From suicide bombers in Bulgaria, to a corrupt regime in Syria, to a gunman in Colorado–evil people choose to harm their brothers and sisters. It’s natural to wonder how any sort of God would allow that to happen. It seems a just God, and especially a loving God, would do something to prevent the slaughter of innocent victims. Lots of believers have different ways of explaining how a just God can allow bad things to happen. The following are my own thoughts on how you can still believe in a loving God despite the awful things that people do to each other.
As part of our Heavenly Father’s Plan of Salvation, each person on the earth is given agency, or the ability to choose. Without the ability to choose right from wrong we are unable to become like our Father in Heaven and the Plan would fail. Despite the fact that people can misuse their agency, the gift is not conditional. God gave all of us the ability to make all of our choices, all of the the time. Unlike our earthly parents, he doesn’t withdraw the privilege when we abuse it–even when those wrong decisions can hurt others.
While this might seem unfair, we also have to remember that this life isn’t our only phase of existence. As James E. Faust explained, “all this suffering might indeed be unfair if everything ended at death, but it doesn’t. Life is not like a one-act play. It has three acts. We had a past act, when we were in the premortal existence; and now we have a present act, which is mortality; and we will have a future act, when we return to God.” Where Do I Make My Stand?
God will ultimately hold wrongdoers accountable for their actions. In the Book of Mormon there are two missionaries named Alma and Amulek. They have all kinds of trials but finally manage to gain a few converts. Then wicked men take Alma and Amulek, tie them up, and force them to watch their new converts burned alive.
Amulek asks Alma why they don’t just use their priesthood power to save their poor converts from this horrible death and Alma replies:
The Spirit constraineth me that I must not stretch forth mine hand; for behold the Lord receiveth them up unto himself, in aglory; and he doth suffer that they may do this thing, or that the people may do this thing unto them, according to the hardness of their hearts, that the bjudgments which he shall exercise upon them in his wrath may be just; and the cblood of the dinnocent shall stand as a witness against them, yea, and cry mightily against them at the last day. Alma 14:11
What I get out of this is that God doesn’t want these bad people hurting his beloved children, but He respects his own laws–including the gift of agency. However, God is also just and by the end of the third act these people will have paid the reckoning for their actions (unless they’ve accessed the Atonement, in which case the Savior will have paid it for them).
My heart goes out to the victims of these tragic events. My heart goes out to the loved ones they left behind. You are all in my prayers. I know that our Father in Heaven loves each and every one of you. I also know that Christ’s Atonement can provide both physical and spiritual healing for all of us.