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God Is Good. . . Whatever That Means

Thumbs UpI fear that we often think of God’s goodness in very shallow terms. We exclaim that “God is so good!” in response to good news—perhaps regarding finances, health or other physical needs. While it is true that such blessings are evidences of God’s goodness, God’s goodness must mean more than a sanctified way of saying “Alright!” According to Scripture, there’s much more to it than our favorable circumstances reveal. I like to think of it from the opposite side: when the Bible says that God is good, it means that He is never bad. And although that affects me, it’s much bigger than me.

This article by Nathan Williams is thought-provoking. He demonstrates that God’s goodness refers both to His inherent goodness and to the expression of that goodness in His benevolent treatment of His creatures. Nathan does a good job explaining God’s goodness clearly and concisely. Rather than continuing his explanation with more texts or explanation, I’m going to build on it with two illustrations that have helped me understand this biblical concept more accurately.

The first thing that opened my understanding to the meaning of God’s goodness was the trip I took to Greece in October of 2006. All over the country we were confronted with the pagan gods which the Greeks (and much of the world) worshiped. The gods of Greece were many things, but good was not one of them. They were often unkind to men; they certainly weren’t benevolent. But in a more basic sense, they were simply immoral. They were known for their sensuality, their jealousy, their vengeance, their drunkenness, etc. Quite frankly, they were bad, particularly because wicked men had made them in their own image. Our God isn’t like that. He’s not just nice; He’s morally good.

The second incident which helped me to better understand God’s goodness was a family trial. I remember getting a note from my brother-in-law 10 years ago, a note giving an update on the health of their newborn son. Jonathan had been diagnosed with Down Syndrome. In addition to mental challenges, he faced severe physical needs, including open heart surgery during the first months of his life. The days following his birth were like a roller coaster: news was good, then bad, then good, then bad. After a day with some welcome good news (and following a day with some particularly bad news), Jeff sent out a note which started by saying “God was good today.” A thoughtful friend replied to Jeff as follows: “God was just as good yesterday, Jeff. It just didn’t feel like it.”

Indeed. God is good when we receive an unexpected blessing, but God is just as good when we learn that we have cancer or that a family is leaving the church or that we have an unexpected bill we’re not ready to pay. God is good all the time. I’ve thought of the reminder from Jeff’s friend often when I’ve been tempted to say “God is good!” upon receiving good news. Would I have said the same thing if the circumstance had been reversed? If not, what I’m really saying might more honestly be “What good luck!” or “God did what I wanted!” or “God finally got it right!” Those statements don’t sound so pious, do they? Yet, the truth is, I have no business greeting encouraging news by rejoicing in God’s goodness unless I would greet the opposite news in the same way. Rejoicing in God’s goodness only in the midst of prosperity reveals that (a) I don’t understand God, and (b) I’m more interested in my own interests than God’s character.

Think of God’s goodness in terms of Scripture, not circumstances. God doesn’t change. He is omnigood, both in His nature and in His dealings with creation, and particularly with His children. He’s not unkind. He’s not immoral. He’s not bad.

Next time you’re tempted to exclaim that “God is good!” pause to consider what you really mean.

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3 Responses

  1. My goodness! (oops) That was a whale (oops) of a good reminder, Chris. Seriously, careful forethought would limit the content of our conversations, wouldn’t it?

  2. “Careful forethought would limit the content of our conversations,” indeed! :)

    Thank you for this post, Pastor Anderson. That God is good, both in times of triumph and in times of apparent tragedy, is a lesson that I, too, have learned through fiery trial–which, from this vantage point, looks much less fiery and much more like immense, undeserved blessings because of the abundant grace and spiritual lessons that God, in His goodness, ministered to my soul during those days.

    God is always good–I suspect that the degree to which we learn that depends on our submission to Him as our holy, omniscient, loving Heavenly Father in the blackest hours when we have no answers and no understanding of what He is doing in our lives.

  3. […] Is Rejoicing! September 19th, 2007 — Chris Speaking of God being good, I just got a note from my brother Dan, who is home on furlough from his ministry in Brazil. He is […]

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