God works for the good of those who love Him? Then how come my life isn’t always good? Why do bad things still happen? What possible good can come from the terrible things that bad people do?
When my brother went to jail in January of 2009, I could not see the good. It couldn’t ever be good. Nothing about this situation was good. And even a few years later, whenever I drove by the jail that housed my brother for a few months, my heart dropped into my stomach. I felt physically ill from the pain, fear, and sorrow that that place brought to our family. And when that happened, I prayed for God to take it away. I didn’t want to feel bitter and sad; I wanted to see the good. In the many years that followed, I prayed that God would make good from this, and, slowly but surely, He did just that.
12 years later, I can see the deep goodness of God in the life of my brother. And I see the trust it grew in me that our God is good no matter the circumstances. We may never know the true reason for hard things, for suffering, for the bad things in life, but we can accept and know that no matter what, God is good, and He is working for our good.
Last summer our youth director set up a panel for the kids to ask the tough questions to their youth leaders. We handed off their most complicated question to our high school leader, Jeff: “If God is good, why do bad things happen?” He came through with an answer that has helped me navigate this pandemic, the deaths of loved ones, and the hard times of those around me.
“How many of you like something now that you never ever liked when you were kids?” Jeff asked the group.
Brussel sprouts, dark chocolate, nonfiction, the news, romantic comedies: these all came to my mind.
“Now, have those things changed since you were young? Has anything about those things that you now like changed? Did they become better?”
Hmmm, well I think Brussel sprouts have gotten a facelift in the past few years, but romantic comedies, dark chocolate, the news, nonfiction, they all have remained pretty much the same.
“Were these things bad and now good? Or has your perspective on their goodness changed?”
Yes, very much so. These things were never inherently bad, I just personally didn’t like them.
He went on to explain that the things we thought were bad in the past, maybe they were always good. And maybe we didn’t acknowledge their goodness, or know their goodness, but they themselves never changed. We changed, and our perspective changed, but the things themselves, they did not.
God hasn’t changed y’all; the goodness of God hasn’t changed. Our circumstances: boy, have they changed, and our lives have changed, and bad things have happened. We have sinned, and people have sinned against us. But the Lord, He stays the same.
I had never thought of the goodness of God this way: God doesn’t allow bad things to happen for no reason, sometimes we just can’t see the good because it’s not good, yet. That “yet” is the kicker. We can’t see the big picture, we only see death, and hard things, and bad people, but God sees the whole story. For the whole story, He is working all things for the good of those who love Him. And maybe that good isn’t even for our generation, but for generations afterward. And maybe that good isn’t necessarily for me, but for those around me. Maybe they will see good in the hard circumstances of my life. And in that good they will see that God is creating good for His people.
And maybe, too, the goodness will never be in the circumstances. Maybe the actual thing will never be resolved for what we think is good. And the sinful things people do to us will never be good. But maybe the goodness is the fact that in the struggle we drew closer to God. Because really, isn’t our whole purpose on earth to draw closer to God above all else? And isn’t the goal we’re reaching for spending eternity in heaven? His ways are above our ways (Isaiah 55:8-9), so the good He has for us may be something we never could even imagine.
Maybe you’re in a season where you can’t see the good. Maybe you’re in a season where good doesn’t seem to exist. Or maybe someone sinned against you, and it continues to hurt. I’m not going to tell you to just accept it. I’m not here to tell you that it’s good, so just get over it. I’m here to tell you that on the horizon there is hope. Because of the deep love of God for His people, you can hold onto hope. And you can hold onto the truth of His promises. Kari Jobe says it so well in her song, “Love Came Down:”
“If my heart is overwhelmed, and I cannot hear your voice. I hold onto what is true when I cannot see.”
We will, at times, be overwhelmed. We will, in this life, feel like we can’t hear His voice. But in those times, in those moments, we can hold onto the promises we know to be true from scripture. And we can trust the promises that have proven true for generations before us: God is good, and He does good.