How Do We Measure the Goodness of God?

Almost every day, one or more of my Facebook friends will post a status update reporting that something good that has happened to them—they got the job, or the test results came back negative, or a family member escaped injury in a serious accident. In most cases, these reports of good fortune include a reference to the goodness of God and an expression of thanks for the blessing of God’s favor.

I have to admit I am troubled by those posts. Oh, I’m happy for their good fortune. God knows there is too much bad news in the world. It’s always heartening to hear of conditions that are improving and circumstances that are not as serious as had been supposed. Good news is always welcome.

I am troubled, however, by the linkage, in almost every post, between good fortune and the goodness of God. I understand that it is the most natural thing in the world for people who believe in God to regard the good things that happen to them as evidence that God is good and kind and loving. When someone points out that we are looking well after a bout with serious illness, or when someone congratulates us on that promotion at work, we often respond, almost without thinking, “Yes, God is good.”

But this raises some questions in my mind and, I think, in the minds of many who are trying to figure out just what they believe about God. For example, if we praise and thank God for “blessings” when good things happen and life is going well, how do we regard the times when things go bad and life is grim? Is God in charge even then?

Then again, whether God causes the experiences of our lives or merely allows them to occur, does God really know best? If so, shouldn’t we reflect that belief by offering thanks and praise even for the rough times? Otherwise, our declaration that “God is good” when things are going well suggests that God is not good otherwise.

Whether we intend to or not, the suggestion that our good fortune reflects the good favor of God often plants doubt or discouragement in the minds of those whose circumstances are not so rosy. What about the father of four small children who was killed when a drunk driver crossed the center line and hit his car head-on? Or the woman with the beautiful spirit who, at age fifty, finally succumbs to the cancer she fought with superhuman endurance for twenty painful years?

If we are not careful, our well-meaning expressions of relief and gratitude can unwittingly cause pain to others whose circumstances have turned out so much differently. Moreover, this kind of response might reveal that there is actually something of the detestable “health and wealth prosperity gospel” in our spiritual DNA. After all, wouldn’t it be just like the enemy of our souls to plant the seeds of pride and spiritual entitlement in us through an act that we supposed was simply giving glory to God?

Please don’t misunderstand what I’m trying to say here. I am happy to read about your good fortune, but I’m not sure it should always be coupled with the suggestion that it is evidence of God’s goodness. As the little song says, “God is good, ALL the time.”

Perhaps we could work a little harder to find ways of reporting good news that do not diminish the goodness of God by linking it to our good fortune. Can we give voice to our relief and gratitude without increasing the burden on those whose circumstances are not so positive or hopeful? Because the truth that Christians have affirmed for centuries is that, even when we cannot see it through the mist of pain and grief, God is still good.

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4 thoughts on “How Do We Measure the Goodness of God?

  1. I love this post, because I have often found God’s greatest goodness to me was allowing the hard times. Those are what brought me to see more fully his goodness, faithfulness, awesomeness, and sovreignty. Sometimes it seems we want to seperate his goodnes from his sovreignty, but they go together!

  2. I agree, Eric. My experience has been to see he goodness of God even in the midst of great pain and loss when my wife Joyce died of multiple Meyloma even after we anointed her for healing according to James 5. As I reflected on her death I came to this understanding: If I can trust God with my life, then I can trust Him with my death and the death of those I love.

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