The word “good” has been stirring around in my mind for quite some time now. Funny how such a simple word can hold both magnificent and meaningless value. Often times this word is thrown around like confetti. It is used to describe a meal, how your day is going, how you feel, or maybe even the kind of person someone is. “Good” is a sort of measuring stick that is used to determine quality. As humans, it can be instinct to hold to the belief that “good things happen to good people” and vice versa. That way of thinking opens wide the doors to entitlement, selfishness, and foolery. To operate out of this mindset requires a belief that life must be fair, and oh, how untrue that is.
We aren’t guaranteed an “easy” hand if we play our cards right. We won’t escape trials just because we are doing all the “right” things or even if we are truly walking intimately in relationship with Christ. It’s ironic, really, that some Christ-followers actually believe they won’t face hardship if they are walking close enough to the Lord or have received the Holy Spirit in ways others have not. I’ve been in a church that held those beliefs before, and I never did understand it. The Bible tells us that we will face trials and hardships of many kinds. It isn’t a punishment or a possibility, it is a promise. In John 16:33, Jesus says, “In this world you will have tribulation, but take heart; I have overcome the world.” We don’t need to be surprised by the troubles we face, rather, we need to be prepared to face them in righteousness. As James 1:2-3 says, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.”
Scripture is scattered with dozens of other refences to the pain and hardship we will face in life, and I think it is important to understand that, so that we can have a greater understanding of what the word “good” really means.
I’d say there is a high probability you’ve already used the word “good” today, to describe how you are doing in a casual, unauthentic conversation with someone. It slips off our tongues. What happens though, when our definition of “good” clashes with our Sovereign God’s definition of “good?” What happens when our expectations fail us, and we feel betrayed by our own misconceptions? If you’ll allow me, I’d like to back up a bit, and address the moment I first began to really ponder the word “good.”
I’ve been reading the Bible cover to cover (and it is taking me much longer than I ever anticipated it to.) I’ve been pairing a commentary with each book of the Bible. This summer I was digging through the book of Psalms when I read 84:11,“No good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly.” That verse stopped me in my tracks as I wondered how that could be true. For those who have been following along with my story, you know that my husband and I are walking through a season of infertility, so when I read that verse, I laughed to myself.
“Lord!” I cried out, “you have called us to be fruitful and multiply! If you deem children to be a good thing, then why are you not giving us this good thing!?”
Psalm 127:3-5 says, “Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth. Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them!”
It didn’t make sense to me. I’m walking uprightly with the Lord, I’m growing in my relationship with Him, I’m striving to live in righteousness, yet it seemed like God was still withholding this “good thing” from me.
I continued reading into Psalm 85 and when I reached verse 12, I had to stop again. “Yes, the Lord will give what is good and our land will yield its increase.”
I wasn’t asking for a material object. I wasn’t desiring something that was of this world- no, I was desiring the very thing God himself says is good, and yet, I felt deprived. I felt left out. It felt like I had been overlooked. You probably understand these emotions too. It’s hard to watch God say “yes” to some people’s prayers but “no” to our own prayers. It’s hard to believe that God truly loves and cares for our hearts when the answer never seems to go the way we are praying it will.
Here’s the thing though: our definition of “good” is misaligned with God’s definition of “good.” Luke 11:13 says, “Your Father in Heaven knows much better than you do how to give good things to His children.” The Greek word for “good” in that verse is “agathos,” which translates to, “intrinsically good, describing what originates from God and is empowered by Him, through faith.” As a human, I am not intrinsically good. But God is. If I stop to consider how imperfect I am and how perfect Christ is, it starts becoming easier to accept that God’s “good” can look different from my “good.” From a young age I memorized verses in the book of Isaiah that have been such a source of strength and encouragement to me over the years.
“’For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.’” -Isaiah 55:8-9
If you’re still tracking with me, then you recognize the magnitude of a statement like this. If we believe that God is “good” and we are able to acknowledge the inerrancy of Scripture, then we have to draw the conclusion that God’s “good” far exceeds the best “good” we could ever come up with on our own.
So, in returning to the words of Psalm 84:11, “No good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly,” we can be encouraged rather than discouraged. It isn’t that God is depriving us. On the contrary, God sees good that we cannot yet see, and He is preparing us for that. The best is still coming!
Children are a good thing, but in this season my husband and I are walking through, God sees something better for us. I don’t have to be able to see it. I just have to trust that His ways truly are higher and better.
God’s “good” is a million times greater than the most extravagant “good” I could think up on my own.
I was listening to a podcast the other day and there was an interesting point made by one of the speakers, Glenna Marshall. She stated, “If you look at what you lack and then decide who God is based upon that, you will end up creating God in your own image.” What a dangerous tightrope to walk on! I can mindlessly go throughout my days creating false expectations of how I think things should be done, how I believe people should act, and what I *know* I should have-and when things obviously fall short, my view of God’s goodness and His love for me is put into question. Why? Because, as Glenna Marshall put it, I was creating God in my own image.
If God is faithful and good, then we have to believe that He is being good and faithful even when He doesn’t answer our prayers the way we ask Him to. His goodness will win every time- we have a choice to make though. Will we perceive His victory as our loss, or will we join in the triumph of who God is?
I have a canvas hanging on the wall in my living room that simply says, “And if not, He is still good…” This is pulled from Daniel 3:17-18 when Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were being ordered to bow down and worship King Nebuchadnezzar. The men refused, saying that the only one they would bow down to was God Almighty. A fiery furnace stood before them, death encroaching on their lives, yet confidently these men declared that they trusted God could deliver them from the fiery furnace but even if He didn’t, they knew God was still good, holy, and righteous.
Even with death on the horizon, these men trusted that God was good. They trusted His way was better. When we think back to the beginning, back in the Garden of Eden where everything was perfect and blameless, God was the first to determine what was good. Genesis 1:31 says, “And God saw everything that He had made, and behold, it was very good…”
How dare I look at the life God has given me, the people He has placed before me- the opportunities, the skills, the gifts, and even the obstacles- and say, “God, these aren’t good enough!”
The fact of the matter is, every good and perfect gift comes from above, and sometimes the hardest situation can be a good gift. Today I thank God for this infertility road because of what a valuable gift it is to develop utter dependence on Christ and not on my own plan. Today, maybe that breakup, lost job, or deteriorating health is a good thing because it is preparing you for God’s best. Perhaps good is found in the pain, and perhaps, pain is necessary for the growth and goodness that will someday be amplified through your obedience to Christ.
God’s goodness might not always look good or feel good, but His goodness is always exceedingly greater.