God doesn’t protect us from suffering
I don’t think our Heavenly Parents primarily want to protect us from suffering.
When I look back at my own life, and the lives of others in history (biblical and otherwise), divine intervention can be confusing…
- Why was Daniel protected in the Lion’s den, but Stephen stoned to death in Jerusalem?
- Why were Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego protected from the fiery furnace, yet Abinadi was persecuted and burned at the stake?
- Why were 5,000 fed in Christ’s day, yet 15,500 people have died from Coronavirus?
I think it’s because whether or not and how much we suffer is of secondary importance to our Heavenly Parents. It’s more important that we return to them, and sometimes suffering can help with that.
A pioneer example…
The Willie and Martin Handcart Company were early members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who traveled by foot from the eastern states to Utah in 1856. They encountered unparalleled hardships due to leaving only shortly before Winter. People criticized the church for allowing such a late departure, but one man from the company responded..
I ask you to stop this criticism. You are discussing a matter you know nothing about. Cold historic facts mean nothing here, for they give no proper interpretation of the questions involved. Mistake to send the Handcart Company out so late in the season? Yes. But I was in that company and my wife was in it… We suffered beyond anything you can imagine and many died of exposure and starvation, but did you ever hear a survivor of that company utter a word of criticism? …
Was I sorry that I chose to come by handcart? No. Neither then nor any minute of my life since. The price we paid to become acquainted with God was a privilege to pay, and I am thankful that I was privileged to come in the Martin Handcart Company.
The price we paid to become acquainted with God was a privilege to pay.
With a wider perspective, the price was worth it to our Heavenly Parents too, because it brought Their children back to Them.
A Book of Mormon example…
The Anti-Nephi-Lehis were attacked by others in their community who were mad at their conversion to the gospel of Jesus Christ. These recent converts could not bring themselves to shed blood of their former friends and family, so they didn’t defend themselves and many died, but…
…the people of God were joined that day by more than the number who had been slain; and those who had been slain were righteous people, therefore we have no reason to doubt but what they were saved.
And there was not a wicked man slain among them; but there were more than a thousand brought to the knowledge of the truth; thus we see that the Lord worketh in many ways to the salvation of his people.
The people of God were joined that day by more than the number who had been slain.
A concentration camp example…
Viktor Frankl was a neurologist and psychiatrist as well as a Holocaust survivor. Not many can claim more suffering than he did! In Man’s Search for Meaning, he taught:
If there is a meaning in life at all, then there must be a meaning in suffering. Suffering is an ineradicable part of life, even as fate and death. Without suffering and death human life cannot be complete.
If there is a meaning in life at all, then there must be a meaning in suffering.
Maybe we should worry more about a lack of perspective than a lack of suffering?
I don’t want to criticize anyone (including myself at times) who complains when they suffer or who hopes for suffering to end.
I just want to point out that the value of suffering may be a matter of perspective.
In addition to the scriptural/historical examples from above, Donna Jackson Nakazawa, a modern scientist and author commented that:
“The recognition that you have lived through hard times drives you to develop deeper empathy, seek more intimacy, value life’s sweeter moments, and treasure your connectedness to others and to the world at large. This is the hard-won benefit of having known suffering.”
Do our Heavenly Parents care if we suffer?
Yes they do!
Our Heavenly Parents allow us to suffer because their end goal is our “immortality and eternal life” (Moses 1:39). But they will “not require you to experience a moment more of difficulty than is absolutely needed for your personal benefit or for that of those you love” (Elder Scott).
My recent HWN has been understanding better the virtue of suffering.
And if you have a few more minutes, here’s an uplifting video about similar principles.
p.s. Here’s my family’s digital church from the last couple weeks :)
p.p.s. I went with Becky Burr and the Blue Grass Boys to Costco yesterday to cheer up the line of people in need of supplies ;)