So often the busyness of life seems to drain the best of our time and energies. With the world and all of life’s responsibilities pressing in on all sides, there is a danger that our Christian lives can roll along, little affected by godly truths and the wonder of them. How often we ought to pray, ‘Jesus, “restore to me the joy of your salvation!”’ (Psalm 51:12).
With that in mind and as we come to think about God’s goodness, let us begin with a renewed desire to know our God better. Let us draw from the ‘living well’ that is God’s Word and seek him with our whole hearts.
Firstly, what do we mean when we say that God is good? The Bible shows us repeatedly that God’s standards infinitely surpass our understanding of what true goodness is. Mark 10:18 says, ‘no one is good except God alone.’ In short, God cannot be pleased with anything short of total and complete perfection. Scripture goes as far as to describe God’s goodness with words like inexhaustible, unending, too wonderful even. How different this is to our own earthly experience of ‘goodness’ in both ourselves and those around us. While we are in the body, sin will always taint our view of God’s goodness. Despite this, we thank God for how much he reveals to us through his word and in our daily lives, looking forward to a time when we will perfectly comprehend all of his glorious attributes in heaven.
Goodness in suffering
Having a real grasp of God’s goodness to us is so important when we come to the challenges of life. The hard reality is that the longer we go on in the Christian life, the harder it may feel. All of us naturally want an easy life, of course we do. Over time, perhaps, we no longer expect things always to go our way. We pray that God would give us the faith and wisdom to know this would not always be the best thing for us anyway. Even so, severe difficulties in life can cause us to lose hope and even despair. Does this mean God’s goodness has changed towards us? Never! The Bible assures us that even during such times, God is always good and remains so. He cannot change.
As a child, I used to sing a paraphrase of Psalm 139.
O Lord, you have searched me and known me! You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar (Psalm 139:1).
The words of that psalm shaped my thinking at a young age, and I knew there was nowhere I could go where God would not be. Nothing could escape him, and every part of me and my life was of the greatest concern to him.
It should be a great encouragement to us that God knows all, sees all and understands all. Not a moment of our lives is hidden from him or outside his interest, despite our failings. God’s care and concern, the psalmist says, is ‘too wonderful’ for us to even understand. This should give us a great sense of the privilege we share in our Father who cares for us in such a way.
God’s goodness is undeserved
Seeing God’s goodness in the light of Scripture, also reminds us that it’s outpouring to us is always underserved. This should force us back on ourselves, full of more praise and thanksgiving than ever before; knowing that trials develop perseverance in us and so often cause us to lean on our heavenly Father in a particularly special way. Nothing but the adversities of life will give us that unique opportunity for such a privileged experience of comfort from the Father, that will make us ashamed to think of how little we have run to him in the past. Wonderfully, there is always purpose in our difficulties. The more trials we go through, the more we are strengthened. Our spiritual ‘muscles’ are stretched and exercised so that we are better able to face what future struggles may come our way and in turn, graciously care for others in their suffering.
Please know, these are not mere platitudes to dismiss our pain or a way to avoid having to deal with difficulties in life. God doesn’t ask us to have a stiff upper lip and to struggle on in silence as if we were failing somehow. In contrast, the Bible says that these promises are truth and life. We must work hard to practically grasp hold of these realities and live in the good of them, and God will come alongside us and be our help and comfort.
God’s goodness leads us to pray
Most importantly, living within the goodness of God will always be characterised by a life filled with prayer. Maybe this doesn’t come easily to everyone, but we must do whatever is necessary to make it an indispensable part of our daily lives. Are your days so full that God only gets the tail end of your sleepy efforts before you go to bed? God should have the best of our time. Putting the thoughts of God and his promises first in our lives is paramount. Let us be constantly reminding each other of them. As the hymn-writer says, ‘Trust and obey’ and we will be happy in Jesus. Let us constantly strive to be imitators of Christ.
God’s goodness reveals his compassion
Never doubt this truth, that the Lord God sympathises with your every need. He sees every tear, feels every pain. Have not the world’s comforts proved empty and superficial, failing to offer you the peace and aid that you so desperately seek? God is never afar off, indifferent or somehow in judgment of our struggles. Rather, he is the ‘Father of compassion and the God of all comfort’ (2 Corinthians 1:3). He is our ‘refuge and strength’ (Psalm 46:1).
In light of these truths, let us not labour on without him, only to deepen our suffering and find that the help we so desired was there all along, but sadly missed. Let us pray that we would increase in trust and faith as we soldier on for him. We will experience such intimacy and love with the Father – not just despite our sufferings, but because of them.
Out of the abundance of his grace, he will always give us what we need, even if it is not always what we want. Everything is only ever for our good because he is our good God.
As C.H. Spurgeon rallies us, ‘Go forth, my soul, in this thy might. The Eternal God is thine helper!’