I can’t believe I’m going to admit this in a public venue, but sometimes, I secretly roll my eyes when something wonderful happens and someone exclaims, “God is so good!”
I don’t react this way because what the person says isn’t true, or even because I think he or she shouldn’t say it. Clearly, giving God credit for the blessings He kindly bestows is an obvious and appropriate response in many situations.
Rather, it’s because it sort of amuses me that I don’t think I’ve ever heard someone proclaim this phrase when something bad happens, even though God’s goodness supersedes human circumstances and is always present, no matter what.
It might sound a tiny bit like a cliché when we repeat it in church, but it’s solid biblical truth.
God is good, all the time (Psalm 23:6 and Psalm 136:1).
And although a conscientious person would never carelessly toss out phrases about God’s goodness to someone in the throes of suffering, when it’s properly understood, this aspect of His character can provide great comfort and encouragement in the midst of a trial.
You could probably fill a library with all the non-fiction books that have been written about why God allows suffering. But when Randy and I were dealing with infertility many years ago, it was actually a passage from a novel that touched my aching heart so much I just had to include it in the book I later wrote about the subject.
In the following excerpt from my book, I describe what is happening in the story, then share a powerful quotation from Heathersleigh Homecoming by Michael Phillips.
• • • •
A woman named Hope had served for a time as a missionary in New Zealand. She and her husband were enjoying their ministry and expecting their first child when a leader in their village turned on them, killing her husband and burning their home.
The shock of it sent her into labor, but the baby didn’t survive. This tragedy forced Hope to totally rethink her faith. “How can I believe in God’s goodness after what had happened?” she asked herself over and over again.
She sank into deep despair. Then one day, after she had returned home to London, a chance opportunity to help a lost little boy find his mother made her realize that despite her doubts and self-absorption, she was still capable of kindness and goodness.
Upon recognizing that the goodness within her had come from God, she came to the conclusion that God truly was good, and that His goodness wasn’t meant to take away the world’s suffering, but to provide a refuge in the middle of it. As the following excerpt shows, this realization transformed the way she looked at life.
“What I came to accept was simply this … that God is good.”
A long silence followed.
“Only that and nothing more,” Sister Hope added, “—God is good.
“It does not mean that things in my life will always be good … but that God is good. It does not mean that my life will be an easy one … but that God is good. It does not mean that my prayers will always be answered in the way I would like … but that God is good. It does not mean that tragedy may not visit me … but that God is good. It does not mean that there will not always be suffering in the world … but that God is good. It does not mean that there will not be times when I am so overcome by sadness at memories in my life that I must go outside and find a place to be alone and just cry for an hour … but that God is good. It does not mean that there will not continue to be many who will deny his very existence because of the pain and seeming unfairness of life they see all around them … but that God is good. It does not mean that there will not always be many questions for which we have no answers … but that God is good.
“God’s goodness is the larger truth over the whole, the largest truth overspreading all of life—over cruelty, over suffering, over tragedy, over doubts, over despair, over broken relationships, over sin itself. Why God’s goodness doesn’t eliminate such things, I don’t know. Perhaps we shall ask him one day. For some reason our tiny human minds cannot comprehend, God has allowed suffering in his universe. I don’t know why. You and I might have done it differently. But then we are not God, so it is impossible for us to see all the way into the depths of the matter. We therefore cannot perceive the many ways in which the very suffering we rail against may in fact contribute to the overall eternal benefit and growth of God’s universe and its created beings.
“We cannot see to the bottom of such things. So we foolish creatures look at the world’s suffering and say God must not exist, or if he does he must not care, or must be a cruel God. Yet I suspect that when we are one day able to see all the way into it, we will see that Goodness and Love lie at the root even of all the suffering that was ever borne by this fallen humanity of which we are part. The devil is presently having his brief illusion of triumph, but God’s goodness will reign in the end.”
She paused, then added, “In short, the circumstances of life do not always seem to be good, but God himself is always good. Thus, though there may not always be happiness, there is always hope. That must be the basis for our faith—not that God gives us a happy life.”
• • • •
A couple of decades have passed since I first read that passage from Heathersleigh Homecoming, and its impact is as strong now as it was then. If you find yourself in a spot where you need to reflect on God’s goodness today, I hope this has helped.
Note: This post includes an excerpt from my book Infertility: Finding God’s Peace in the Journey (Harvest House, 2003), available here.
P.S. Linking up this week with Kelly Balarie at Purposeful Faith, Jennifer Dukes Lee at #TellHisStory, Holley Gerth at Coffee for Your Heart, Lyli Dunbar at #ThoughtProvokingThursday, Crystal Twaddell at #FreshMarketFriday and Dawn Klinge at Grace & Truth.