by Pete Codella:
Sometimes events in the world cause us to pause and ponder why God lets seemingly good, innocent people suffer at the hands of seemingly bad, evil people.
The world has witnessed this over and over, starting with humankind's first family, Adam and Eve, and their sons Abel and Cain.
A recent instance of this played out in a place I lived and loved for six years as a boy: Spring, Texas.
A family of seven was confronted and then murdered — all but the oldest child (because she played dead until the gunman left) — by a former family relative. Clearly, that x-brother-in-law has major issues.
The oldest child, a 15-year-old girl named Cassidy Stay, was able to call 9-1-1 after her x-uncle left the home and police captured him before he continued his family killing spree.
Shortly after her release from the hospital in July, she shared these words:
"Happiness can be found even in the darkest times if one only remembers to turn on the light," paraphrasing a quote by Albus Dumbledore in the Harry Potter books and movies.
Here's a July 12, 2014 news report from KSL in Salt Lake City that recaps the story:
The story continues with a kind gesture by JK Rowling, author of Harry Potter, who reached out to Cassidy following her remarks that included Dumbledore's quote from The Prisoner of Azkaban movie (see this article in The Guardian).
When I think of bad things happening to good people, I often think of the story recounted in the 14th chapter of Alma in the Book of Mormon. The believers and their scriptures were rounded up and burned by a wicked community. The prophets, Alma and Amulek, watched in horror as the women and children were consumed by fire. Then they were thrown into prison, and over a period of days, smitten and ridiculed.
Ultimately, Alma spoke:
"How long shall we suffer these great afflictions, O Lord? O Lord, give us strength according to our faith which is in Christ, even unto deliverance."They broke the cords with which they were bound. Then the chief judge, teachers, lawyers and prison guards were killed as an earthquake destroyed the building.
The scriptures teach us that because of their faith in Jesus Christ, Alma and Amulek walked out of the prison unharmed. Later, many are converted and baptized, and the church prospered.
Perhaps it's only human to question why God allows bad things to happen to good people. How can we discern the ultimate plan of the Great Creator?
In Isaiah 55 the Lord teaches: "my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways."
Good people suffer because of choices by those around them or as a result of living in a fallen, mortal world.
In the New Testament Jesus Christ teaches that rains and floods and winds descend upon both the man who builds his house on the rock as well as upon the man who builds on sand (Matthew 7:24-27). Both believers and non-believers are subject to the storms of mortality.
So, rather than ask why God lets bad things happen to good people, our attitude and perspective benefits when we ask what we can learn from these situations and circumstances? How can we use life's experiences to build our faith in Jesus Christ?
Yes, in this life, bad things happen to good people. Sometimes there's really no good present explanation. But in the end, the Lord who is the perfect judge, will reward each of us perfectly.
Pete Codella: I've lived in New York, Texas, Nevada, Idaho, Wyoming and Utah. I've traveled to four continents, shopped in Fez, parasailed in Tunisia, eaten caviar in Moscow and would love to visit my namesake and great-grandfather's stomping grounds in Italy. I was married in the Salt Lake LDS Temple four years after graduating from BYU, so you could argue at one point I was a ‘menace to the community.’ I'm a former singing gondolier at The Venetian in Las Vegas and BYU Young Ambassador. I work in digital public relations and travel to consult and speak about corporate communications and social media. I graduated in 2013 from the University of Utah's Executive MBA program. My awesome wife and I have two great kids, currently twelve and eight and full of life. Twitter: @codella.
Image credit: Daniel Parks (used with permission).