Praise the Lord. Give thanks to the Lord for he is good; His love endures forever. Psalm 106:1
This has been a tough verse to swallow in the last ten days for my kids at school. There is no goodness in death itself, and it is hard to reconcile an untimely death and a sovereign and omnipotent God. “If God is good then why…” has echoed in their words and in their tears. And, to be honest, it has echoed in my own thoughts and tears as I have pulled together faith and love and steadiness; we must walk our talk, show our faith to those who desperately need to see what faith looks like when they can’t feel it. This means overcoming our feelings with truth.
Though our feelings come and go, his love for us does not… CS Lewis
I pulled out some old notes for a class I am teaching at school, and in the folder there was a small collection of notes dated October 6, 1999. The notes were in my Church History notes from 2006; seminary in Wake Forest is a lifetime away from college at UTC, so I have no doubt these notes were divinely “misplaced” so I would find them today.
I have no idea where I was or who was speaking (which is why I have since become obsessive about documenting notes. The historian in me believes this to be a requirement, and now I know why), but we were apparently discussing the characteristics of God. At this particular time we were discussing God’s goodness, and this one statement, written in my own hand, jumped off the page at me this morning:
“We would never willingly give up our son, but we praise God for the lives changed through his death.” This is a particularly jarring statement at this point in life, considering this anonymous statement echoes the cries of our hearts in the loss of a son, brother, teammate, classmate, friend and student last week.
We can’t understand God’s goodness because we’ve changed good to mean “something that pleases our senses.” But in reality, God and His characteristics are the only things that can define good.
In other words, God is the standard of good, not our desires. If God brings it, it is good, indeed it is best, regardless of our feelings toward the situation.
In the remainder of my notes from this event, there are many verses quoted, followed by one line observations I wrote then and have considered quite a bit today. I do not believe this will be the last day of my life that my heart will need to be reminded of the goodness of God. The italicized portions are the verses and quotes provided by the speaker, the bold statements are the questions and observations I jotted down in 1999.
The LORD is gracious and merciful; Slow to anger and great in lovingkindness. The LORD is good to all, And His mercies are over all His works. All Your works shall give thanks to You, O LORD, And Your godly ones shall bless You. They shall speak of the glory of Your kingdom And talk of Your power; To make known to the sons of men Your mighty acts And the glory of the majesty of Your kingdom. Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, And Your dominion endures throughout all generations. The LORD sustains all who fall And raises up all who are bowed down. Psalm 145:8-14
A ruler questioned Him, saying, “Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good ? No one is good except God alone.” Luke 18:18-19
If God is good, then what he really wants is what’s best for me, right? Can I trust you with my life?
Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren. Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow. James 1:16-17
God wants what’s best for me, but not necessarily what’s easy for me.
Those who dive in a sea of affliction bring up a rear pearl. Charles Spurgeon
When we truly trust God, we will not have anxiety or worry.
Now my last observation about trust and worry is much more cut and dry in the mind of the 19 year old who wrote the words than it is in the mind of the 32 year who read the same words today. It’s not either/or; sometimes trust and anxiety occur in overwhelming doses of both/and. But I know that anxiety causes me to either lean more and more on him or more and more on my own devices to relieve the situation. And I also know that the more I cast my anxieties on him, they are lessened, while the more I carry my anxieties on myself, the more they seem to multiply. And sometimes “casting” is a continuous action throughout a day.
Is it your whole life? Do you have a relationship? Trust that God wants what’s good for your life.
THAT is the key. That question: do you trust God? Do you trust that He wants what’s best for you? Do you trust that HE is what’s best for you?
The words, spoken to the ears of an 19 year old in 1999, heard today by the heart of a 32 year old, were delivered by the Spirit at just the right time. May they speak to your heart at just the right time.
The Problem of Evil may be a philosophical one but after academia it is still to be dealt with on a personal level.
Good post, especially for such a tough topic.
Wonderful, relevant post. Thank you!
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Four months ago I stood in a PICU and watched a doctor remove my 19 month old’s breathing tube. Two days before we were laughing and playing at the park. I’m furious with God, lost, confused… waves of doubt crash over me constantly. “Is God really good?” has been at the heart of so much of my pain. I feel betrayed. This world is such a horrible place and He chose to put us here, to suffer. How can He possibly be good?
This post has made me think. I’m not sure what I think but i am grateful for your honest, unveiled thoughts on the goodness of God.
Thank you for sharing your heart honestly here. The only thing I know from personal experience is that, even in the tragedy and the pain, He is good and He knows. Knows our pain and fury and confusion. And He can take it. I’ve spent many hours fighting it out with God about the hurt and pain I see in this world, and I don’t think I’ve surprised Him yet. I know at the end of every fit I pitch his way, he’s there to clean me up and set me on my way again. I’ve not been abandoned through any of it.
Praying that a little bit of my journey will give you a bit of clarity on your own journey. Please feel free to keep in touch.
So I’ve been thinking… if God defines good as whatever He defines good as then doesn’t the word (or more importantly the concept) become meaningless? We would say that a persons actions define their character, can this also be said of God? If not then how is His character defined (or displayed perhaps). If so then there’s a lot of negative evidence that can’t simply be swept under the rug. What do we do with that? Is the one act of the cross the one definitive display of His goodness?
Sorry it has taken me so long to reply. I didn’t realize there was a new post from you. My apologies.
God is clear in Scripture what He defines as “good” and it’s basically what we define as good. It is not that God considers death and pain and tragedy good; I would argue that He cannot. There is evil, brokenness, tragedy in this world. And God is saddened by that. In Luke we see Jesus weep over the city of Jerusalem. Psalms says that God gathers our tears, he knows them and knows us.
There is a very important difference between saying God sees tragedy as good and believing that God works tragedy FOR our good. There are events in this world that are senseless, and to try to find the good in it reduces the grief we experience and reduces the God I worship to some manipulative puppet master. There are some events that seem like pointless tragedy. And all they do is point us to the brokenness of this world and point us to the One who promises to make all things new. The tragedy of this world draws us to the One who says one day it will all be over.
I read this post a few days ago and thought of you when I did. I am thankful the Lord brought you to my mind, as I was reminded to pray for you. Even though we have never met, and I have never experienced anything near the heartache you are right now, the author of this post may have more understanding of what you are going through. I pray you find some comfort in knowing you are not alone.
Thank you for this post. It really reminded me of God’s plan for me, despite heartbreaks. It’s funny how He uses people that don’t even know each other in real life (except with the commonality of being connected to Him) to encourage each other. Thank you.
Thank you, JT, for that reminder. It is beautiful how the common bond of the Holy Spirit draws our hearts together to make sure we receive the encouragement we need, sometimes in the most unexpected ways and places.