Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in Him. — Psalm 34:8
You say it, I say it, we all say it.
It usually comes out when we purchase our first home, deliver a healthy baby, find a perfect front row parking spot at the grocery store, hit the road for summer vacation, or get promoted at work. “God is so good!”
There couldn’t be a more reassuring truth. He most certainly is good. We say it because it is one of the best ways to express our appreciation to God for how things are working out in our favor and for giving us a temporary state of happiness and excitement. Would we say the same thing, however, if things were not working out the way we desired?
Do we truly embrace the fact that God is good, even when our circumstances are not?
Could there be more to His goodness than just the bright side of our story? If we’re going to grow closer to Jesus than ever before and find our ultimate purpose in who He is (and not merely in what He can do), we must ask ourselves these kinds of challenging questions. They are essential to our growth.
God Is Good All the Time
When things are going right, we rightly declare God’s goodness, but the Bible clearly shows us that God is still good when things are going horribly wrong. This is because goodness is part of God’s nature. He is always good, because it is innate to who He is.
God allowed Satan to afflict Job with suffering as part of a test (Job 1:6-12). Even still, God is good. Paul begged the Lord to remove a “thorn in the flesh,” but God did not (2 Corinthians 12:7-10). He is still good. When King Nebuchadnezzar commanded Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego to bow down and worship the idol he’d raised, they refused. The king threatened to have them thrown into a fiery furnace. Their response? They declared that their God was able to deliver them, but even if He didn’t, they would not worship any other gods (Daniel 3:17-18). Those men knew that God is good, even if He didn’t deliver them from a blazing death.
Now personalize this truth. Is God still good if you lose your job, if you lose your home, if you can’t have a child, or if a doctor says you have six months to live? Answering that question will test your view of God.
God’s goodness is based on His character.
Which means that your career advancement and good health are unrelated to whether He is good. He is good and He is good all the time, no matter what our circumstances might be.
The Biblical Reality of God’s Goodness
Scripture is not silent on this subject. Countless passages point to the goodness of God throughout the ups and downs of life. For example, the apostle John wanted to shape and protect the way Christians viewed God, as do I. So when false teachers misrepresented the gospel, He reminded believers,
This is the message we have heard from Him and declare to you: God is light; in Him there is no darkness at all.
— 1 John 1:5
Regarding John’s writing style, Charles Spurgeon said, “The apostle John’s style was to give you a truth then guard that truth.” In this case, John’s statement that “God is light” is doubled down with the declaration that “in Him there is no darkness at all.” What John is saying here can be paraphrased this way: “In case you were wondering if God isn’t all light, or if maybe some element of Him can sin, that’s not possible. If you somehow think that His anger, wrath, sovereignty, and judgments are His dark side, and His goodness, love, joy, mercy, and grace are His light side, that’s not possible. He is all light and always light.”
God isn’t like some of today’s movie superheroes, complete with a troubling dark side that must be hidden or tamed. Every aspect of who He is and what He does is good. This truth impacts how we view Him in our darkest moments, because we can still know that He is light. He is good. We don’t need to cry out in anguish, wondering if He still has a handle on things or if He has suddenly turned into a monster. Such a thing will never be. God is good.
Discussion about God’s goodness in the midst of horrible situations in our world begs the question, why did God create evil? But that question contains a false assumption. Nowhere in the Bible are we taught that God created evil, has evil in Him, or is the author of evil. We know from the Bible that God can cause calamity and bad events to occur, and therefore, certainly allow it (Lamentations 3:38; Amos 3:6; Isaiah 45:7), but since there is no evil in Him, we can trust that His purposes and judgments are still ultimately for good. Someday, we know, He will eradicate evil. Since God cannot eradicate Himself, we can fully affirm that He is not at all evil. Instead He will judge all evil one day.
Most helpful of all for your immediate situation is that God can take something evil and make it work out for good. That is a truth we need to keep close to our hearts.
God Works All Things for Good
Romans 8:28 is a very important passage to address when we’re talking about the goodness of God in all circumstances. Paul writes,
We know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose. — ESV
Often you may hear a person or a preacher say that this passage means that everything happening to you is going to turn out for your good, that the blessing is just on the other side of this burden, that your prosperity is going to come from the pain. Basically, this approach to Romans 8:28 sees good as your definition of good. This is not the right way to handle this passage.
