My whole life I have heard the question spoken on many lips far and wide, a question not easily answered, and one I have asked many times myself. “Why?” In my current stage of life, “Why?” is probably one of the most annoying questions heard from the mouths of teenagers, while it can be sweet and heart revealing when spoken by a little child seeking to understand. Then again, are we not all little children simply trying to understand, seeking truth and hoping for healed hearts? So ask we, “Why?”
Bad things happen. Bad things happen to good people. The wanting question then is inevitably asked, “Why does a loving God allow bad things to happen?”
There is no easy answer. We have all been witness to bad things happening, that in our imaginings we would disallow if we were in charge. Bad things have happened to each and everyone of us, all of God’s children have suffered, and to human understanding there is a little consolation in saying that it is for our good, nevertheless it is.
“Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither: the Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.”Job 1:21
We learn from the story of Job that bad things even happen to the most blessed and righteous. Job was a good man and blessed in all things. He is described as a man “perfect and upright, and one that feared God, and eschewed evil” (Job 1:1). He was wealthy and renown in his day and among his people. He was one of the most wealthy people of his time, and with a big and happy family. But then like a gust of wind that blows and topples a tree, Job lost everything dear to him except for his wife and his health. All of his wealth was stolen or destroyed, and his children dead. What a terrible loss and sorrow Job must have felt. Nevertheless he remained faithful, responding only, “Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither: the Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21).
This was not the end of Job’s trials. He then lost his health. His friends turned on him declaring that somehow he must have done something wrong to be cursed of the Lord, and even children mocked him. His hardship and sorrow was scathing, and although faithful still finally he was led to ask, “Why?”
Anybody can be pushed to ask why. It is hard to understand why we must suffer, but the Lord has a plan for us, a plan for our growth, and although that might not be soothing in the moment, it is never the less so. The important thing is that we endure our trials without turning on the truth, without becoming bitter and disobedient. It is understandable to ask “Why?”, but not with doubting accusation.
The moment we become impatient or even rebellious, thinking that we know better how God’s kingdom should be run, we depart from wisdom and in many ways accuse God of not being worthy to follow. As Elder Neal A. Maxwell observed, “When we are unduly impatient with an omniscient God’s timing, we really are suggesting that we know what is best. Strange, isn’t it—we who wear wristwatches seek to counsel Him who oversees cosmic clocks and calendars” (General Conference, October 1998).
“When we are unduly impatient with an omniscient God’s timing, we really are suggesting that we know what is best. Strange, isn’t it—we who wear wristwatches seek to counsel Him who oversees cosmic clocks and calendars.”
Elder Neal A. Maxwell
This reminds me of the good hearted but impertinent Tom Sawyer from the 1973 film by the same name. From a child’s perspective, going through his own life crisis and seeing what he deemed the injustices of the world, Tom is found questioning the wisdom of God, thinking that perhaps he could do better. I have enjoyed that film from my childhood and always been touched by the song actor Johnny Whitaker sings as he portrays young Tom Sawyer, questioning and asking, “Why?”
If’n I Was’n God
(By Robert B. Sherman / Richard M. Sherman)
If’n I was God
Well, just for spite
I wouldn’t set the sun at night
Till everyone was treated right
By everyone else they see
If’n I was God
I’d fix it so
Without explainin’, folks would know
They’d know what’s goin’ on inside
Of everyone else like me
Nobody’d hurt nobody else
I wouldn’t let it be
Nobody’d have a need to pray
Except for thankin’ me
If’n I was God
I’d make us wise
So’s everyone could realize
That everywhere beneath the sun
Everyone needs everyone
That ain’t half what I would do
If’n I was you
After trials of faith and much adventure and hardship Mark Twain’s Tom Sawyer lived to see the world come into balance, lessons learned and justice served. Though like we, he would never fully understand the ways of the Lord in mortality, he came to accept life for the gifts it gives.
So did Job endure the trials of his faith and came to be blessed with peace and understanding. He declared, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him…. He also shall be my salvation” (Job 13:15-16). “For there is hope of a tree, if it be cut down, that it will sprout again, and that the tender branch thereof will not cease. Though the root thereof wax old in the earth, and the stock thereof die in the ground; Yet through the scent of water it will bud, and bring forth boughs like a plant” (Job 14:7-9).
And so Job did accept the will of the Lord in his life, knowing that God had a greater plan for him, being blessed in the hard path of sorrow and faith he endured. The Lord appeared to Job, returned his good health, blessed him again with greater wealth than before, and more children to fill his household and his heart.
Sometimes we must pass through sorrow and affliction to taste the sweet nectar of goodness and salvation, and although we may ask why, to our understanding in times of trial the answer may only be, “Because,” the answer most despised by teenagers everywhere and in all ages. Nevertheless with obedience and patience, endurance of sorrow and affliction, wisdom and understanding will come. There is no promise in this life of wealth or a sorrow-less journey through mortality, but there will be joy in the day of our Lord, rejoicing in the kingdom that comes, and eternal happiness in the patience we offer through our life of affliction.
Ask if we must, but know that because of Him our endurance will be well rewarded. There is solace in the Lord, peace in the Savior Jesus Christ, and wisdom in patience and endurance to a happy end. Without wisdom and understanding the sufferings and crucifixion of Jesus would seem senseless, a tragedy for the centuries, but with the light of our Redeemer we know His infinite atonement to be the triumph of the eternities. Job suffered through bitter trial and endured that he might know the Christ, who suffered infinitely more, and endured all things. Because of Him our trials have meaning, that we might know Him, be more like Him and return to our heavenly home in peace with Him. May we all endure to the happy end, asking if we must to know why, but with hope in Christ finding peace and answers in just believing in Him. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.