Is God Still Good?

photo by Waiting For The commons  I had lunch with a friend several weeks ago. We've had an ongoing dialogue about singleness and the church, and I wanted to share some of my heart on the matter.

I told him what I've told you, lately, on Mondays, about asking God what He wants for me, about not making assumptions, about listening, not first and foremost to my desires, inclinations or expectations, but to God.

After I had finished telling him these things, he asked me: "Is God still good?"

I told him all my reasons why God was still good that day, but it hasn't stopped me from thinking about his question, pondering it. It was no small thing for me to choose to deny my will in favor of God's in my singleness, it is still no small thing.

In the weeks that have followed that conversation, I have been challenged, not just in singleness versus marriage, but in a variety of ways. My body, usually strong and healthy, is struggling against a virus. I feel weak, and lonely and lethargic. Relationships have asked much of me, circumstances of all kinds are outside of my control, causing me frustration, grief and, sometimes, anger.

Is God still good?

It is easy for me to talk about the goodness of God from a safe and spacious place. It is easy when my appetite is quenched, I've had enough sleep and I have something I've planned, to look forward to.

But what about the other times? What about the places in which I find myself now, more often than not?

"And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose." Romans 8:28.

And we know. 

I memorized this verse as a child, I've quoted it (often wrongly) throughout my life. I have mistaken this verse as a promise of a (temporal) happy ending, a protection against suffering, a suggestion of prosperity.

I have not grasped the mysteries of God. His ways are higher than mine. What makes me think that I understand good?

One synonym of the word "good" is righteousness. Righteousness is defined as being "without guilt or sin." If God is good, then He is righteous. He is sinless. Perfect.

Perhaps this distinction is what C.S. Lewis was getting at with his famous quote about Aslan in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. "Of course he's not safe, but he's good." Aslan is not warm and fuzzy (metaphorically) he does not arrive on command for rescue, and he does not shy away from experiencing (or allowing others under his care to experience) things which I might deem "not good." But he is righteous.

Perhaps it is not surprising, then, to think about the goodness of God as I think about Jesus: sinless, righteous, good, taking on my sin, and the sins of the world, all of the not-goodness, onto His own shoulders, to death.

"And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose."

I do not want to suffer, or cry or strain. I do not want to be uncomfortable, to be longing, to be uncertain or bored or weak. But I do want to be good. I do want to be righteous. I do want to be free of my sin, once and for all. It seems that the path I'm on is the way to get there.

Perhaps my question is coming from the wrong place. Thinking about what good means will not alleviate my circumstances, but it will change my perspective on them. Instead of wondering at God, questioning His love and care for me, I have the freedom to trust that He is keeping His promise: in His infinite goodness, He is working all things together so that I may also be good.