Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Good does not equal nice

God is good.

That's part of a prayer that many of us learned to say when we were children: "God is great, God is good, Let us thank Him for our food."

More importantly, it is scriptural.

"The Lord is good to all; He has compassion on all He has made." (Psalm 145:9)

"For the Lord is good and His love endures forever; His faithfulness continues through all generations." (Psalm 100:5)

"I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living." (Psalm 27:13)

And in Mark 10:18, Jesus said that nobody is good except God alone.

In Great Britain, when someone eats something tasty, he says, "That is very nice!" In the USA when someone eats something tasty, he says, "That's really good!" There is a discrepancy in our vocabularies, and I think the English are closer to proper usage than the Americans (why am I not surprised?).

A double fudge cafe mocha with chocolate syrup and whipped cream is undeniably tasty. It tastes nice. But it is not the least bit good for you, with whopping levels of sugar and caffeine... and no protein, vitamins or fiber. I think you are probably pretty accurate in saying that it is nice, and pretty far wrong if you say it is good.

A person can be nice to your face, smiling and flattering you and buttering you up. You might call that person a good friend, because she never causes you any pain when you are together. She always agrees with whatever you say and always tells you that your outfit is cute. But is she a good friend? What about the friend who will tell you when you have broccoli between your teeth or when there is a stain on your pants? What about the friend who asks you the tough questions about where your heart is with the Lord, and whether you are using your time wisely or treating the people in your life with grace? Who is the true good friend?

We say that God is good, but then we craft the meaning behind that phrase to match our fancy. We define good as: that which makes me happy and comfortable and bestows on me exactly what I want. If I want a hot tub or a trip to Aruba, God ought to give it to me. If I want a good job or an A on a paper or a new car, God ought to give those things to me. If I want to be healthy and strong and talented, God ought to give me those things, and He ought to give them to my family members as well.

But God, perfectly good though He is, does not grant us perfect health and prosperity and blessings all the time. There are actually quite a few people who get sick, lose their jobs and die. To many of us, this makes no sense, because in our minds we have crafted a god who pleases us, who acts and functions according to our definition of good (see above) and our ideas of what we have decided is good for us.

This god we have crafted in our minds bears little resemblance to the God of the Bible. We didn't read the Bible, or at least not much of it, because there were parts that we didn't like. We thought it would be handier to skip over the "tricky" parts of the Bible and just pay attention to the nice, comfortable words, and base our ideas of God on the things that we liked best. The problem with this is: the thing we end up worshiping is not the true God, Creator of the Universe and Ultimate Judge of our hearts and souls, the One who has revealed Himself to us through His Holy Word. No, the thing we end up worshiping is some other god of our own making. The Bible has a word for this type of god. The Bible calls it an idol.

I was listening to Colin Smith today, and he spoke of these things much more eloquently than I can write about them.

But ultimately we need to recognize: God is good. He really, truly is. In fact, He is much better than we can imagine. He knows everything, perfectly, including the future. He knows what is good for us, what is best for us even. We have limited wisdom and limited understanding. God is omniscient.

"How could God give their son leukemia and take him home at age 12?" you might ask. Or, "How could God allow her to be in such a terrible car accident and lose her unborn baby?" Or, "How could a loving God allow the devastating earthquakes and subsequent disasters in Japan?"

I am not saying I understand.

I'm saying God does.

Sometimes things that are good for us are not nice. Think about chemotherapy, open heart surgery, diet and exercise programs, studying for a particularly difficult exam. These things are not nice, but they are good and they can bring great reward.

So is God. God is good. He is not always nice (in our view), but He is always good.

When you become a Christian, you are not signing up for a cakewalk. You are signing up for "the toughest job you'll ever love." And it makes motherhood and the Army look like cakewalks in comparison.

Hold on to the faith. It will be so overwhelmingly worth it in the end.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I believe that's why the etymology of the word good is from the word god.

O.E. god (with a long "o") "virtuous; desirable; valid; considerable," probably originally "having the right or desirable quality," from P.Gmc. *gothaz (cf. O.N. goðr, Du. goed, O.H.G. guot, Ger. gut, Goth. goþs), originally "fit, adequate, belonging together," from PIE base *ghedh- "to unite, be associated, suitable" (cf. O.C.S. godu "pleasing time," Rus. godnyi "fit, suitable," O.E. gædrian "to gather, to take up together"). As an expression of satisfaction, from early 15c.; of children, "well-behaved," by 1690s.