Recently I found myself really pondering some of the words in the song, Goodness of God.
All my life you have been faithful
All my life you have been so so good
With every breath that I am able
Oh I will sing of the goodness of God
Is that true? Has God been so so good all my life?
The good, Sunday School answer bubbles up first: Of course he has. Perhaps the more important question is this: Do I live each day as if I actually believe in this ever present goodness of God (Psalm 23:6), such that I can sing about it with every breath? The honest answer is no, I most certainly do not.
As a child, I considered God’s goodness to be temperamental, at best. I was raised in a faith tradition that put a lot of space between me and God, so our relationship was viewed through the lens of whichever priest was standing in the gap that particular day. When we were led by a more jovial priest, I tended to see God in the same way. I was similarly impacted by the priest who seemed unreachable, cold, and distant.
When I later developed a personal relationship with Jesus, I felt like I was meeting a whole new God—one who encompassed so many of the attributes I’d encountered as a child, but with more than a few tossed out in the process.
This goodness—the idea that God is incapable of anything that is not inherently good—should be a life vest wrapped around my every word, thought, and deed. Yet, the idea, “this isn’t right” feels like an undercurrent always capable of pulling me into the depths of despair.
To counter such threats, I try to surround myself with reminders of God’s goodness. Whether framed on my walls, printed on my t-shirts, announced through my headphones, or tattooed on my skin, these anthems spur me toward grateful praise that God doesn’t just do good, he is good (1 Chronicles 16:34).
This is a critical distinction.
In our role as foster parents, we’ve stepped into some challenging situations that haven’t worked out “for good,” at least not yet, not in the land of the dying. If God’s goodness is the sum of his good works, doled out to whom he sees fit, what does that say about these kids? When a teen experiences trauma after trauma, where were God’s good works? When all earthly interventions fail, and no miracles materialize, did God just decide not to work good those days?
When caught in despair about this injustice, I want to shout, “These are children!” We can look to adults and blame their failings on their own series of poor decisions. But kids? In that anguish, I can’t see the forest for the trees. I’m lost in a cascade of hopelessness, unable to comprehend the larger context.
But his goodness was there. His goodness is there. And his goodness will always be there. In the trauma, in the desperation, in the dark. As Andrew Peterson penned in another song about God’s goodness:
So maybe the answer surrounds us
But we don’t have eyes to see
That You’re always good, always good
This heartache is moving me closer than joy ever could
And You’re always good
Yes, I’ve found the key to wrestling with the lack of goodness in this world is to change my perspective. When I’m stuck in the pit of despair—imagining God looking down on me and choosing not to intervene—he doesn’t feel very good. When I, instead, believe God is with me in the pit, wrapping his arms around me and holding me up above the worst of it… he is so good. In fact, those who look to him are radiant, and their faces are never covered with shame (Psalm 34:5).
Despite my feelings to the contrary, his goodness is not dependent on me, my emotions, or my experiences. And when I can fully trust this goodness, the pit itself doesn’t seem so deep (Psalm 34:8). In fact, it is as a light momentary affliction, preparing me for an eternal glory beyond anything I can imagine (2 Cor. 4:17).
Seeing God’s transcendent goodness requires this critical shift in thinking. I must be heavenly-minded, recognizing Christ’s sacrifice sealed the deal. Focusing on the horrific details of the cross could easily cause me to become despondent, or even angry about the tragedy impacted on his body. But perceiving it as one tree leading to a vast forest of overwhelming glory doesn’t just change that single event, it changes everything.
As so I remain confident of this:
I will see the goodness of the Lord
in the land of the living. (Psalm 27:13)