Another mass shooting in the US, more bombings in Syria, floods, storms and earthquakes. Seeing the news makes it easy to wonder what God is up to. Where is He? Does He even care?
And lurking under these questions is another question; one that we hardly dare admit:
Is God really good?
I know some who struggle with the idea of God’s existence and this is one of their biggest issues. If God is good, why does He allow so much bad stuff? Why doesn’t He step in and fix it? We might have our stock answers about free will, or even that He might ask us that question: what are we prepared to do about it? But underneath, if we are really honest, God's goodness is a question many of us struggle with. If all this horrible stuff is going on in my life and my world, can God really be good?
It’s not a new question, though. It actually goes right back into the Garden, right back in our humanity. The serpent responds to Eve with a direct attack on God's goodness - God is withholding something good from you. It is a tension we have been grappling with ever since, every time we feel our lives are not quite how we would like them. "God, you could do better for me. If you were really good, my circumstances would be different." We might not give voice to these thoughts and feelings, but they often dwell somewhere deep inside us.
It is vital we settle the answer to this question in our own heart. It is a foundational aspect of our faith, and if I doubt the answer, I will constantly battle with it and constantly lose that battle. If I do not have a deep conviction of God’s goodness, my circumstances and what I see around me will continually trip me up in my faith. If I doubt God’s goodness at any level, this is where I will put more faith in what I see in the natural than in God. Put another way, when I believe with all my being that God is good, I have a different perspective on what is going on around me.
I recently read a blog about the Israelites having to walk around the walls of Jericho 14 times before the walls did anything, (When the Walls Don't Seem to Move, by Allison Bown). The walls didn’t start to crumble or shake or do even sway in the breeze until the final lap was done. Allison suggests that the battle many of those people were fighting on those seven days of walking was actually in their hearts and minds. Did they really trust God? He had told them what to do, but would He come through? They were investing a great deal into this – time, faith, energy, their reputations! What if it didn’t work?
I started to see some of my circumstances through the eyes of this marching around the walls. The promise is there, has been given, has been reinforced a number of times, but there are not even any cracks beginning to show. Nothing seems to move. In fact, some of those walls seem to be getting bigger, getting stronger. Do I keep marching, or do I try something different? Maybe I heard wrong? Maybe I should be using a cannon while I walk, or a sledgehammer, or some dynamite, or, or…maybe I just give up and go home because it is all too hard.
And so I come back to this question:
Is God good?
Because if He is, if His word lives up to His promise, then it is a game changer. If I can really trust Him to come through, to cause all things to work together for good to those who love Him, (Rom 8:28), then I don’t need to look at the exterior, to what outward appearances would seem to say. I can have confidence that He will work His good purposes and plans to fruition. I just need to continue to do what He asks me.
In the face of difficulties, in the face of catastrophe, disaster, horrific circumstances, we each have to settle this question for ourselves.
Is God good?
If I am not 100% sure, if there is any part of me that struggles to hold on to that belief, then I have some work to do. There is a place that needs healing in me, there is a place I am still allowing fear to reside, a place where I believe what fear says rather than God. I have to break up my partnership with fear. I have to end the deal I have believing everything fear would say to me, and renew my partnership with God. I have to allow Him and His Word to soak into those fear-filled spaces. After all, perfect love casts out all fear. And there, in that place, where His love floods over and through me again, I am able to say with all my strength and conviction:
YES. GOD IS GOOD!