God is always good.
A phrase I’ve heard and repeated over and over and over throughout the years. Sometimes with all sincerity and belief. Sometimes as rote recitation.
Preacher: God is good…
Congregation: All the time!
Preacher: All the time…
Congregation: God is good!
But today, I have to edit the phrase. Because honestly, I can’t say it as is with firm confidence.
On August 14, my cousin Sam was in a motorcycle accident, and his life ended far too soon. Some of my first memories are of my family and of playing with my cousins. Sam, being just a couple months older than me, was one of my first friends.
I always describe all the family getting together - grandparents, aunts and uncles, and the many, many cousins - as being crazy and loud, but in a really, really good way. Now, some of that crazy, loud goodness will be missing, and will be missed.
So today, I have to edit the phrase. Today, as my heart breaks, and I know it is only a fraction of the breaking happening in many hearts, as I feel the sadness and hurt and loss and unfairness of it all, I have to edit the phrase:
God is always good… somehow.
Even when I may not see it, even when I may not fully understand how on earth it can be possible, God is good in the midst of this… somehow.
Maybe you’ve heard and repeated the phrase “God is always good” too. Maybe you feel it to be a bit cliche; a pat answer when things go awry. Maybe right now, you’re just not feeling it. Because maybe right now, your heart is breaking too. Maybe you’re feeling the sadness and hurt and loss and unfairness of a certain circumstance in your life. Maybe you’re standing in the midst of a whole lot of brokenness and not seeing any goodness. Maybe you’ve messed up and done wrong and see no good in yourself. Maybe your looking at all the broken, horrible, messed up stuff that goes on in the world and are wondering what good you can do, and if good can really make a difference.
In God’s Word, we read these promises:
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28
“Surely Your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” Psalm 23:6
“I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.” Psalm 27:13
To be able to know God’s goodness! To have such certainty of His working even when I can’t see it! This assurance is mine. It is for all who live in relationship with God. And even for those who have yet to answer God’s beckoning to Himself, He is still working for good. It is indeed a promise.
No amount of messed up brokenness can stop God from being good. Rather, it is God’s goodness that turns messes into beautiful works of art and makes the broken whole.
Somehow, even in the most broken people and places, God works for good. I have to trust this. I have to lean into this. Because it’s the only way this heart breaking won’t turn into an entire me-breaking. It’s the only way I’ll be able to look through the numerous photos and remember the countless cousin adventures and still be able to smile, still be filled with joy and gratitude that Sam is my cousin. That we are family. It’s the only way I’ll be able to continually pour love into the family I still have with me.
How do we trust this goodness?
I’m no expert. I haven’t done a whole theological study on this. But I can tell you what I have found in God’s Word, and what has helped me. And I’m pretty sure it will help you too, if you’re feeling the same way; if you can’t confidently say “God is always good”, but you’re hoping, somehow, He’ll prove Himself to be, and you want to see His goodness.
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 says, “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
Rejoice always? Pray continually? Give thanks in all?
Really, God? You call me to do that, when this has just happened?
It may not be easy. It may not be what I want to do or feel like doing, but rejoicing in the Lord, communing with Him, and offering up thanks to Him gives me eyes to see His goodness. These are intentional, purposeful actions of trusting in God and seeking His good character and will. They are a surrendering of the broken heart to Him. And where better to place our broken hearts than in the good hands of God?
You can grieve and be sorrowful. You can take time to process the pain and loss. You can feel hurt and even angry. But do this in God’s presence. Rejoice in His presence; remember all He has done for you.
“In Your presence there is fullness of joy.” Psalm 16:11, ESV
"Often at night I lie in bed and remember You, meditating on Your greatness till morning smiles through my window. You have been my constant helper; therefore, I sing for joy under the protection of Your wings. My soul clings to You; Your right hand reaches down and holds me up.” Psalm 63:6-8, VOICE
Don’t stop having time with Jesus. Time doesn’t heal all hurts; Jesus does. Don’t stop praying, even if the prayers come out as tears. You can’t hide your feelings from God; He already knows them. Pouring out your heart to Him keeps the feelings from hardening to bitterness and hate. It allows God to work in your heart and bring comfort and peace. God promises to hear your crying, to come to you in your suffering, and to remember your tears.
“In my distress I called to the Lord; I cried to my God for help. From his temple he heard my voice; my cry came before him, into his ears.” Psalm 18:6
“For he has not despised or scorned the suffering of the afflicted one; he has not hidden his face from him but has listened to his cry for help.” Psalm 22:24
“You have kept count of my tossings; put my tears in your bottle. Are they not in your book?” Psalm 56:8, ESV
In my journal, I keep a list of “thank You’s”. Each day I write down the things I am thankful to God for. The day after my cousin had passed, I sat with my journal open, wondering if I could really write a “thank You” for that day. If there really was anything I could be thankful for. I decided I should write something, and I thought of one thing I could write:
Thank You #897: my cousin Sam
It’s amazing how both grief and gratitude can reside in the heart. And it’s amazing how gratitude causes joy even in the midst of the sorrow. Whether it’s making a list or breathing out a simple prayer, offer thanks to God for even the smallest good you see.
“Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.” 1 Chronicles 16:34
“But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Corinthians 15:57
I didn’t do my regular Bible studying during the week after August 14. But I did recall promises from Scripture, especially those of God’s goodness and love, and would turn to them and hold them in my heart often. In whatever brokenness you’re going through, cling to the promises and comfort of God’s Word. The promise that He is with you. The promise that He is good and will work for good. The promise that He loves you and you are His.
“My comfort in my suffering is this: Your promise preserves my life.” Psalm 119:50
“The Lord is trustworthy in all he promises and faithful in all he does.” Psalm 145:13
“Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.”
In the future, I’m sure I’ll be able to say that original phrase again. And I’m sure you’ll be able to as well. But for now, as we feel alone and abandoned, as we mourn the death of loved ones, as we rebuild after dreams have shattered, as we face rejection and failure, as we go through hard family situations, as we walk alongside a friend as they fight their battle, as we hope for healing against all odds, as we try to make ends meet when there isn’t enough, as we try to help those who are hurting, even while we are hurting, we’ll trust and we’ll rejoice and we’ll give thanks. We’ll be filled with peace that passes understanding. We’ll choose joy even as the darkness of night overwhelms. We’ll cry out to the one who makes all things new and works all things for good. And we’ll say with all our broken heart, “God is always good… somehow.”