Now, this is less a theological teaching as much as it is simply my 2 cents on something.
Now, it’s not uncommon to hear a believer say, when something good happens, “God is good.” Now of course, God is good. God alone is good. But while I am not slow to praise God, I don’t make a habit of saying “God is good” whenever something good happens to me. And here’s why: God’s goodness is not based simply on what happens on earth, yet I feel like that sounds like what is being said (though I know it isn’t). Now, He does show His goodness on earth all the time. But if we were to judge God’s goodness on what happens on earth, we’d hardly have a very good God!
“I just got a job! God is good!” What about the hundreds of Americans who lost jobs today? If God is good for giving you a job, is he bad for making them lose theirs?
“My sister survived her surgery! God is good!” What about the 4 other people who died in the car crash? Would God seem so good to those people? (He would, of course, if they knew Him). Wouldn’t a “good” God, if God’s goodness were based on how happy our lives are, have prevented it entirely?
Our lives may be pretty okay, but what about the billions of people who live in abject poverty, or who are under constant fear from vicious, godless, murderous rulers?
How then can I even say God is good? Well, if all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23), and if indeed sin is so horrible that even one sin warrants eternal punishment (arguments over the meaning of that term aside), then it would seem quite understandable that all people are at least eligible for great suffering on earth. Indeed, we all suffer. Some may be direct and targeted (like a drunk driver being killed or badly injured in a car crash he or she caused), and other suffering is seemingly arbitrary (like the woman who died in the other car), but suffering is everywhere. It probably isn’t very evenly spread, but it certainly is universal. Now, that is not to say we should not resist injustice against others – God owes men nothing (beyond what He, out of grace, promised), but men owe men workers their wages, and innocent people their lives. But if God did give a way out, one that no man earned, then that is certainly is good. By good I do not just mean just, but even beyond just. Just as God demands us to treat others better than they deserve, so God does so to all who fear Him, and will do to no man worse than is deserved. If God never treats anyone unjustly, but only as they deserve or better, than He certainly is good.
Now, what then keeps me from saying “God is good” when God is extra gracious to me? Doesn’t that just show off His goodness all the more? It does. However, for me, from a personal standpoint, I feel too much like it is tying too much of God’s goodness to what happens on earth, ignorant of sin and mercy and God’s infallible wisdom. Maybe it’s just the former skeptic in me; my reaction always seems to be something like “if God is so good, why didn’t he…” or “if God is so good, what about the…” I have no qualms about declaring the goodness of God; I do it all the time. It’s just, I don’t like it to seem like I am tying it to things it shouldn’t be tied to.
I should note, I am not accusing you my brethren of letting your view of God’s goodness be dependent on what nice things He does for you. I just feel like it sounds like that when I see and hear “God is good” in such circumstances I know in your hearts you declare “blessed be the name of the LORD” in all circumstances, just like Job. But can anyone deny that it does SOUND that way?
Now, I know God is good. I love God. I am reasonably close to God. I am extremely God-minded. Do I occasionally have doubts about things? Yes…but I know God and I know what is righteous too well to let it worry me too much. I have no problem reconciling the evil of this world with a good God. If men do have free will, that explains it all well enough. If our being sinful in nature due to Adam makes it impossible to say we have the free will to do good or bad, then at the very least, Adam and Eve surely had free will because there was no sin on earth, and through their free will sin entered and evil started. And even if we deny that, I have no doubt that God will show His goodness in the end, settling all accounts and solving any apparent injustices on His part and moral dilemmas we see in the world. After all, “good and upright is the LORD” (NIV Psalm 25:8), and it is said that “”The LORD is upright” (ibid, Psalm 92:15) and “there is no evil in him” (ibid). I do not worry that God is not perfectly righteous. But I can’t help but thinking, if God is good because he did something nice for me, what about those He didn’t treat the same?
Simply put, God is good, whatever He does for me or anyone else. On Monday, I got my car back from the mechanic, fearing that it had a catastrophic electrical problem. It turned out that a battery end was loose and the mechanic tightened it and charged the battery for free. Do you think I wasn’t quite happy? I was. And God is good. But God was good even before, and would have been even if my car was toast, and I acknowledged that even before the good news. I was stressed. I really love having a car, especially in a city like Irvine, which isn’t exactly walker-friendly, and it kind of is a big deal. But I turned to God, and though worried, I was still content. I knew that God was good either way, because I know Him well enough to believe He is just, and beyond that, because of my eternal salvation and the comfort the Lord provides even in this life, provided out of love and pity, not obligation. Terrible things happen to believers, but I have little doubt that even those burning on a stake would rather be there than be godless and in comfort. If the cross and all that results from it, on earth and in heaven, in this world and in eternity, was an act of grace and mercy (and it was), then there is no problem for us who declares God’s goodness in such a terrible world. God is good.
(Originally published 09/10/2010:http://3-ringbinder.blogspot.com/2010/09/why-i-do-not-typically-say-god-is-good.html. Immaterial changes have been made).