Is God still good, even when we don’t get what we want?
God is good!
I often come across this short phrase on social media, on posts announcing births, engagements, marriages, and for other celebratory occasions. But what does it really mean? What is the person trying to say?
The goodness of God is a fact. There are really only two options – good and evil – and anyone who reads their Bible is in no doubt that God is most definitely good. In fact, we wouldn’t be stretching it too far to say that God is the very essence of good, not just that He is good in the way that we might be happy, or sad, or anxious, depending on external circumstances. And it’s this knowledge of His unchanging goodness that makes me stop and pause when I stumble upon this phrase.
Interestingly, this exact phrase is used only once in the Bible. It’s in Psalm 73:1. ‘Truly God is good to Israel, even to such as are of a clean heart.’ Here the psalmist recognises that God rewards those who live uprightly. I’m pretty sure that those who use this phrase are only trying to express their gratitude to God. They don’t actually mean that their new job, their new baby or their marriage is given to them by God because He figured they needed rewarded in some way.
A common mistake nowadays is to mix up the earthly promises that God gave to Israel in the Old Testament with the heavenly blessings that we, in this era after the Lord’s first coming to the earth, have the assurance of. God never promised us that if we obey Him we will prosper materially. Our promises lie in a different sphere altogether – a heavenly one! God most definitely does reward, but it will be in a future day.
Which brings me back to the topic of God’s goodness. Here is a Christian who desperately longs to be married, another who is unable to find stable employment, another who has a wearying chronic illness, another who has suffered heart-breaking bereavements… The list goes on and on. Is God good? Even though His children suffer? Most assuredly!
Anything we receive from His hand is only through His grace – giving us that which we do not deserve. And, as sinners, we deserve nothing! We didn’t deserve His great salvation, nor do we deserve anything that He chooses to give us while here on earth. If His choice is not to give us certain things which we often mistakenly believe is our right, then He is still good.
I was once given a verse that was immensely helpful to me. It’s Psalm 84:11 – ‘No good will He withhold from them that walk uprightly.’ (The word ‘thing’ isn’t actually in the text.) The way it was explained to me was that God knows what is good for us, and sometimes the withholding of that which we so much desire is actually what is good for us. Our obtaining of it might only be for our detriment, and therefore God in His goodness doesn’t permit us to have it. Over these times we can write a huge resounding GOD IS GOOD, just as much, or maybe even more so, as in the times that He gives us what we long for.
The King of love my shepherd is,
Whose goodness faileth never.
I nothing lack if I am His,
And He is mine forever.