In the wake of the tragic shooting at Sandy Hook elementary school in Connecticut, I know that many of you are asking (as I am) why? Why did this have to happen? Why does God (if He exists) allow such evil things to happen to such innocent people? How can God be loving when He lets innocent, pure children suffer?
While I certainly don’t pretend to know the answers to these ageless questions, I do believe that religious faith can comfort even in the darkest of times.
As many of you know, I am a devout Mormon. As such, I believe in the love and power of Jesus Christ. I believe in a God who honors our agency so much that He allows us to choose between good and evil. This, of course, often leads to the pain and suffering of others—many of whom are completely innocent and pure.
So how do we reconcile that? How can Christ, if He loves us, allow such horrible things happen to innocent people?
I think the answer to that question is found in the Atonement. In the Book of Mormon, it is written that through the Atonement, Jesus has “[gone] forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people…and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities (Alma 7:11-12).”
There is a high price to our agency and many innocent people suffer when we choose evil over good. But the same God who allows such evil things to happen is not a spectator to our pains. He paid the price for our agency and intimately, personally and deeply feels our pain as if it were His own. If we reach out to Him during our times of darkness, He will reciprocate. Because He has felt our pain and knows how to heal us. “In the world ye shall have tribulation:,” He said. “But be of good cheer; I have overcome the world (John 16:33).”
The Prophet Joseph Smith (who lost six of his eleven children) said this:
“I have meditated upon the subject, and asked the question, why it is that infants, innocent children, are taken away from us, especially those that seem to be the most intelligent and interesting. . . . The Lord takes many away even in infancy, that they may escape the envy of man, and the sorrows and evils of this present world; they were too pure, too lovely, to live on earth; therefore, if rightly considered, instead of mourning we have reason to rejoice as they are delivered from evil, and we shall soon have them again. . . . All children are redeemed by the blood of Jesus Christ, and the moment that children leave this world, they are taken to the bosom of Abraham. The only difference between the old and young dying is, one lives longer in heaven and eternal light and glory than the other, and is freed a little sooner from this miserable wicked world.”
Here’s a video about another shooting that involved children and the power of forgiveness.