When I left for work on February 4th, I had plans to spend my lunch break working on the draft of my blog for the coming Saturday. But before my lunch break came, a call from my mother redirected all of my thoughts and energy. A scheduled test showed that my father needed bypass surgery, right away. After several months of consultations and tests, the family was caught off guard by the seriousness and urgency of his condition. He had open-heart surgery the following day. Now it’s been two weeks, and I still haven’t returned to that draft.
My father came through surgery well and is recovering more quickly than I even hoped. I am thankful to still have my daddy around, and I was happy to be able to take a week off to be with my parents. I was also blessed by the many prayers of friends. I am close to my parents and an unabashed Daddy’s Girl, but I was so overwhelmed by the news and progression of events, that I wasn’t able to dwell too much on thoughts of losing him. These are the situations in life that make most of us stop to think. As I drove to work on the morning of the surgery, I sang along with Chris Tomlin, “It will be my joy to say / Your will, Your Way.” I prayed that God would help me to accept His will, whatever it was, and I had peace.
One of the things that caught my attention in the midst of this situation, was the response of some who had been praying for my father. Upon news of a successful surgery, they said, “God is good.” It is a true statement, and one I often say myself when things work out in a pleasing manner. But I have been catching myself when I say it because I keep being reminded that God’s goodness is not conditional or outcome-based. The course of our lives is not a litmus test for God’s inherent goodness. Faith in God requires us to believe that God is good, no matter what happens to us. If we do not trust in His faithfulness when all we have is stripped away, as it was for Job, we do not really trust Him at all.
And a ruler asked him, “Good Teacher, what must 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
It is important to know what we mean when we say that God is good. We call many things good, and some things great. In fact, good is a rather pedestrian, ordinary word in our daily vernacular. What does it tell us about God? He is benevolent, and He is holy. But is that all it means? I looked to the dictionary to get a better idea of what this word teaches us about God. One of the uses is defined as, “conforming to a standard.” God, of course, cannot be conformed. He is the standard by His very existence. He sets the bar for what is good and what is not. Going back to dictionary definitions, He is more than virtuous or commendable, He is the embodiment of all that is virtuous or commendable. Many struggle with questions of how a good God can allow bad things to happen. How can God strike men dead or allow disaster to sweep people away in a moment?
Psalms 145:3 states, “His greatness is unsearchable.” The human mind cannot search out or understand fully, the goodness (or greatness) of God. So when someone asks how a good God can allow bad things to happen, part of the answer to that complicated question is that our minds cannot understand God’s goodness. But to unpack that a bit more, we have to realize that God has plans that we cannot see. He uses the bad things that happen to create good in the lives of those who love Him. As Joseph told his brothers in Genesis 50:20, “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good. . .” God has allowed evil on earth, for a time, and in the end, He will overcome it. This is for His glory, and is even to our benefit! God alone can take what is bad and redeem it into good for those who love Him.
The LORD is gracious and merciful,Psalms 145:8-9
slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
The LORD is good to all,
and his mercy is over all that he has made.
Even as I am thankful for God giving me more time with Daddy, I know that there are others who are dealing with difficulties. My sister’s family lives in Texas. They were not among the hardest hit, but there are many across the center of the country who are still suffering the effects of last week’s storm. There was also a loss that I have just a small share in. A man I have admired for most of my life went to be with his Savior. The sadness of so many who loved him only serves to underscore the immense loss that those closest to him must feel. It was a stark contrast to the joy of my father’s steady recovery. Isn’t this how life goes? There are triumphs and losses, and a lot in between. Followers of Christ are in the happy circumstance of not being dependent on life’s wins for our hope and joy. The goodness of God is not that He gives us an easy life of smooth sailing, but that, in His faithfulness, He gives us what we need to weather the stormy seas. We have this instruction: “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds. . .” (James 1:2)