I get lots of email, and it comes from readers in many different places. Sometimes my email contains “good news”: someone who thought they might have cancer found out that they did not, someone recovered from a horrendous financial disaster, someone’s child survived a gruesome auto accident, etc. — and these emails often end with the grateful statement, “God is so good.”
Such news “makes my day” as much as it does yours. I verily believe that God is good, and I consistently emphasize that fact in my teaching. But think about this: is it only when we get what we want right now that we say “God is good”? Is God any less good on those days when He says, “No, I have in mind something different than what you asked for”?
When Job found himself in circumstances where it appeared that God’s “blessings” had dried up, he said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21). And when Job’s wife suggested that God was no longer being “good” to him, Job asked the right question: “‘SHALL WE RECEIVE GOOD FROM GOD, AND SHALL WE NOT RECEIVE EVIL?’ In all this Job did not sin with his lips” (2:10).
Paul prayed three times for his thorn in the flesh to be removed, but God’s answer was “no.” If the answer had been “yes,” Paul might have sent around an “email” saying, “God is so good.” But Paul understood that God is no less good when He says “no,” and so he wrote to the Corinthians: “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ THEREFORE I WILL BOAST ALL THE MORE GLADLY OF MY WEAKNESSES, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. FOR WHEN I AM WEAK, THEN I AM STRONG” (2 Corinthians 12:9,10).
Most of us think that getting what we desire would move us to appreciate the Lord’s grace, but in Paul’s case, God knew that it was just the opposite: it is NOT getting what we desire and being forced to survive on God’s grace alone, that truly teaches us that “God is good.” We learn far more about the goodness of God when He says “no” than we do when He says “yes.”
Think about your physical parents. Can you say, “My parents were good”? I hope you can. But if you had such parents, WHEN WAS IT that you think they were they “good”: only when they gave you what you wanted? No, they were good even on the days when they said “no.” In fact, those were the days when their goodness was ESPECIALLY evident. We can see that now, in hindsight, even if we couldn’t see it back then.
So we shouldn’t quit saying “God is good” when things turn out as we wish, but let’s learn to be just as thankful (if not more so) when God says, “No, I have in mind a path that will be better, although more difficult, than the one you have asked for.”
James said it long ago in these simple words: “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (James 1:2-4).