God is Good, but When?

By Ben Swift

We all have memories that stick with us, somehow gluing themselves to our psyches, rearing their heads from time to time. I recall a memory of a pastor who, whenever entering a chapel service full of children would shout, “God is good!” upon which the children replied, “All the time!”

Years later, and with a few more grey whiskers to go with them, I have come to see this seemingly simple catch phrase as one of deep importance. Imbedded in this little saying is a wealth of understanding well worth embracing, something to help make sense of things in a world of perceived senselessness.

But before getting too excited, let’s think about what it means to declare God as being good.

God is good because it was a sunny day today and I needed to wash my car. Hmm.

God is so good. I just received my test results indicating I’m disease free.

The question begs asking. Is God good because things are going well for us or is God good despite the way life appears to us in the changing seasons of our lives? Surely, the answers we give will be heavily shaped by the worldview we hold and the lens through which we view both God and ourselves.

Martin Luther in his Theology of the Cross argued that God is good despite the circumstances we find ourselves in throughout our lives. God’s goodness does not depend on our feelings and certainly not on our human wisdom and reasoning. Rather God’s goodness is bound to a theology of faith in that he is at work in spite of human understanding and observation.

This is why we can say with confidence that God is good all the time.

In fact, Luther went so far as to suggest that the true reality of God is hidden in the sense that it can’t be seen or grasped through human reason but can only be understood through faith.

The consequence of this way of thinking is to seek our understanding of God in what he revealed to us in a most clear way, in the person and life of Christ; God come to us. There, as we focus on the reality of God as seen in his Son, we find God’s wisdom and human wisdom forever in contradiction, culminating at the cross.

‘For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart”’ (1 Cor 1:18-19).

Here we see Paul describing the paradoxical way in which God turns the world’s wisdom on its head. Here, in the incarnation of Christ and at the cross where he achieved salvation for all who come to faith in him, we see God’s wisdom rise high above the wisdom of the world in all its distorted forms.

In Christ, God reveals his power in weakness. He comes to us in unexpected ways. The creator of the universe, born in an animal’s feeding trough. The all-powerful God obedient to death, cursed and crucified on a Roman cross. Our God knows what it is to suffer, he knows all about humiliation.

When we consider the wisdom of God as revealed in Christ, we find that it’s in our suffering that God works for good. This is where the light of his grace shines through the cracks of our broken lives, encouraging us to rely on his strength, calling us to die to ourselves so that we may live in him.

‘And it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.’ (Gal 2:20)

It’s also in Christ that God reveals why he is truly good. Here we find a God that comes to us. In the brutality of nature and the seemingly infinite prosperity of the wicked, it helps us to grasp the truth about God’s goodness. In becoming truly human, Christ entered the muck of humanity and life. God remains good and sovereign despite our perceptions, feelings and situations. His love, grace and forgiveness can be seen in his suffering, bringing hope to those who trust in him.

‘What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?’ (Rom 8:31)

Simple sayings can certainly hold a wealth of deep truths. Indeed we would all do well to embrace them, remember them and remind ourselves of them in whatever situation we find ourselves.

God is good. All the time!

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