God is Good . . . some of the time?

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I stood wearily outside the mortuary, listening to the elderly woman share about her husband’s recent passing.

“We were on our way to visit family. He just got into the car, closed his eyes and he was gone!” She went on to describe how it was such a blessing that he went so fast and painlessly, exclaiming, “God is so good!”

My father had passed away just two days before her husband, and his death was long and drawn-out. All I could say in return was, “it didn’t work out that way for my dad.”

Since that encounter, I’ve been more aware of when people use the phrase, “God is good.” And I’ve noticed that they typically say it when something positive has happened.

God answered a prayer the way they wanted it.

God healed someone.

God provided something they needed.

God made something easier.

Which begs the question: Is God only good when life is good? In other words, is God only good – some of the time?

On an emotional level, it’s certainly easier to believe God is good when He make our lives more pleasant. But what about when He allows bad things to happen?

In the process of writing this blog, I took a break to read the news online. The first article I saw was about a couple who died suddenly of separate causes less than 48 hours of one another [1].  They left behind a half-dozen children ages 6-20. A related GoFundMe page said, “They both had strong faiths in God, were vital members in their communities, and were such kind and gentle parents.”

Perhaps like me, you can’t help but feel the family’s pain and ask, “Why would a good God allow this?” “How could anything positive come out of such devastating loss?”

I can picture Biblical Joseph asking similar questions when he was thrown in a pit by his brothers, sold into slavery, and falsely imprisoned for years. [2]  Widowed Ruth likely doubted God’s goodness when poverty forced her to forage for leftover grain to keep from starving. [3]  Grief-stricken Mary and Martha were deeply upset when Jesus’ failed to arrive in time to keep their sick brother from dying. [4]

But their stories weren’t over yet. Even though horrific circumstances had overshadowed them, God was at work.

Joseph’s calamities ultimately paved the way for him to assume one of the highest positions of authority in Egypt, empowering him to save the starving Israelites. After being reunited with his family, he proclaimed, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” [5]

Ruth found herself scavenging for food in the field of a wealthy man named Boaz. He became her kinsman-redeemer, giving her a second chance at life and love. Together they had a son who became the grandfather of King David, and Ruth ultimately became part of the genealogy of Jesus Christ! [6]

Mary and Martha’s grief turned to joy when they witnessed the resurrection-power of Jesus first-hand. Christ’s “delay” in responding to their cries for help was part of a bigger plan that involved raising Lazarus from the dead. [7]   Jesus himself described, “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.” [8]

These Old Testament Biblical figures experienced the essence of Roman’s 8:28: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (NIV)

Only a God who is all-knowing, all-powerful and good could do that.

Let me assure you – I’m not suggesting that somehow the “good” that come out of bad situations counterbalances or mitigates our suffering.  It doesn’t mean we should discount our pain or short-change our grieving process.

Nor am I implying that God takes any pleasure in the tragedies we experience.

Quite the opposite is true.

The brokenness in our human existence was set in motion by evil – tracing back to Satan’s fall from heaven and Adam and Eve’s tragic decision to disobey God. [9, 10]  The enemy of our souls, the devil, is at the root of all disease, dysfunction and decay.

The good news is that God is all about redemption.

He sent Jesus to die for our sins, ultimately conquer Satan, and open the way to live eternally without pain or sorrow. [11] He promised to never leave or forsake us when we are suffering. [12] And he pledged to redeem the worst of situations by somehow bringing beauty out of ashes. [13]

I’ll admit, finding the ultimate good in bad circumstances is sometimes like mining for diamonds. It may take years to discover the jewels forged in the heat of suffering. Or frankly, we may not behold their brilliance until we’ve reached heaven’s shore.

Over the past few months, I’ve experienced the crushing weight of grief after losing my precious dad. Yet I’ve also glimpsed glimmers of good rising above my pain.

Dad’s death has helped me empathize more deeply with others experiencing loss. New doors have opened for me to encourage those in the midst of eldercare. Most of all, I have been comforted with a deeper realization that he is joyfully whole and complete in the presence of his Savior.

Even when it seems impossible that any good will come out of a bad situation, those who love God can cling to His promise that it ultimately will.

Recently I was inspired by the faith of two families touched by cancer.

Kara Tippetts, a young author and mother, wrote, “Suffering has a way of exposing our theology, certainly our practical theology, where what we believe about God collides with where we live. My heart always hurts a little when someone hears my story and begins to question God’s goodness.” [14]

Within the same week I learned that a friend who had valiantly gained ground against cancer may be experiencing a serious setback. While awaiting test results, her husband shared, “We are hoping for the best, yet preparing for the worst. Regardless, this is what we know: God is good. He is always good, and we are very grateful.”

