Is God Good?
"If God is so good then why did this happen?!" cried our oldest son at just six years old. "I prayed for a baby sister and then she DIED!" he said falling down into a heap of tears. His six year old mind was trying to grasp the goodness of a God who doesn't always stop pain or only do things we understand. Truthfully, my thirty year old mind was wrestling with the same question. "God, if you're good, then why....?"
That voiced question over sixteen years ago is a question that must be answered over and over again in our lifetime. This question is a precarious one if we come to the wrong conclusion, but if we sit with it and allow it to do its work in us, it will lead to a deeper faith and trust. If we allow it, it will most often reveal a misconception we have about God. We will never find God to be less than we hoped Him to be. Different - yes, but less? No.
Isaiah 49:23 says, "Those who hope in God will never be disappointed." This is the verse I have learned to cling to when I am disappointed or even devastated with something in life. When life crashes and I am tempted to believe that God is anything other than good, it shows me my hope is not yet resting fully in Him and allows me the courage to discover with Him where my hope is truly lying. I so often find it is resting on things other than God. Things like: man's approval of me; the hope of a trouble free life; the idea that if I do the right thing, my life will turn out how I want it to; if I am faithful in raising my kids, then my kids will do what I want; if I invest in friendships, there will never be a lost one; and many more if/then things of life. All of these are hopes and may or may not come to pass, but they are not hopes in the immovable and unshakeable God. They are hope in good things, but not THE good thing and certainly not steady things to anchor a life to.
In the case of our stillborn daughter, I found a God who walks with us in our pain and makes something beautiful out of ashes. Not only did He give me hope in the moment, but also hope for the future. I learned the deeper the valley, the deeper He goes. There is never a valley where I will not find Him to be enough. Learning this calmed so many other fears in my life. Our six year old son found God in his valley too and has kept finding Him. We will never find ourselves in a place where God has not promised to be with us. In every valley, there is something we can learn about the goodness of God we could have never known without the pain.
Sometimes we have faulty belief systems that stand in the way of truly knowing God and life has a way of shaking all that can be shaken. The shaking is what causes us to let go of these often faulty beliefs and grasp for something else. It is in the grasping, we so often find the steadying hand of God reaching for us.
Often in these times, there is something more sinister lurking beneath the surface. The enemy starts to whisper lies and question God's goodness. People who are working through church hurt are especially vulnerable to this. The voice of some in the church and the voice of God can become confused in our minds and we begin to believe the hurt we have experienced was caused by God. Sometimes it is easy to lose faith in the goodness of God, but as we work through the hurt, we find we were clinging to a form of religion, a leader, a position, or a reputation instead of God. Trusting in His goodness opens the door to the healing that is so desperately needed.
Paul clung to religion and persecuted Christ, until the encounter on the Damascus road changed everything. He realized the very religion he was clinging to was keeping Him from Jesus.(Acts 9:1-9) It is the shaking that so often helps us to see more clearly IF we can cling to hope in God's goodness in the process even when we cannot see it. Our awareness of His goodness or lack of, does not change the truth that He is good.
The enemy, who is continually seeking our destruction, is always after our view of God. If he can distort our view of God and His intentions towards us, it's not a very big leap for us to walk away and conclude our best bet is to watch out for ourselves and do life on our terms. Maybe we don't completely walk away, but we back off from God a bit and become more cynical or maybe hold Him at arms length. In the Garden of Eden, the serpent deceived Eve by distorting what God had said and then questioning His motives. From there, he was able to convince Eve that she was better off taking care of herself than trusting in God. Life on her terms appeared to be much more wise than life on God's terms. (Genesis 3:1-6)
We will never be willing to live life on God's terms if we do not believe that He is truly good and that His intentions towards us are kind. Belief in His good intentions towards us give us the trust to believe He is right when He asks us to forgive those who have deeply wounded us, when He asks us to do something that is bigger than us, when He asks us to give up something we really believe is good for us, or when something He says doesn't make sense in light of our culture.
This is why God asked the Israelites to continually remember His goodness and His acts. Thankfulness for God's goodness to us are like foundation stones in our lives that will keep our lives firm when the storms begin to whirl around us. They remind us of who God has been so that we remember who He will be. Thankfulness builds faith and grounds us in God's goodness. Without thankfulness we tend to forget His goodness and when we forget His goodness, we are easily deceived into believing we are better off living life in our own way.
In every difficult season it is wise to pay attention to our view of God. Are we still believing He is good or are we beginning to believe He's let us down or holding out on us? We have a faithful Father who loves to show us His heart for us and we can bring all of our distorted views to Him and ask Him to help us to see clearly. God can do much with an honest heart looking for Him.