“God is good!”
Most of the time when I hear people say this, and when I say it myself, it’s when we’ve gotten what we wanted—when things work out just how we’d hoped.
But what about when things don’t go the way we want? Is God still good then?
Not too long ago I was talking with a friend and we were sharing about circumstances in our lives that were not happy or in line with what we wanted. As she walked away, she turned and said, “God is good.”
She was preaching to herself, to me, and declaring an essential truth of who God is. A truth that should shape our attitude in all circumstances.
And yet … so often, when things don’t go the way we hope, the first thing we do is ask “why?” The question isn’t altogether bad, but often it’s motivated by assumptions about what we think we deserve.
Don’t we all have certain expectations for our lives? I know I expected to graduate from high school and go to college right away. I expected to get married at a young age. I expected to have children fairly soon after I got married. I expected to have my dad around to see my children grow up.
When these things didn’t happen the way I’d hoped, I found myself grumbling instead of declaring that God is good.
And what I was really doing was denying that God is righteous. I was saying God didn’t have a good reason for the hard things or the disappointments He had brought into my life. I thought I knew better than He did what was good for me. While I had a basic understanding of my sinfulness, what I discovered by questioning God was that I actually did think I was pretty good and that I was at least worthy of certain comforts.
Too often, in my short-sighted view of God’s goodness, I wanted to believe that God demonstrated His love for me by blessing me with good things, and happiness, and prayers answered the way I wanted them to be answered. This was how I wanted to measure God’s love.
But when things don’t go the way we hope, or real tragedy comes to us, God isn’t ashamed to declare that He has done even this. In Isaiah 45:7 He says, “I form the light and create darkness, I make peace and create calamity; I, the Lord, do all these things.”
So, again and again, through God’s discipline, I have had to learn that He is sovereign and in control and has a precise and good purpose in every circumstances of my life. When things go differently than how I hope or expect, that’s often where God reveals Himself to me in a deeper and sweeter way.
Sometimes we get to see the good God is working through the hardship, and sometimes we don’t. But ultimately He is refining our character for His glory.
“And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” (Romans 5:3-5)
Of course, I’m not saying we shouldn’t declare God’s goodness when we’re happy and get what we hoped for. Those things are gifts from God and we absolutely should give Him praise. But let’s also declare His goodness when things are hard.
It’s in the hardship we gain His holiness. And that is a gift with eternal value.
“He disciplines us for our good, so that we may share His holiness. All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.” (Hebrews 12: 10-11)