We Christians have our sayings. In response to, “How are you?” we have, “Feeling blessed!” Or, “I’m feeling sick today.” “Oh, I’ll be praying for you.” Or, “Got a raise today.” “Amen, praise God!” Or, “I just saw the worst news on the Facebook this morning.” “Wow, hard to understand, but, God has a plan.”
Please don’t misunderstand me. We Christians are sincere people who want to help and serve and encourage. And these phrases are not bad. It’s just that they are used so profusely and so automatically that I worry that their meaning has been hollowed out.
Take the phrase, “God is good.” Before I continue, please know that I believe with all my heart, soul, and strength in the goodness of God. That is why I sometimes bristle when I hear the phrase.
Many godly, well-meaning believers throw “God is good” out there whenever someone has something positive happen to them. When a baby is born healthy, when a diagnosis returns benign, when a new house is found at the right time and price, when someone comes to Christ, ”God is good!” is the knee-jerk response. And it is indeed true! But the perfunctory and copious use of it, I fear, diminishes the scope and magnitude of the truth of God’s goodness. God is, indeed, good. All the time.
The author of Lamentations cries in Chapter 3, verse 25, “The Lord is good…” The context of this declaration is staggering. Jerusalem had just been destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon. Judah’s king, Zedekiah, was blinded and carted off to exile, along with thousands of Judah’s officials. The people were destitute, starving, and dying. Parents were eating their children in order to survive. Yet the author, an eye witness to the siege, still managed to proclaim the goodness of God!
Several years ago, a friend of mine died of breast cancer. She left behind a husband and three young children. When she was diagnosed, I asked her how she was feeling about everything. Her sincere response? “God is so good. If I survive this, I get to be with my family. If I die, I get to be with Christ. It’s a win-win!”
The other night, in the college class I am teaching, a student received a text from home saying that a friend of hers was killed in a car accident. In fact, four young people were killed, two of them sisters, the only children of their parents. My student was distraught, understandably so, and we prayed for her and the families of the victims. After we prayed, I used the opportunity to gently remind my students, all college juniors and seniors, that though a tragedy of this magnitude is profoundly difficult to grasp, and though it raises many questions about God’s intentions, God is still and always good. We talked about his loving kindness and his mercy, and how it’s ok to question him when unspeakable atrocities touch our lives. I wanted them to know that he is a God who can be trusted because of his goodness, no matter what we see in the world.
God is good when the baby is born healthy or sick, when the diagnosis is benign or terminal, when the house is found or elusive, and when people accept Christ or reject him. He is purely and utterly good, all the time, in all circumstances.
The goodness of God is difficult to see in the midst of trials, but oh, I could fill a volume with instances of his goodness after trials in my own life were through. I have lost a child. I have had cancer. I am living through the heartache of a prodigal. Not once, even before I knew God, have I ever received anything less than goodness from him. That is why I experience inexpressible joy in Christ. It is why my faith does not waiver, nor does my trust in his good intentions for my life. It is the all sufficiency of Christ, obtained at the cross, that leads me to see that my “light and momentary afflictions are preparing me for an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison” (2 Corinthians 4:17).
The author of Lamentations began his proclamation of God’s goodness several verses before verse 25, in 3:21: “But this I call to mind…” He was able to declare God’s goodness in the presence of inexpressible tragedy because he remembered God’s goodness in past trials! Verse 21 ends with “…and therefore I have hope.” The calamity he was witnessing did not diminish his memory of God’s goodness because he intentionally brought to mind what he knew to be true from past experience. We must do the same! Because God is, indeed, and always, very good.