A Few Thoughts on Adversity, Inspired By The Bible’s Book of Job
By Ken K. Gourdin
I will be the first to admit that, often, don’t understand the interplay between what God causes and what He merely allows. I know that some of our trials come from what we do (the Law of the Harvest: as we sow, so shall we reap). Which is not to say, however, that all of our trials are the result of sins or mistakes (whether our own or someone else’s): As the Savior told his disciples when they asked about the blind man, “Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?”, “Neither hath this man sinned nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him” (John 9:2-3). While I don’t know why it seems that God intervenes in some circumstances while seeming not to intervene in others, I do have faith that eventually, our confusion on that score will be lifted, though perhaps not in this life.
I can only say, in the Lord’s words to the prophet Isaiah, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts [higher] than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8-9). I can only say, with the apostle Paul, that “We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed” (2 Corinthians 4:8-9). I can only say, with Nephi, “I know that [God] loveth His children; nevertheless, I do not know the meaning of all things” (1 Nephi 11:17). If I don’t yet have everything I righteously desire out of life (and whether I ever get it or not), I can only say, with Job, “The Lord giveth, and the Lord taketh away; blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21).
I can only say, with Alma the Elder, “I do know that whosoever shall put their trust in God shall be supported in their trials, and their troubles, and their afflictions, and shall be lifted up at the last day” (Alma 36:3). I can only say, with Moroni, “Wherefore, whoso believeth in God might with surety hope for a better world, yea, even a place at the right hand of God, which hope cometh of faith, maketh an anchor to the souls of men, which would make them sure and steadfast, always abounding in good works, being led to glorify God” (Ether 12:4). Why does God seem to try the obedient while not withholding blessings from the less obedient, at least in this life? As the Savior said in the Sermon on the Mount, “[God] maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matthew 5:45). And as Paul told the Hebrews, “Whom the Lord loveth, he chasteneth” (Hebrews 12:6).
While I do believe that “when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated” (Doctrine and Covenants 130:21), I also don’t believe that God is like Santa Claus, giving us blessings when we’re “good” and withholding them (or giving us trials) when we’re “bad.” I think we need to obey because we love God, because the good we do both blesses others fills our own souls, and because it’s the right thing to do.