You know that saying about how only the good die young? And how basically everyone at some point wonders why bad things happen to good people? What about the statement about how God MUST be punishing you because everything is going wrong in your life? Perhaps you’re familiar with the “God doesn’t care about me” explanation? Well, to me, there seems to be a kind of all encompassing answer for all of that – trials are supposed to make us better and stronger. They’re given to us to teach us something. While I’m totally not disagreeing with that answer in any way, shape or form (because, from my own experience, I know it’s absolutely 100% true), I think there’s a lot more to it than that.
First off, in order to understand the WHY of every situation, you need to know and really understand the nature of God. In a nutshell: He’s not some crazy all mighty, all powerful being who shoots lightning down at everyone who displeases Him. He doesn’t ignore those who talk to Him (or even those who don’t!). He’s not a mysterious entity floating around somewhere in the universe. Yes, He’s all mighty and all powerful, but definitely not in the frightening way that some people think when they hear those words. God is good and loving and kind and aware of each of us. There are three words often used to describe Him: Omnipotent (all powerful), omniscient (all knowing), Omnipresent (all present – everywhere). God has a perspective a lot broader than ours… WAY broader. It is also known as an eternal perspective. Though we can’t know all that God knows, we can look at the bigger picture. The way I see it, many times when people struggle a lot with their trials, they’re not necessarily seeing the bigger picture – AKA they don’t have an eternal perspective. They’re often thinking of themselves and how they’re missing out on a lot of things because of the trial, or “Why?!? I didn’t do anything wrong! Why me?!?!”, or they just become so sunken with grief that they don’t do anything with their lives and continue to mope around and cry all the time.
Okay. I realize that those descriptions aren’t really very positive. I don’t mean that doing these things is a sin. I just mean… Well, let me sum it up: they spend their time living in the past. I’ve got a fantastic quote from a Disney movie. Perhaps you’ve heard it. In the Lion King, the baboon Rafiki says: “The past can hurt, but the way I see it, you can either run from it or learn from it.” In the movie, while Simba is living with Timon and Pumbaa in the jungle, he’s only running from his past. For a while, it works. Simba’s happy. He doesn’t have to think about it or worry about it. He can pretend it never happened. But then Nala comes back into the picture and he’s forced to remember it again. So he decides to confront it and learn from it instead of pushing it aside and running again. It’s the same for our lives. How many times have you tried to ignore something that you did or something that happened in the past but little reminders here and there from family, friends, media, books or other sources keep dredging it back up to the forefront of your mind again? Or do you just wallow in the memories and self-pity? Either way, it’s kind of really painful when that happens, right? But have you ever experienced the opposite, where you decided to learn from your past mistakes and/or trials and move on? What was the result? As far as Simba goes, we all know the ending – he became king of Pride Rock and peace and happiness was restored in his realm. Hmmmm. Any similarities in your situation? For me, it’s exactly the same. At least the peace and happiness being back in my life. But you know what’s really awesome? One day, it WILL be exactly the same. God is our FATHER. We have the opportunity to be like Him. Don’t people refer to Him as a King? If we’re His children, wouldn’t that mean we have the opportunity and ability to become kings and queens one day, too? I believe that to be absolutely true! One day, if I live righteously and do all I can to fulfill the promises I’ve made to Him, I will inherit all that my Father has (Romans 8:16-17). I also believe, though, that if we just run from our past and don’t learn from it, we’re not going to be able to change very much, nor will we be able to reach our full potential as Sons and Daughters of God. And THAT is what an eternal perspective is – connecting everything together to see the bigger picture, the whole story, the beginning, middle and end. THAT is why I think we have trials – because God loves us enough to give them to us or let us make our own choices that sometimes aren’t right so we can learn and someday reach our full potential.
