Bad things happen to good people. Despite all our faith and prayers, things still go wrong. This last week alone one of my neighbors broke a leg, one pinched a nerve in their neck, and another’s barn burned down just when the hay was in. They were all good people. And misfortune found them just the same. But why?
One of my favorite quotes comes from an episode of the British sci-fi series Doctor Who, when the beloved time-traveler and his companion, Amy, meet the artist Vincent Van Gogh. Although Amy hopes that their love and support would be enough for Van Gogh to overcome his depression, they return to the future to find that the now beloved genius still led a broken life which ended in suicide. Yet the Doctor comforts Amy, telling her, “Every life is a pile of good things and bad things. The good things don’t always soften the bad things, but vice versa, the bad things don’t necessarily spoil the good things or make them unimportant. And we definitely added to his pile of good things.”
This statement struck me the first time I heard it. No matter what I or anyone else does, bad things still happen. Natural disasters don’t pick and choose who is good or bad. A failing economy is as likely to affect a kind person as it is a cruel one. However, these things don’t make life any less of a miracle or God any less real. Sometimes disaster is brought on by our own mistakes. Sometimes it comes as part of the course of life. These trials don’t mean that God doesn’t care or doesn’t exist. I believe they must have another purpose.
Perhaps one of those reasons is so that we can learn to add to the pile of good things. The pile of bad things may seem monumental, but that only makes the pile of good things that much more important. Someone who has felt terrible pain will feel joy all the more sweetly when the time comes. Each day we add small pieces to our piles, seemingly insignificant drops in the ocean as we notice the small blessings that God has brought into our lives—be it through a bouquet of sunflowers or a starry night. There are also those moments when we can add to someone else’s pile of good things at the same time, and our faith will magnify those drops. When the bad times come, and they will come, we can remember the ocean of blessings God has given us.
It is true, bad things happen to good people. It is also true that good things happen to good people; the bad things in life don’t necessarily spoil them or make them unimportant. So if you are in the midst of a trial, don’t give up. Don’t let the pain tarnish the pile of good things in your life. You will find that there was more good than you realized.
Camille Ward is a student of English Education at BYU. She loves to spend time with her family and is not to be trusted in bookstores or bakeries.