Wednesday, August 7, 2013

In Both, God Is Good.

Here is yet another blog that I'm not sure I should publish.  
One that's written in the process of sorting out the false things I've adopted as "gospel" from the one true "gospel" that is found in scripture.      
Yet, I'm compelled to write because, well, that's how I process, and there's a very real tension in my mind that God's goodness is possibly one of the many parts of Him that I will never fully understand on this side of heaven...something I might never be able to write about with absolutely clarity.      My heart might never be able to rest on my own limited understanding of God and His goodness and how that all fits into human suffering.    

God's Word says He is good.
Therefore, He IS good. 
2 Chron. 7:3 "They worshipped and gave thanks to the Lord saying, 'He is good.   His love endures forever.'"
If we don't believe God's word is Truth, we have much bigger eternal issues than just our understanding of His goodness here on earth.
The verses claiming His goodness are numerous in both the Old and New Testament.    
Psalm 34:8 "Taste and see that the Lord is good."
Our God is good.
Luke 18:19 "No one is good except God alone."
No one is good except God alone.
We can boldly make those statements because they echo scripture.   
God.  Is.  Good.      
It seems I have a pretty skewed view of "goodness" though because tragedies often shake me...stir me...rock my earthly world... 
I don't know how to fully mesh His goodness with evil, or tragedy, or hurts, or disappointment, but He is above this world and His goodness is not dependent on the circumstances of this world to make goodness to be true of Him.  
God does not change based on the tragedy of the day.  
Therefore, He is good in the face of sorrow.   

A couple weeks ago, a gathering of old high school friends at my parents' house in Colorado Springs almost turned tragic.   Almost. 
Dozens of kids of all ages roamed the bluffs where my parents' house rests while the adults caught up on old times safe on the confines of the deck and yard.     One side of the house is normal...gentle sloped grass leading to some pretty cool climbing bluffs...a big play set...a basketball hoop and ping pong reason for any kid to need to wander anywhere else.   
The other side of the house is a different story.   Two levels of decks sit resting on the edge of cliffs that tumble straight down to more rocky cliffs below.
All of the kids seemed content on the "safer" side of the house, so no big deal.   
No big deal except for the one kid that decided to venture, unseen by the dozens of adults at the party, to the bottom layers of deck.   
But even that should have been no big deal.  
We hang out on those decks all the time and have never had any issues.    
They are safely built decks.    AND I'm the family safety Nazi with a gift of removing all fun from every situation~or so my family says~because they "claim" I see danger in places where it doesn't exist.  If anyone would have mistrusted the stability of the decks, it would have been me.   I grew up in this house.   It's safe. 

A lone 5-year-old wandered to the lower level to look over at the cliffs below.   She grabbed onto the top of the rail and slipped her tiny feet between the bars of the deck to get a better look.    My mom happened to walk over to that part of the yard at that moment and watched as that entire section of the railing gave way and tumbled down the cliffs below leaving this small child hanging on to the only top bar that remained.   The little girl calmly set her feet back on the part of the deck still standing and ran off to play.  Bouncing with joy, she was completely unfazed by the tragedy she had just been spared.      A huge gaping hole was left with pieces of the deck strewn on the rocky cliffs below.     There is no earthy reason she didn't fall.   

With hearts beating faster, adults peered at this "almost" with praise and thanksgiving and joy at God's goodness.   God's goodness to spare this child's life.     Snippets of our conversation included "God is so good to protect."   "We are so thankful to have been spared."    "Praise Him for His protection."     Those are things that I naturally say when I see God's obvious hand saving or protecting or blessing.  
And the truth is, we are SO thankful that God spared this little girl's life.  
Our hearts DO overflow with joy that He chose to give the family more time with her.  
We praise Him for obviously intervening.   
God is good.  He is so, so, very good.

Gradually, the reunion came to an end and I looked at my phone for the first time all day.   
Numerous texts awaited.
The messages were tragic.  
A dear friend's 3-year-old niece had drown.   
This little one had drown while vacationing with family at a friend's lake house.
The time of the first text was almost at the exact moment the deck was falling out from under a little girl at my parents' house.
The contrasting results still take my breath away.     
On the same day that our good God was sparing a little girl's life in Colorado Springs by holding her back from a cliff, He was welcoming a little one into His Heavenly Kingdom.   
His hands kept a child on this earth at the very moment His arms carried one home.   
The very same good God.
And "God is good" is not what came to my mind or out of my mouth.
I couldn't find that thought anywhere. 
Because how does a good God allow a family to walk through such pain?    

I'm not sure, but we KNOW that God was still on His throne that day.
He didn't turn His head for a second and miss the tragedy.  He's Sovereign.    
He didn't mistakenly allow a little one to be taken too soon from her family.   Even a sparrow doesn't fall to the ground without His permission.     
He didn't forsake this God-fearing family for one moment.    He is close to the brokenhearted.    
And even through this unimaginable sorrow, He is still good.                
With confidence, God is still good.   
He gave permission for something so tragic, yet God reigns supreme and He has overcome all the sorrow of this world.   Somehow, in a way that transcends all understanding, He will get glory in the midst of this heartbreak and He will bring peace through such pain.   Maybe even JOY.          
Because that's who He is.
I'm realizing that deep down my view of God's goodness is often situational.  
I say "God is good" a lot.  A WHOLE lot.   
But there's often an unspoken behind it.    A "because" that I don't say, but imply.    
Because He protected.
Because the money came.   
Because the baby has a heartbeat.
Because my child is safe.
Because the fire didn't destroy their home.  
Because the hail didn't hit the farm.
Because it's not cancer.  
Because the little girl didn't fall off the deck.
God is good...