No matter how well intentioned, another inappropriate handling of Romans 8:28 is to throw it around after a tragedy as though it makes everything fine. Does it have a place in the wake of painful events? Yes. But most of the time, it’s needed only after the initial mourning process slowly begins to give space for reflection and deeper conversation. How many of us know that in the early stages of pain, we just need prayer and for others to mourn with us, not statements (no matter how true) about how it’s all going to be okay? There are many tragedies that will never be okay. We simply learn to lean on Jesus, grateful that He is holding on to us.
So what does Romans 8:28 mean, and how does understanding it fit into our growing closer to Jesus? First, it is speaking specifically about “those who love God,” “those who are called according to His purpose.” Those phrases are directly aimed at believers, which means this is not a general promise you can throw around at people, like a prosperity gospel preacher telling a crowd that God will make them happy, healthy, and wealthy. Second, this passage says “all things,” which means that the good, the bad, and the ugly will happen. No one is immune to the “all things” in life. Third, this passage reminds us that God’s definition of good is what will ultimately be accomplished, and His good will be good for us. One of my favorite explanations of this passage is by Randy Alcorn.
The focus is not on isolated events in the believer’s life, but on the sum total of all events. Do you see the difference between saying “each thing by itself is good” and “all things work together for good”? Think about it. The difference is tremendous. The verse does not tell me I should say “it is good” if my leg gets broken, or my house burns down, or I am robbed and beaten, or my child dies. But it does say that God will use these events and weave them together with every other facet of my life in order to produce what He knows to be the very best for me… Once I heard a pastor say, “I’m tired of hearing people tritely use Romans 8:28.” So am I. But I am not tired of Romans 8:28 itself and pray that I never will be. When you use this powerfully explosive verse (and you should use it), handle it with care. But whatever you do, don’t stay away from it. The truth it contains can change your whole outlook on life.1
In light of the great truth contained in Romans 8:28, and all that the Bible teaches about the goodness of God, we do well to internalize at least three powerful truths that can transform our perspective in the midst of pain.
- God Is the Giver of All Good Things
Our pride tells us that we are responsible for earning good things, good income, and even good results from hard work. That may be true to an extent, but it’s not the whole story. While you are the one who goes to work each day to earn income, and you are the one who goes to the gym to improve your health, and you are the one who performs with excellence and gets a promotion, all of the good things in your life are from God. More than that, even the ability to work hard or do anything good is a gift given to you by God. James 1:17 reminds us,
Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.
When we see good things through this lens, entitlement shatters and gratitude soars. Entitlement emanates from a heart that believes it deserves everything it gets. Entitlement tells us, “You shouldn’t be dealing with this right now. You’re such a good person. You deserve so much more!” We silence entitlement by reminding ourselves that we are undeserving recipients of so many good things from God. Suddenly we can be in the middle of pain, cancer treatments, relational conflict, or an anxiety attack and still maintain a heart posture that overflows with thanksgiving toward the Giver of good.
- God Is Good Even When Our Circumstances Are Not
All through the Bible, God’s people encounter both immensely good times and horribly hard times. Yet through it all, the Bible declares God’s goodness. The psalms are filled with declarations of God’s goodness, made by David even when he is going through pain. Enduring King Saul’s jealous rage and attempts to kill him (1 Samuel 18:11; 1 Samuel 19:10), experiencing injustices and betrayals (1 Samuel 23:15-29), waiting years to take his rightful place as king, running like a fugitive from his own rebellious and tyrannical son (2 Samuel 15:13-2 Samuel 17:22), David still declares the goodness of God. Psalm 106:1 exalts God, exclaiming,
Praise the Lord. Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His love endures forever.
Psalm 107:1 repeats these words, and so does Psalm 118:1 and Psalm 136:1. The theme of thanksgiving is prevalent in these praises, which reminds us again that we can praise God in the midst of pain. He is good, even when our circumstances are not!
1.Randy Alcorn, “What Does Romans 8:28 Really Mean?” Eternal Perspective Ministries (March 21, 2010), www.epm.org /resources/2010/Mar/21/romans-828-what-does-it-really-mean/.
Excerpted with permission from More Than a Healer by Costi Hinn, copyright Costi W. Hinn.
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God is good. All the time. When our situation is good, He is good. When our circumstances are terrible, confusing, and painful, He is still good. Come share your thoughts with us. We want to hear from you! ~ Devotionals Daily