Imagine you’ve practiced hard for years to make the long-distance track team. You’ve done everything you can to prepare, including keeping the Word of Wisdom, with faith that the Lord will bless you for your obedience. But after tryouts, you get cut from the team, and a friend—one who smokes—makes the team.
How would you feel? Devastated? Confused? We all deal with disappointment and tragedy—even when we’re doing our best to live the gospel. And it can seem extra hard when others who don’t keep the commandments seem to get all the breaks.
In fact, sometimes it doesn’t seem to make any sense. After all, you’ve been promised that God will bless you for keeping His commandments. So why do bad things sometimes happen to people who are doing their best to live as God has asked us to live, and why do good things sometimes happen to people who aren’t choosing to do good?
We may not always know why things happen the way they do. But we can trust that Heavenly Father understands. Whether you struggle with envy because of blessings others received, disappointment because of blessings you didn’t receive, or sorrow because of tragedy, Heavenly Father can help you find peace.
One hard part about seeing good things happen to other people, especially when we feel like we’re the ones who deserve the reward, is choosing not to judge others. We may feel envious or jealous, maybe even sad that we were left out. We may wonder, “Why do others get the good things and I don’t?”
Well, maybe that’s not the right question. We can spend a lot of time wondering why good things happen to other people. But in the end, we can’t change what happened. What we can change is how we feel about it. If we don’t do that, the consequences only hurt us.
As Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles has taught, “Envy is a mistake that just keeps on giving. Obviously we suffer a little when some misfortune befalls us, but envy requires us to suffer all good fortune that befalls everyone we know! What a bright prospect that is—downing another quart of pickle juice every time anyone around you has a happy moment!”1
But how do we stop judging others when the feelings seem so real? We begin by realizing that we have the power to choose how we feel.
Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles has explained it this way: “As sons and daughters of our Heavenly Father, we have been blessed with the gift of moral agency, the capacity for independent action and choice. Endowed with agency, you and I are agents, and we primarily are to act and not just be acted upon.”2
Another way to stop judging others is to live as the Savior asks us to live. As we strive to keep the commandments, God provides spiritual blessings to heal our hearts, to help us see others and ourselves as He sees them and us, and to walk with Him.
Thus, envy and judgment can be replaced by compassion and peace as we give ourselves in service to the Savior.
But what about when bad things happen directly to you? How do you handle that? From little things to big things, trials come all the time, and some things can be truly life-changing. Maybe a loved one’s illness is diagnosed as cancer or you were hit and nearly killed by a driver who wasn’t paying attention. In cases like these, doesn’t your anger or frustration feel justified?
Maybe that’s not really the right question, either. What Elder Bednar taught about agency is still true. Each of us can choose how we act, react, think, and even feel. You can choose to be angry at life or at God or even at yourself. But what good does that do?
As Elder Neil L. Andersen of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles has said, “Distancing yourself from the kingdom of God during a trial of faith is like leaving the safety of a secure storm cellar just as the tornado comes into view.”3
Elder Quentin L. Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles has taught, “Peace comes from knowing that the Savior knows who we are and knows that we have faith in Him, love Him, and keep His commandments, even and especially amid life’s devastating trials and tragedies.”4
Choosing to be unhappy, even when it seems justified because of unfair things that happen, leads to darkness, bitterness, and disappointment. The good things we choose to believe, follow, and act on lead us to Christ and to the peace He offers (see Matthew 11:28; John 14:27). Just think of Joseph Smith’s example—he endured many great trials because of his faith and devotion to Christ, but he always remained true to the Lord and received many blessings and greater knowledge as a result.
No matter what happens, the Savior stands ready to help heal you and guide you. As President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, Second Counselor in the First Presidency, has taught: “There may be some among you who feel darkness encroaching upon you. You may feel burdened by worry, fear, or doubt. To you and to all of us, I repeat a wonderful and certain truth: God’s light is real. It is available to all! It gives life to all things (see D&C 88:11–13). It has the power to soften the sting of the deepest wound. It can be a healing balm for the loneliness and sickness of our souls. In the furrows of despair, it can plant the seeds of a brighter hope. It can enlighten the deepest valleys of sorrow. It can illuminate the path before us and lead us through the darkest night into the promise of a new dawn.”5