The Bible says that God is good.  
Period.   Not because.   His character is goodness.   
That goodness is not dependent on ANYTHING.   
God is good when He spares a child's life.  
God is good when He doesn't.
He will be glorified in both.
He can be praised by believers in both.

Two babies to be born within days of each other this upcoming winter. 
The news is shared just a week apart.    
Both families growing in excitement at the upcoming addition to their families.
But God's plan is different than we would have planned.      
One baby is still growing.
One baby isn't.   
One family preparing a room.  
One family grieving a loss.   
Yet, this precious Christian woman, who has just lost the little one in her womb, says to me,
"God is so good."
"This hurts.   But God is SO good." 
The strength of the Lord in this lovely woman through such heartache witnesses to me.      
Her spiritual maturity and wisdom are confirmed in that one statement of faith that allows her to boldly proclaim that "God is good even though this hurts and we don't understand." 
Somehow, I can walk away from this woman knowing without a doubt that God Is Good. 
My heart aches with this family, but I can say in agreement with them, confidently,
"Yes, God is so good."  

This week, I read a news article about a young woman killed on a lake when she was hit in the head by a piece of metal that flew off a water tube.     We had the very same accident a couple years ago, yet I walked out of the emergency with stitches and a concussion, and this woman's family is planning a funeral.    
"God is good," we had said "Because He spared my life."  
Would He not still have been good had He chosen to take my life? 
The hollowness of saying "God is good because..." now seems glaringly insufficient and weak.
Yes, we are so thankful for more days.
Yes, I'm so thankful to be around a little longer for my family.    
But He's good always.    
Not because He spared me.   
He's good even if He wouldn't have.
And He will be glorified in both. 
Let my children never think God is good BECAUSE...
He is good.   Period.  

When the cup in front of us is pleasing to us, it's easy to say that He is good.    
Jesus had a cup pass before Him.   One that included the sins of the world being placed on His shoulders.  A cup full of betrayal, physical brutality, and death.   Yet, Hebrews 12 says that "for the joy set before Him, He endured the cross."   There was joy for Him in all of His suffering because of what the end result of the suffering would be.   Could that also be true for our suffering?    

I'm realizing how crucial it is for me to rehearse His goodness and His Sovereignty and His ultimate glory in suffering before I need to fully lean on them.    Rehearse who He is during the calm seas before the storm hits.   Because a storm will hit.  It does for all of us.  The calm seas are the time to build our boat of faith with deliberate Truth because it's pretty tough to build faith during the fierce attacks of a storm...that's when we need to just cling to that which has already been built and cleave to the perfecter of our faith.    Our children need to hear us rehearse God's goodness in ALL THINGS~the giving and the taking away.   His goodness not just when situations end with positive results, but His goodness as part of God's character.   
A character that doesn't change with outside circumstances.     

One of my friends has a son with a lifelong disease that requires constant monitoring.   I've heard her say something like this, "If this illness had passed before me for my son, I would have turned it down and said there was no way this could be good or loving.    But I'm not God.    This disease passed before my Heavenly Father's throne and He said, 'Yes,' to this...and God is good.  And God is love."  This family's constant dependence on the Lord in the face of this daily struggle ministers by pointing me right back to how God can be glorified in the face of suffering. 

The immaturity of how I view the Lord is constantly brought before me as seasons of life change and I find my faith shaken...ummm, more than I wish.   The tragedy of this little girl drowning while another little girl was being spared shook me.  Yet, the shaking draws me back to God's word and reminds me to build my faith on the truth of scripture and not my own personal feelings.  I can analyze tragedy in my own power all day and there is no sense to be found in it apart from God's Word.

My friend came back from her 3-year-old niece's funeral blown away by the strength in her brother's family as they face this unspeakable tragedy.   She said that she went to help and encourage her family, but she was the one who walked away blessed.    Blessing in the midst of suffering?  God's hand moving as a funeral for a 3-year-old is planned?  No Way Possible apart from God.   No way.  There was actual JOY to be found as God's hand was seen in the grief and in the carrying of this family.   The stories she told me of the funeral week testified that God can get glory even when He doesn't withhold the sorrow.     And my friend was able to say with confidence, "God is good."  
That absolutely transcends all human understanding.      

So, I ramble and write on and on and find no outline that can be drawn. 
This seems so incomplete. 
I don't know if this should be deleted or rewritten or saved as a draft until I can write it with more clarity...until the paragraphs flow more naturally together.  It's been in rough draft form now for two weeks and it seems the concept of God's goodness through suffering requires more wisdom than I've been given. 
Maybe I'm just preaching myself a sermon.   Rehearsing over and over and over for my own small faith, God's goodness.  
His goodness no matter what. 
As life changes, I'm constantly having to remind myself of some of the very basic character traits of God.
So, I go back and start with this one...  
God.  Is.  Good.  
The "because" absent from the sentence.   
It means that He is good when He holds back the railing of a deck and saves a child's life.   
It means that He is still good when the unbearable happens.       
He. Is. Good.    
In both circumstances, He is good.   

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