As a Christian, I get confronted with this question a lot. And not just by other people, but also by myself.
Life is hard, okay? Not just as a Christian, but as anyone living in the broken world we live in, life is hard. For some, it’s harder than most. And when bad things happen, even as a Christian, we might sometimes ask the question, “Where is God in all of this?” Or “Is God good?”
Yes, I know that as Christians, we’re supposed to believe this stuff to be true, but it’s hard. It’s hard when a family member or loved one is diagnosed with cancer. It’s hard when you have to say goodbye to dreams that you’ve been working towards that now will never come to fruition. It’s hard when you watch a divorce happen, unable to do anything but pray. It’s hard when you turn on the news and all you see is evidence of Adam’s fall and you feel so insignificant and hopeless to turn the tide. It’s hard. And in such circumstances, it’s easy to blame God or demand where He is on all of this.
Do I believe He’s sovereign? Absolutely. Do I believe He’s good? Yes. Can I say with full conviction, when it feels like everything’s falling apart, that I still believe God has a plan in this that’s going to be for my good? Yeah, but it’s hard. Really hard. It’s hard to have faith. It’s hard to trust in God when everything’s crashing in around us.
So when I get asked that question, “Is God Good?” it’s difficult to answer because of the proof people shove in my face regarding all the bad stuff in the world.
Is God good?
Is the world falling to pieces?
Yes. It does not mean God is not good.
Recently, our church had a reformation conference, and one of the sessions was on this very topic. Therefore, I’m going to share some of my notes to better provide proof for my point.
An all-good God would want to prevent every evil.
An all-powerful God would be able to prevent every evil.
There are evils.
Therefore, an all-powerful/all-good God does not exist.
End of story?
Let’s revise that logical sequence.
- An all-good God would want to prevent every evil. He is able to prevent, when that evil is not necessary to allow or obtain some greater good.
- An all-powerful God would be able to prevent every evil.
- There are evils.
- Therefore, if there is an all-good and all-powerful God, He permits the evils that do exist because they are necessary to allow or obtain some greater good.
Are we ever in a place to determine what that greater good is? Absolutely not. That is not our place. But we can rest assured that the greater good is, in essence, a greater good. But more on that in a second.
Crucial to this understanding of a good God are the contours of Reformed Theology, which is the following:
- God is sovereign over everything in His creation, even the evil actions of His creatures.
- God is the ultimate cause of all things, but never the ultimate cause of all evil.
- God permits the evil actions of His creatures only to accomplish a greater good.
You can’t be courageous in a world without fear. You can’t be compassionate in a world without suffering. And you can’t be forgiving in a world without wrong.
- We are rarely in a position to identify that greater good.
Whenever God allows evil, it is to accomplish some greater good.
There are three Biblical case studies that we could look at in greater detail to fully appreciate this fact:
- Joseph, son of Jacob (Genesis 45:7-8, 50:20)
What happened to him? Well, he was surrounded with family problems, he was sold by his brothers into slavery, accused of crimes he didn’t commit, got thrown into prison for those nonexistent crimes, and was forgotten. Good news: God was with him and blessed all that he did, until he became second only to the Pharaoh and ended up saving thousands of lives, including that of his family, and was reunited with his father and brother in the end. In his own words, “You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good.” Unusual response; I doubt most of us would be able to say that.
2. Job (Job 1:21—God is worthy of worship whether He permits good or evil—)
You can’t have a discussion about God using evil for good without including Job. Job was a God-fearing man; the book even states that he was one of the few righteous in the land. What happens, though? God allows Satan to ruin Job’s life so that God can show Job that He is the One who is in control of His life. Hard lesson, though, considering that Job lost his children, all his wealth, his wife, and his health. But he never—ever—curses God for it. And in the end, he worships God after God displays His glory in one of the most beautifully written passages of scripture.
3. Jesus (Acts 4:24-28)
If ever there was an instance of something bad happening to someone who didn’t deserve it, it is Christ. He is the Son of God, and what does He do? He came to earth, lived the sin-cursed life of man—though He never sinned—and died one of the most painful and shameful deaths imaginable. Why? So that we could have hope for the future. It’s called grace.
In the words of the hymn, Beneath the Cross by Keith and Kristen Getty:
Beneath the cross of Jesus,
I find a place to stand,
And wonder at such mercy
That calls me as I am;
For hands that should discard me
Hold wounds which tell me come.
Beneath the cross of Jesus,
My unworthy soul is won.
You can see the utter beauty and mercy of God. We don’t deserve good things happening to us. And yet God blesses us in more ways that we could ever count. And He is still with us even when it seems like nothing could go worse in our lives. He is using it to shape us for His glory.
Evil is not something beyond God’s control. Suffering is not meaningless. He has wise purpose in allowing evil to happen to accomplish a greater good. But we cannot judge that greater good.
Jeremiah 29:11, my life verse, says the following:
For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord. Plans for peace and not disaster. Plans for a future filled with hope.
The irony of the verse is that it is said right when everything is about to go wrong for all the Israelites; they’re about to be taken captive. And yet God reminds them that He is behind all of this and that He will bring them back.
Yes, life is hard. Yes, bad things happen. But we can have hope that God is good and that this trial we are going through is shaping us and making us more like God and that He is doing it for His glory and for an ultimate good.
We must trust God that He knows what He’s doing, because He does know. And one day, you’ll be able to look back on this and see God’s hand in it all, and we will be able to worship Him for His goodness and sovereignty in our lives.
God is good.