I once visited a church service that opened with this exchange:
Pastor: God is good.
Congregation: All the time.
Pastor: All the time.
Congregation: God is good.
Easy to say. Hard sometimes to believe. When we face tough times, we may feel God is anything but good to us.
I’ve been a “good girl” for most of my life, and I’ve been righteous in Christ for many more years than not.
I read my Bible.
I brake for squirrels.
So I may feel entitled to a good life.
Yet life has not always been good. I’ve attended funerals for an infant daughter, my parents and four siblings. I’ve been dismissed from a job—on a church staff. I’ve suffered through disorders from colds to cancer, from dizziness to dental mishaps. When life goes bad, is God still good?
If I think “good” means “freedom from pain and suffering,” I need to rethink my definition. My dictionary defines “good” as “Being positive or desirable in nature.” There’s a difference.
We love quoting Romans 8:28, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” But please continue reading verse 29, “For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.”
The greatest good—“being positive or desirable in nature”–we can experience is to be conformed to the image of Christ.
I have found that my struggles contribute to this transformation. For instance, when our daughter died, I identified with the psalmist who wrote Psalm 42. Like the writer, I thirsted after God yet I was “downcast”—numb, bewildered, depressed.
But the psalmist encouraged me to: “Put your hope in God for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.” I memorized the Psalm. It became a lifeline through weeks, months and really years of grief. And as I waited on God, heaven became more real to me as I pictured my daughter there.
When I lost my job, I felt highly embarrassed and devastated. My family lost its relationship with a congregation. And where would I work?
Let me tell you, losing that job was a stretching experience. But it drew me closer to God. I learned to forgive. I learned to let go. I learned to rely on God for daily strength, wisdom and direction. And I also learned that God is faithful in the ups and downs of life.
He led me to a new career in journalism. As a writer and now a speaker as well, I have met and ministered to thousands upon thousands of people. God opened doors to a ministry far wider than one congregation. And what a fascinating experience it has been.
According to Gary Thomas in A Sacred Marriage, God is more concerned with our holiness than our happiness. The challenges and struggles of marriage draw us to God if we respond with hearts and minds open to God. Thomas’s thoughts certainly apply to life in general. We‘re motivated to connect with God in our struggles.
In his book Waiting on God Wayne Stiles writes: “We want God’s plan so we can trust the plan. God hides the plan so we will trust him.” That is true. His ways are so much higher than ours, we can’t begin to fathom what he is doing.
Stiles also emphasizes that realizing the goal of Romans 8:28-29 takes a lifetime and ultimately the resurrection. Our suffering may not end this side of eternity. But it will end once we meet our Savior. There’s pain in the patience of waiting, and God uses it to mold us into the image of Christ.
They say struggles make you better or bitter, and by God’s grace, I am a better person for having survived challenging experiences. I am more humble. I am more aware of the hurts around me. I am more grateful for God’s daily gifts of grace.
Yes, I believe God is good. All the time. He is good in the sense that he is for me and not against me. He is good in that everything that happens to me can help me mature as a Christian. He is good in that he knows the final outcome, and like the song says, “when you can’t see his hand, trust his heart.”
An author and speaker from Millersburg, Pennsylvania, Shirley Brosius inspires audiences through dramatic presentations of lengthy portions of scripture (such as the book of Ruth) from memory. As a member of Friends of the Heart, three women who share God’s love through messages, skits and songs, she leads women’s retreats and events throughout the East (www.friendsoftheheart.us). Shirley and her husband Bill have two married sons and a daughter waiting in heaven. She loves to read, write and keep in touch with five young adult grandkids. She is the author of Sisterhood of Faith: 365 Life-Changing Stories about Women Who Made a Difference (available as an E-book) and coauthor of Turning Guilt Trips into Joy Rides, both daily devotional books designed to draw readers closer to God.