When God Isn’t “Good”

Posted on March 13, 2014

The new job.

The new spouse (or relationship).

The new baby.

The promotion (and/or raise).

The illness that was suddenly cured.

These are a few of the things we attribute to a loving God. This is the God we like; the one who opens the flood gates of heaven and pours out His blessings. And as we revel in the fruit of His heavenly gifts we tout that God is good. Isn’t He. But, what about the moments that lead us to a place of suffering? What about the times in our lives when our spirits are broken.

The loss of a job.

The death of a loved one.

The divorce (or broken relationship).

The illness that can’t be cured.

The mass shooting that took innocent lives.

What are we to make of God then? Suddenly, what we once declared as the Gospel truth now becomes questionable. God is good? Isn’t He?

One of my greatest struggles as a believer is reconciling the goodness of God with the world’s brokenness. I recently read reports of a young woman who was expelled from a well-known Christian college after being raped. Her attacker went on to graduate and become a pastor. I wondered how a loving God–a good God–could not only allow the woman to be raped, but also be seemingly negligent in administering justice to the man who attacked her. I knew no easy answer would come from a question like that. They never do and this can create painful tension for those who want to put our complete trust in God’s ability to, “work everything together for our good.”

So how do we find God’s goodness in moments of tragedy and heartbreak?

A friend once explained to me, after discussing Romans 8:28, that God’s idea of “good” is seldom the same as our idea of good. It seems that God, in His sovereignty, works things in our lives in ways that don’t always feel good, or sound good, or even look good. Truthfully, that was unsettling and a little scary, but it is the very thing we need to understand. Personally, her explanation has helped me to stop limiting God’s character and goodness to a box marked “blessings only.” And it’s helped me to stop seeing God’s blessings as only things that bring me temporary gratification. If God doesn’t heal that sickness, can I trust that His character is still good? If I don’t get the promotion I’ve been praying for do I still believe in His faithfulness? If everyone walks away, do I hold on to the promise that God is for me? In the midst of major catastrophe do I believe that He is in control? The answer to all of these questions–without God answering any of my questions–is unequivocally, yes.

Still, the acknowledgement of God’s goodness does not give us permission to undermine anyone’s suffering. It would be foolish to explain away pain by simply interjecting that God is good. Indeed He is, but what I’ve learned from God in the midst of my own suffering is that the full spectrum of His goodness cannot be didactic. God’s goodness cannot be a dogmatic theory solely based on the outcome of our prayers, or desires. His goodness is something that has to be both sovereign and personal like in the story of Job who never received answers for his loss, but was extended an invitation to understand the majesty of God as creator and ruler.

We may never get a full explanation for why God allows certain things to happen. I know for anyone who is currently experiencing pain this isn’t a sufficient answer. I pray that in our moments of suffering, while acknowledging the reality of the pain and the world’s brokenness, we also grasp the promise of eternity. In this may we look outside of our circumstance to see God’s character, because it’s not the things that make God good. It’s His being that makes Him good.

Now it’s your turn: Have you ever questioned God’s goodness? Why?

Tell me in the comments section below.


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