Is God Really Good?

Good morning friends,

Today I’m heading out to Virginia to do a webinar for the AACC (American Association of Christian Counselors) on domestic violence and emotional abuse. I will be taking some of the content from my new book I’m writing so you’re all invited to attend. There is a $10 charge for non-members and you can register at:

You will need to register today or early tomorrow as the webinar is tomorrow night (Tuesday) from 6-9 pm, ET LIVE. My colleague, Rowen Moore, will also be talking about the effects of abuse on children and what to do to help them through this trauma.

This week’s question: My father just died a long and painful death, and last year my husband of 30 years walked out on me. I’m struggling as a Christian to believe that God is good when it feels like he doesn’t care and he doesn’t help. How can I get through this period of doubt?

Answer: Let me begin by telling you I’m very sorry for your losses. This is not an easy question for theologians to answer, let alone counselors. Entire books are written about it, so let me just leave you with a few things to think and pray about.

First, it’s tempting to think that we only struggle with the question of God’s goodness when things go wrong in our lives. But Eve doubted God’s goodness even in the midst of Paradise. There was no suffering to tempt Eve to doubt God’s character, and yet still she decided not to submit to God’s truth or trust his goodness when she ate the forbidden fruit. Don’t beat yourself up. Honest people acknowledge that they often struggle to believe God’s goodness toward them while they are hurting.

Second, goodness is a moral question not a scientific one. Who gets to define what is good? When we judge God as not good, we make our own view of things the highest authority. But what makes my judgment any truer than the next person’s? What if what I define as good, someone else sees as bad? Is there any absolute authority that teaches us how to view things or is everything seen through the eyes of our own perspective?

In his book, Systematic Theology, Dr. Wayne Grudem, wrote “The goodness of God means that God is the final standard of good, and all that God is and does is worthy of approval.” But it’s not our approval that defines what good is, it is God’s approval. The Scriptures define and declare that God is good and that what he does is good. (For example see Psalm 100:5, Psalm 106:1, Psalm 34:8; Psalm 119:68, Psalm 86:5, and Naham 1:7.) Jesus also affirmed God’s goodness when he told the rich young ruler “no one is good except God alone.” (Mark 10:18)

One of the things that helped me personally come to terms with God’s goodness during a painful loss in my own life was when I read these words, “God is light, and there is no darkness in him at all” (1 John 1:5 NLT). The apostle John declares that this is the message he heard from Jesus and that he is writing these things so that we might have joy (1 John 1:4). The psalmist said, “For you are not a God who delights in wickedness, evil may not dwell with you” (Psalm 5:4).

In my anger and pain, I was not only blaming God for doing bad things, I was accusing God of being evil. As I pondered John’s words about God’s character, I was forced to decide whose truth was true. If God is incapable of darkness, then God is incapable of evil. He is allgood all the time. If that was true, then there had to be another reason God allowed my personal pain and suffering. There is a mystery to the Almighty that we cannot expect to grasp with our finite minds. Perhaps I would never know his purposes this side of eternity but would I trust that God knew and that he was indeed good?

In the book Faith and Culture Devotional,John Eldridge refers to two main themes woven throughout scripture “a major theme of hope, love, and life triumphant, and a minor theme of suffering, sorrow, and loss.” He says when people focus only on the major theme of scripture; we can sound insensitive and glib about the real hardships of those who hurt, promising them that God will work all things for good and that they can have victory in Jesus. He says, “The Christianity that talks only about hope, joy, and overcoming would be hollow, syrupy and shallow.

On the other hand, he cautions us that in modern culture’s quest for authenticity and transparency, the church has majored in the minor theme of brokenness and suffering. Although refreshingly honest and necessary, if that is all there is, where is our hope? Where is the abundant life that Jesus promises? Where is the resurrection, the redemption, the restoration and reconciliation themes of scripture? Eldridge concludes, “We must be honest about the minor theme, but we must keep it the minor theme.”

Remember, often when we look back through what we thought were the worst of times, God used them for great good. In the Old Testament story of Joseph, he was able to keep his joy, peace and hope alive in the midst of circumstantial hardship because he believed and trusted that God’s purposes were always good (Genesis 50:20).

Proverbs reminds us, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart. Don’t lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him and he will make your paths straight. (Prov. 3:5,6).

I hope that helps. Your struggle is common to us all. Friends, do you have some words of wisdom you can share with this woman?

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  1. penny on June 12, 2012 at 2:42 pm

    Thankful as always for your thoughtful answers. Just wondering… is suffering really a minor theme? Could we not simply say these two themes run through God's story and that eventually (as Paul wrote to the Romans 8:ff) suffering will completely give way to rejoicing? In the meantime we can come to know the fellowship of his sufferings in the depths . And..our sufferings can hopefully and mysteriously become shot through with glimmers of deep deep joy over what Jesus deliberately went through …for us…. I think of them as intermingling straight through until we are at last united with him as Bride to Bridegroom. I have heard it said that life is a comedy in the Shakespearean sense rather than a tragedy because in Christ our lives end in celebration and restoration. That is the trajectory so in that sense I agree and think I know what you are saying – and this is RIGHT! Yet still – for now – our experiential reality has major suffering … and if it feels major in seasons we don't need to think it "should" be declared minor or think we are somehow "wrong" for how it is majorly effecting us. Hope this does not sound argumentative. I'm wrestling as I write. And as I write this – I remember Paul saying…he counts it all joy for the privilege of knowing Christ Jesus – so Leslie, ha! Perhaps you have it right after all. Just pondering alongside of you. : )

  2. tutus on August 4, 2012 at 1:56 am

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