God, Goodness, and I
The goodness of God is one of those things we state gratefully when things are going well, and find rather tricky when they aren’t. It’s easy to affirm the goodness of God conceptually. It’s easy to affirm it when things are going well. But when you’ve lost a parent to an illness only a month after a prayerfully begging God for a life miracle, or when you’re unsuccessful after working hard on something, or when a loved one decides to quit or when prosperity begins to taper, declaring the goodness of God becomes much harder. When I, as a worship leader, go for a bit of call-and- response—“God is good, amen?”—it can be a real physical challenge to squeeze out the word you know comes next: “…amen!” Singing becomes a struggle between the truths you know and the emotions you feel. Being part of the Music ministry for one involves me exhorting others to hold onto things I’m struggling to hold onto myself.
To be honest, even in my darkest moments, I’ve had little problem affirming this phrase: “God is good.” I can divorce what I believe from what I feel, and say things like this in a theoretical or conceptual sort of way. Psalm 34, which talks about “tasting” and “seeing” the goodness of God, is tough to swallow when you’re suffering. It’s like saying “coffee is nice.” Instead of an objective statement about coffee, I’m now saying something subjective, an opinion based on my experience. It’s something that others can only verify by trying it themselves. This is the clearest meaning to me of the phrase, “O, taste and see that the Lord is good!” Knowing God is good but never experiencing his goodness is as useless as knowing the definition of coffee and never drinking it.
Yet even with a good God, who is sovereign over everything and has the power to do whatever he likes, good people still suffer. But the write of the psalm is not done yet, his punchline, though comes in few phrases later: “but the Lord delivers him out of them all.” Evil happens, but “none of those who take refuge in him will be condemned” (34:22).
There’s no any other way around it. God is good not only because of His actions but also because of His nature. And this is true, even more powerfully so, when we’re suffering. When God does something, it is good. End of story.
Of course, we may not very well understand all of God’s actions. But we can be confident, based on the Scriptures and on our experience, God is good. Taste and see!