As a missionary, we often hear the question, the very infamous question, “Why do bad things happen to good people?” In Matthew 5:45 it says, “The Father maketh His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.” How many people on this Earth question the existence of God when tragedy befalls them yet fail to do the same when goodness come into their life?
As I pondered the topic for this talk, I inevitably asked myself how I personally have stayed faithful during adversity. I turned to some of the journal entries I’ve recorded here on my mission. Frist the adversity:
Aug 2, 2013 (Just two weeks into my mission)
“Today was the first day I just wanted to sit down and cry my eyes out. No one wants to hear our message, not even our investigators…My clothes all seem to be wrong, my shoes all seem to rub the wrong way, and everything is a disaster!”
Melodramatic yes, but it was the reality of the moment nonetheless.
Sept 6, 2013
“So this morning started out kind of bleak and hopeless. Yesterday was kind of a frustrating day with many hours of finding out in the hot sun, (and yes I just complained about sun in England)and that frustration lingered. I just wanted to climb back into bed and stay there.”
October 24, 2013
“Most days lately when I hear the alarm go off my heart kind of just sinks. I just keep thinking I made a mistake in coming. I feel like maybe I’m just not cut out for it, or maybe my personality isn’t right, or maybe I’m just too selfish.”
I was watching a video on Mormon.org recently, and it was a girl in highschool talking about how enlightening journals are because you can see how problems and challenges crop up, but you also see how they are resolved and that things work out okay just a few pages later. So among this opposition and doubt that I experienced, the faith and miracles tempered the bitterness.
First, the end of the journal entry that I first read from two weeks out in my mission,
“I know I need to persevere and I will. Things will get better. They have to go up from here…I hope.”
That vital word “hope” kindled inside of me.
From August 10, 2013, a month out:
“Something I noticed today is that my knees have become a bit rough and calloused…I realized that it is from kneeling to pray so often. I’ve almost lost my callouses on my fingers from harp completely…It made me stop and think how different my life is right now than it was a year ago. I’ve given up one of my most passionate pursuits for a small moment in time, and look what I am gaining? A chance to become closer than I ever thought was possible to my Savior. It’s an incredible thing and I knowiti will impact my life forever…I love this Gospel and I love my Savior. I’m so glad I can serve the Lord.”
From October 16, 2013 just before I left Hull and came to Leeds:
“So I found out on Monday that I’m getting transferred to Leeds! It all feels very bittersweet as I’ve experienced a lot of incredible things here in Hull in the past three months, both good and bad. I’ve come to feel like the missionaries and members here are like family, so it’s hard to pick up and leave…I know that I’ve had some really hard times here, but as I reflect back, only the good stand out:
- Oscar getting baptised and becoming a close friend
- Trying all the restaurants on Newland Avenue with Sister Lam on P-days
- Having the chance to try to bring a knowledge of God to people that don’t know Him at all
- Starting up a Chinses group FHE at the Martin’s home
- Being able to say I’ve proselyted in the pouring rain
All these things add up to a rich experience that I wouldn’t trade for anything…As I look ahead to the next three months it’s hard to visualise. One thing I know for sure is that there will be challenges, struggles, and hard times, but among all of that there will be beautiful moments, happiness, and fulfilment, just like there was in Hull.”
One of the greatest examples that I know of one who stayed faithful during times of adversity is Job. I was reading the book of Job recently, and felt completely humbled in the way he remained sure of God’s presence despite much adversity. From a talk entitled “Decisions” by Eldred G Smith, who served as Patriarch to the church from 1947-1979, he says, “In each trial Job was subjected to, Lucifer asked for permission to test Job. He was given permission to go just so far, one step at a time. Job lost his wealth on one test, his family on another, his health on another. Then the Lord gave Satan full control over Job, except he could not destroy his soul. One step at a time, Job became strengthened to withstand all.” How often does the Lord prepare us progressively for the trials that stand before us? Do you look back and see His hand in your life? In a recent blessing I received, it said: “Heavenly Father wants you to know He has prepared you specifically and uniquely to handle the things that stand still before you.” I feel as though that preparation is common to us all on this Earth. Preparation often seems to be disguised as adversity.
Despite Job’s adversity, he offers this beautiful testimony in the scriptures, “For I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that He shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: and though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God: Whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another; though my reins be consumed within me.” Job 19:25-27
Form the same talk from Eldred Smith he comments that, “As with Job, so with us, the Lord will not permit Satan to try us beyond our ability to resist or withstand his efforts if we will accept His help.” So why do bad things happen to good people? The story of Job, after all, narrates the affliction that fell upon a righteous man, a good man. Why? From the Bible Dictionary: “The book of Job does not entirely answer the question as to why Job (or any human) might suffer pain ad the loss of his goods. It does make it clear that affliction is not necessarily evidence that one has sinned. The book suggests that affliction, if not for punishment, may be for experience, discipline, and instruction.” It seems to me that experience, discipline, and instruction can all be grouped under preparation. One of my favourite scriptures at the beginning of this year became 1 Nephi 20:20 “For behold, I have refined thee, I have chosen thee in the furnace of affliction.” Elder Neil L Anderson, speaks of this refinement and has said, “Like the intense fire that transforms iron into steel, as we remain faithful during the fiery trial of our faith, we are spiritually refined and strengthened.” It is my testimony that the Lord is preparing each of us through the adversity and struggles that are placed before us. There is a great purpose for this preparation, an eternal purpose. He loves us, and He desperately wants to help us. In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.