“And there was war in heaven,” the Revelator writes: “Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels, and prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven. And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him” (Revelation 12:7-9). As a result of this war in heaven, we live in a world full of opposition, adversity, and differences of opinion. It can be difficult to accept that sorrow, tragedy, or sin could have any place in God’s plan for His children. An eternal perspective, however, helps us to see not only that opposition is necessary but also that God has provided a way for each of His children to overcome whatever difficulties they may face.
The Book of Mormon prophet Lehi taught that “it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things. If not so…righteousness could not be brought to pass, neither wickedness, neither holiness nor misery, neither good nor bad. Wherefore, all things must needs be a compound in one” (2 Nephi 2:11). In other words, without opposition, there can be no difference and, consequently, no significance. Let’s imagine, for example, that we thought it was silly to punish people for speeding. The only way to remove the penalty for speeding would be to abolish the law that makes speeding a crime. Once we had gotten rid of the law against speeding, we would have freed ourselves from the burden of having to prosecute speeders. However, we would also have made it impossible for anyone to keep the law. What difference would it make whether a person drove the speed limit or not if there were no law that mandated obedience to the limit?
A law against speeding is not just an excuse to punish people who drive too fast. A law against speeding is a law that protects those who drive at a safe speed. Further, just because the existence of the law makes speeding possible (you can’t speed if it’s not illegal), the existence of that law does not make speeding an equally valid option. So it is with God’s law. The laws of God, His commandments, are not designed to punish the sinner but are, rather, meant for the protection of the obedient. Further, though His laws distinguish between right and wrong, that does not mean that either option is equally valid. A plan that made no distinctions between right and wrong would be a plan that made no distinctions—and would, therefore, be as good as no plan at all.
Of course, the significance of opposition is not limited to matters of right and wrong. If there were no distinction between joy and sadness—if we eliminated sadness from the world—our joy wouldn’t be significant: it would just be the status quo. Similarly, if being warm were never an option, being cold wouldn’t be uncomfortable: it would just be the way things are. Thus, if we are to be happy, if we are to obey God’s will, if we are to find satisfaction in this life—the opposites of all those things must also exist. Otherwise, our decisions and experiences would be utterly meaningless.
But while these oppositions can and must exist—they do not all come from God. Though He created the world and instituted the law, He is not the source of sadness nor of sin. As the Revelator recorded, the devil was cast out of heaven, being an enemy to God, and he continues to fight his war against God’s plan, spreading misery and persuading God’s children to sin. “Wherefore,” the Book of Mormon teaches, “all things which are good cometh of God; and that which is evil cometh of the devil” (Moroni 7:12).
Thus, it is not God’s fault when we sin (if only He hadn’t issued the commandments as He had)—but it is also not God’s fault when we suffer. All good things come from God—and only good things come from God. He cannot produce suffering, and He will never be the source of it. Though His plan allows for suffering, that doesn’t mean He is just as pleased when we suffer as when we rejoice. Because He is a good, loving God, I’m confident that He would always prefer for us to rejoice. However, because His plan is for us to rejoice eternally and because we can only fully understand and appreciate joy in opposition to sorrow, He allows us to endure sorrow in this lifetime.
Yes, God allows sorrow to exist, but, again, He is not its source. God is the source of happiness, and we can find solace and support by turning to Him, whatever difficulties we may face. Because “He doeth not anything save it be for the benefit of the world” (2 Nephi 26:24), we can be confident that we will never go wrong by following Him. Eternal happiness is founded on this understanding: that opposition exists, that opposition can be overcome, and that God is the One with the solutions to every problem we may come across in this life.