

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9 thoughts on “Why Do Bad Things Happen to Good People?

  1. simmo says:

    I can’t and won’t hurt anyone I’m easy to get along with but strangely, in ex plan ably some people try to hurt me persons I have never met before-they accuse me of being who i am-hurl nasty remarks!!you see when i m out of their sight despite my anger- i choose to pray for them

  2. Ron Blake says:

    I know many devote Christians who read the bible, go to bible study, preach religion and yet are very empty, souless and unbelievably evil people. There there are others. Non-Christians, of whom I have known to be very good, caring individuals. Why is this?

  3. Soft_heart says:

    I don’t believe that the good were bad and the bad were good-there-fore we live with our trials accordingly! In the pre-existence we were all angels and each of us here on earth were worthy of heavenly father that we were sent to recieve our mortal bodies and to choose of our free agency! My own thoughts are that even the good people have life dished out harsher than others is because they/we were more obedient in the pre-existence and we/our faith is tested more..! Just saying…

  4. Dee says:

    Why do bad people have it easy and good people suffer…it’s not about this life, the bad people were doing good deeds in their past lives so in this life they have everything they ever wanted, good people suffer because, they are good in this life but did bad things in their past life…it’s a cycle. I truly believe this. My parents’ are wonderful people, they have always helped everyone and we had a good life but the past 12 years have been hell on earth, from cancer to several flopped businesses…yes you can say the economy is bad but there are so many people that open businesses and succeed without even trying…we must have been goos people that did some bad things in our past lives and now we are paying for it. I wouldn’t wish what we are going through on my worst enemy.

    1. Anonymous says:

      I don’t believe that the good were bad and the bad were good-there-fore we live with our trials accordingly! In the pre-existence we were all angels and each of us here on earth were worthy of heavenly father that we were sent to recieve our mortal bodies and to choose of our free agency! My own thoughts are that even the good people have life dished out harsher than others is because they/we were more obedient in the pre-existence and we/our faith is tested more..! Just saying…

  5. Christopher says:

    I like this explanation for anything from stubbed toes to car accidents, illness, job loss, etc. But it feels empty in the face of things like genocide and rape. It’s hard to understand how the “learn and grow” benefits of allowing such things to happen outweigh their horrors, even in the eternal long run. Fitting those things into the framework that we normally use seems to require placing extraordinary emphasis on God’s commitment to allowing free will, which is paradoxical considering such events usurp the free will of their victims. Food for thought.

    1. Kim says:

      I agree, it does feel empty in the face of things like genocide and rape. I have struggled with this question for a long time. Parly P Pratt wrote a book called Key to the Science of Theology. In his book he explains how everyone of us will have to be tried to our very core, just like Father Abraham when he was asked to sacrifice his own son. Now I don’t believe that means that we will all have to sacrifice our child. However, I do believe that everyone of us will have to be tried to our core. This same concept is taught in the book Lectures on Faith and in the last section of the D&C. And though it is of little comfort when you are experiencing such a horror, it may save us from asking the question “what have I done to deserve this?”

  6. Brigham says:

    I think you’re right on that the only way to make sense of some of the things that happen to people and still believe in a loving God is to first understand why we’re here and the purpose of life in the first place. It makes such perfect sense the way you put it, but even if you understand it intellectually it can still be difficult to reconcile when the bad thing happens to *you* or someone you love.

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