Why Do Bad Things Happen to Good People?

When I was 7 years old my dad died. He was a wonderful person. He was kind, he had a strong testimony, and he loved to serve in our community. But best of all, he loved to spend time with me, my 4 older sisters, and my mom. At his funeral, I remember thinking: why did God let this happen? Our family goes to church. My parents pay their tithing. We obey the law! If someone had to die, shouldn’t it have been a horrible criminal instead of my righteous dad? 

Have you ever had those kinds of thoughts? Have you ever wondered why bad things happen to good people? If so, I want you to imagine that you’re back in Old Testament times and you are about to head into a two-person hand-to-hand combat. You are allowed to bring one weapon as is your opponent. You head to the blacksmith to get the best weapon you can find. He offers you two alternatives. He tells you that he used to create swords the traditional way: he would expose the metal to intense heat to get rid of impurities, he would pour the liquid metal in a mold and make sure it would come out in the correct shape. Then he would pound the hot metal using heavy tools to perfect the shape, and finally he would sharpen the edges. You look at a row of swords made this way and see that they look sharp and deadly! 

But perhaps the blacksmith has come up with an even better method? The blacksmith then tells you that he has had a change of heart about the way he makes swords. He doesn’t want to put the metal through so much pain and suffering, and so instead of heating the metal to get rid of impurities, he lets them stay. Instead of turning the metal into liquid and pouring it into a mold, or hitting it with heavy tools, or sharpening the edges, the blacksmith leaves the metal in whatever shape it’s currently in and just attaches a handle. This gentler approach– he tells you– seems much more kind to the metal. He then points you to a row of swords made using this new method. What you see is a hodgepodge of awfulness. Rusty, weak, and misshapen swords stare back at you, the kind that no one would ever trust in battle. Keeping this story in mind, let’s discuss three important questions that can help us understand why bad things happen to good people. 

Question 1: what is the purpose of coming to earth? Let’s imagine to ourselves that WE are the unshaped metal and God is the blacksmith. God’s purpose is to help us become the most powerful, useful, and purposeful version of ourselves we can become. In this analogy, He wants to help us become the sharpest, most deadly swords of all time! 

Which brings us to question number two: what is a bad thing? From the outside looking in, it might look bad for the metal to be boiled down in a scalding fire. It might look bad to be molded into a new shape or beaten down with heavy objects. But eternally speaking these “bad” things aren’t usually bad, they are just hard. And if our purpose– like God’s– is to become the best and most powerful version of ourselves, it’s the hard things that will most quickly shape us into who God wants us to become. As the saying goes, “There is no comfort in the growth zone, and there’s no growth in the comfort zone.” 

Which brings up question number 3: is it worth the cost to me? Each of us has to decide for ourselves if we think it’s worth the cost to become a powerful tool in God’s hands and – eternally speaking – to eventually become like God ourselves. Is the refiner’s fire, the blacksmith’s hammering, the molding, and sharpening worth it to us? 

Sister Linda S. Reeves answered this question when she said, “…I do not know why we have the many trials that we have, but it is my personal feeling that the reward is so great, so eternal and everlasting, so joyful and beyond our understanding that in that day of reward, we may feel to say to our merciful, loving Father, ‘Was that all that was required?’. . . What will it matter…what we suffered here if, in the end, those trials are the very things which qualify us for eternal life and exaltation in the kingdom of God with our Father and Savior?” 

So why do bad things happen to good people? What 7-year-old Kristen learned over years of missing her dad is that most bad things are actually just hard things, that those hard things are the very things required to become who God wants us to be, and that in the end it will be more than worth it!