I have a second point to make today. I went to the temple this week and saw signs letting drivers know that the highway might be backed up because of a funeral procession for a fallen Colorado State Patrol Cadet. Normally when I see signs like that, I don’t think much of it. I might spend a few extra seconds thinking of the family of the fallen soldier or serviceman, but that’s really it. This time, however, I was almost brought to tears because this one hit a little closer to home. This cadet was only 21 years old and he’s someone I went to high school with. He was a grade or two below me,and I never met him, but I’d seen him in the halls. News of his death was all over my Facebook feed last week with some of my high school friends posting memories and condolences. So when I saw that announcement on the signs over the highway, I thought of him a little more. His friends obviously cared about him and looked up to his example. In the few moments before he died, he saved the life of a man who was with him. Though I didn’t personally know him, I can see that he was and is a good man who impacted a lot of the lives around him. But then that’s when the phrase ‘only the good die young’ came into my thoughts. Naturally, I remembered my brother who passed away two years ago on June 1. I didn’t have flashbacks of fun memories or really any memories of us together. I remembered after he died. A lot of people were and are shocked and saddened when they found out he was only 22 at the time and say things like “he had his whole life ahead of him”. Well, actually, I think he’d lived his life. He was just simply done with his mission here on Earth. Comparing these two deaths made me realize something, though. Neither of them was quite yet finished with their mission here, but they don’t physically need to be here to do it.
My brother, Tyler, always would joke that only about 8 people would show up at his funeral whenever he died. He never thought he was very popular, but he knew who he was – a Son of God with a testimony of his Savior, Jesus Christ. Because of that, he was happy. He was kind. He never let anyone or anything get him down. He was one of the best examples of Jesus Christ that I have in my life, besides Christ Himself. He learned from his past experiences and chose to become better and stronger rather than letting choices and trials get the better of him. He hardly ever focused on himself. And those things are what made all the difference in the world. At the memorial service in Utah and the funeral service in Colorado, both chapels (and overflows) were completely filled to the brim with people who had, at some point or another, been touched by Tyler’s example and love. Many people shared memories with us of how Tyler had changed their lives simply by listening, by sharing his musical talent, or just by living what he knew to be true. He’s still changing people’s lives.
On Memorial Day this last week, we held an annual event called the Tyler2Miler. We just invite anyone who wanted to to come and walk or run with us around the lake in our hometown (2 miles). We accepted donations for the scholarship we established in Tyler’s name to help band students at the local high school who want to do marching band but can’t afford the fees. There’s a story I want to share that illustrates the impact good people have on others even after they’re gone. My dad shared this on the event’s page:
“Last year an older gentlemen (80’s) showed up after hearing our announcement about the scholarship fund at a HS band concert. He didn’t know who we were but just wanted to come out and participate and he shared that he too had lost a son. I had a very nice visit with him and thanked him for joining us.
This year we were gathering around getting ready to start and across the parking lot I saw this gentlemen! So I went over to say Hi, see how he was doing and thank him for once again making the walk part of his Memorial Day. It turns out he just kind of assumed we would be walking so showed up. I thought that was pretty cool. But after the walk I got “the rest of the story.” He shared with us that this winter he had a knee replacement done and this walk was his inspiration to keep up the PT in order to be ready to walk around the lake by Memorial Day. That perfectly captures the bigger picture of how we want Tyler remembered. Just like Tyler to continue to make new friends and encouraging them!”
So you see? I honestly think the reason that ‘only the good die young’ is because they’re done with their earthly mission. But because of what they did with their lives and simply because they were young, they will stay around a lot longer as memories, influencing people’s lives for years and even generations to come. They die young so their example can be remembered and reach even farther than it would have had they died old. (*Disclaimer: This does not mean there are no good old people who are never remembered!)
We will all leave our mark on the world when we go. How do you want to be remembered?
God is all knowing. He has a complete, perfect and eternal perspective on everything. He knows what’s best for us. He knows what we need. He knows how we’ll handle certain situations. And He knows our potential to change ourselves the lives of those around us. He is always there, willing to help as soon as we ask for it. He is perfect. He is wonderful. He is my loving Father, and I trust in Him completely with all that I have. Whatever happens, let it come. I will love it because I know who I can become. Whatever happens, let it come. Because I know it will change me in a way that will influence the lives of those around me when I’m gone, whether I die young or old. Whatever happens, let it come. I can handle it because I know my Savior and I know He is with me always.