These dear ones are my contemporary heroes of faith. They echo the conviction of Job, who in the midst of cataclysmic loss stated, “Though he slay me, yet will I hope in Him.” [15]

Their belief in God’s goodness transcends circumstances. It focuses on the heart and character of God, who demonstrated His love by sacrificing His own son for them. [16] By faith, they are trusting God to redeem even the hardest experiences of their lives.

When what we believe collides with where we live, may we also proclaim with confidence:

God is good, all the time.

All the time, God is good.

 


 

Verses Celebrating God’s Goodness, Love and Redemption

“Oh, how great is Your goodness, which You have laid up for those who fear You, which You have prepared for those who trust in You in the presence of the sons of men!” (Psalm 31:19 – NKJV)

“You are good, and what You do is good; teach me Your decrees.” (Psalm 119:68 – NIV)

“Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His love endures forever.” (Psalm 107:1 – NIV)

“The Lord is good to all; He has compassion on all He has made.” (Psalm 145:9 – NIV)

“Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man who trusts in Him!” (Psalm 34:8 – NKJV)

“I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.” (Psalm 27:13-14 – NIV)

“Nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow – not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love.” (Romans 8:38 – NLT)

“I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end He will stand on the earth.” (Job 19:35 – NIV)

“May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.” (Psalm 19:14 – NIV)

“Praise the Lord, my soul, and forget not all His benefits . . .who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion.” (Psalm 103:2, 4 – NIV)

“Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree’).” (Galatians 3:13 – NKJV)

“But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

“For God so loved the world that He gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16 – NIV)

“If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” (Romans 10:9 –NIV)

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Contemporary Songs of Encouragement in Dark Times

Excerpt from “I Will Trust”
Writer(s): Words and Music by Lauren Daigle, Paul Mabury and Michael Farren

You are my strength and comfort
You are my steady hand
You are my firm foundation
The Rock on which I stand
Your ways are always higher
Your plans are always good
There’s not a place where I’ll go
You’ve not already stood

When You don’t move the mountains
I’m needing You to move
When You don’t part the waters
I wish I could walk through
When You don’t give the answers
As I cry out to You
I will trust, I will trust
I will trust in You

Listen to the full song: I Will Trust in You

*******************************************************************
Excerpt from “Even If” performed by Kutless

“Sometimes all we have to hold on to
Is what we know is true
Of who You are
So when the heartache hits like a hurricane
That can never change who You are
And we trust in who You are

Even if the healing doesn’t come
And life falls apart
And dreams are still undone
You are God, You are good
Forever faithful One
Even if the healing
Even if the healing doesn’t come.”

Listen to the full song: Even If
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Footnote references:

[1] Parents of 6 die within 48 hours of each other –USA Today by Rob Quinn, May 2, 2016
[2] Genesis 37-40
[3] Ruth 1- 2:3
[4] John 11: 32-33
[5] Genesis 50:20
[6] Ruth 4:13-16
[7] John 11:43-44
[8] John 11:4
[9] Isaiah 14:12-17; Luke 10:18
[10] Genesis 3
[11] John 3:16
[12] Deuteronomy 31:8; Hebrews 13:5; Matthew 28:20
[13] Isaiah 61:3
[14] Life without a Bucket List by Kara Tippetts, April 26, 2016, Proverbs31.org
[15] Job 13:15 (NIV)
[16] Romans 5:8

5 thoughts on “God is Good . . . some of the time?

  1. Lorna Northcutt

    This article will go in my Personal file to refer back to in hard times when I don’t understand what is happening to me or around me. Thank you, Jane, for your clarity in writing about such a difficult subject. I pray the pain of losing your Dad and Mom both will ease over time.

    Love, Lorna

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  2. Cynthia Crouse

    I will trust in you o Lord when don’t understand you still are right there beside me.. Thank you lord for never giving up on me! I love you lord for always through good and the bad. You love me so much your everlasting love will never fail.

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  3. Kelly B

    I’ve had the SAME EXACT ponderings about that phrase, “God is good”. Thank you for articulating and writing so well about the gut-wrenching truth, whether good or bad is happening, “God is good”. It just hurts though, especially when you have just not gotten something good, when folks throw those words around so flippantly only in the face of getting what they wanted. So, now, I try not to say that anymore. I then chose to say, “God is gracious”–but, then that didn’t make sense, either–that is, if you don’t get that “good” thing then God isn’t gracious to you. So, now, I call it a “gift” if something goes well or in my favor. But, even then, no matter whether it appears good or evil, there is a gift in there for deepening faith or dependency on God in the face of hard times–not just getting what I want. And, the truth that He suffers and cries with us–that is the most comforting of all. Thank you for hitting on such valuable and real-life/living truths in our faith journeys.

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