The Goodness of God

I recently attended an event where I heard a contemporary christian entertainment song that I have heard many times before.  Here are some of the lyrics:

You are good, good, oh, You are good, good, oh, You are good, good, oh, You are good, good, oh
Let the King of my heart, Be the wind inside my sails, The anchor in the waves
Oh, He is my song
Let the King of my heart, Be the fire inside my veins, The echo of my days
Oh, He is my song
You are good, good, oh, You are good, good, oh, Yes, You are good, good, oh
You are good, good, oh
You’re never gonna let, never gonna let me down
You’re never gonna let, never gonna let me down
You’re never gonna let, never gonna let me down
You’re never gonna let, never gonna let me down
You are good, good, oh
You are good, good, oh
You are good, good, oh (when the night is holding onto me)
You are good, good, oh (You are holding on)
You are good, good, oh (when the night is holding onto me)
You are good, good, oh (You are holding on)
You are good, You’re good, oh
You are good, good, oh
When the night is holding onto me

I submit that these words are a deceptive half-truth.

Say what?

I believe that, indeed, God is good.  Unquestionably, God is good, always good, depending on one’s perspective.  And I understand from Scripture that God often delights in blessing His people with good things in life.  As I write this, it is early May.  A tree in our front yard is in bloom, with a beautiful fragrance that I very much enjoy, and beautiful blooms cover the tree.  I go to the front door several times each day just to appreciate the tree.  Any person with a sense of smell and any sighted person can appreciate the tree.  The general goodness of God allows for this.  The magnificence of the Creator is on display everywhere.  But, is God still good when one loses the sense of smell, or the ability to see?  Is God still good when one is hungry with no food, when one loses a relationship, when one becomes unemployed?  Depending on one’s perspective, does God sometimes let me down?  Or, is He just always the wind in my sails and my anchor and my inspiration who never lets me down?

The idea of never-ending triumph sets us up for failure.  The contemporary church often tries to be attractive to society by presenting this overly positive triumphant happy attitude.  God really, really loves and affirms and accepts you just like you are and wants you to add Jesus to your life and be happy and successful and so do we.  This is not the message of the Bible.  Further, in this life, Christians are not promised that they will never know difficulty.  In fact, often our faith can cause difficulties, heartaches, and conflicts.  God’s love is not a divine version of the love of a spouse or boyfriend or genie-in-a-bottle.  Sometimes God allows conflict and difficulty, and this is according to His plan and purpose.  When we don’t acknowledge this reality, we set up both ourselves and others for failure.

In Romans 2:4 (New King James Version) we read, “Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance?”   Mankind is not merely living in a broken world, and I don’t just make mistakes.  Mankind is hopelessly lost in sin and rebellion against the Creator.  Mankind is subject to the righteous wrath of God against sin.  The very nature of God demands that sin be dealt with, atoned for.  Jesus didn’t die on the cross because He spoke truth to power, because He made religious hypocrites and those in political power uncomfortable.  He didn’t come primarily to bring a message of justice and love and affirmation.  He came according to the divine plan and purpose of God in order that He might suffer and die on the cross as the only perfect and acceptable sacrifice for the sin of those who would repent and believe.  That is offensive to many.  How could a good God be involved with blood and sacrifice and suffering and death?  Why would a good God allow people to go to eternal loss in Hell?  Why wouldn’t a truly good God just overlook sin and declare everyone righteous by divine fiat?  All that blood and sacrifice and eternal punishment stuff, many would say, doesn’t sound like love.  In fact, it is repugnant to post-modern man.  So too often the church no longer preaches and teaches and sings these truths.

The Bible tells me that I don’t merely make mistakes that He can just overlook; I am a born sinner who commits sins, acts of disobedience and rebellion against the eternal, holy, righteous, perfect God.  While this sin of the created is a massive affront against the Creator, it is His goodness that allows for His forgiveness.  It is His goodness that provided a way for my regeneration through faith and repentance.  Incomprehensible divine love provided for the Savior to atone for my sin on the cross.  His goodness doesn’t just accept and overlook sin, like a loving grandparent or a spouse or boyfriend or other offended human, but His goodness provided the avenue for my salvation from the consequences of sin.  And that requires that I believe that the gospel is true, that I acknowledge my sin, and turn to Christ in faith.  It isn’t enough to just acknowledge that God is good and is my inspiration and will never let me down.  I must acknowledge my sin and true guilt and acknowledge Him as Lord and Savior.  I cannot reform or perform religious rites or vow to become a better person to merit salvation; salvation is all of God’s grace.  But salvation doesn’t just affirm me in my sin; it requires that I turn away from sin and willingly give myself to Him as Lord and Savior.  This is the essence of the gospel, the central message of the church.

Further, we must acknowledge the reality of God’s goodness in the context of His sovereignty and His divine plan for us.  I don’t completely understand human suffering.  I don’t understand why good things happen to seemingly bad people while bad things happen to seemingly good people.  But I do rejoice in the fact that it is all for His ultimate glory and therefore for the best.   Paul wrote in Ephesians 1:3, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ.”  No, He never “lets me down,” but that is a matter of perspective.  An eternal perspective.  I think H. G. Spafford presented a more realistic tone a century ago when he wrote, after the tragic loss of his family in a shipwreck, “When peace like a river, attendeth my way, and sorrows like sea billows roll, Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say, it is well, it is well, with my soul.”

One thought on “The Goodness of God

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