Is God Really Good All the Time?
A Burning Question
It begins with the little saying, "God is good all the time." Sometimes we add "All the time God is good." We really believe it when we let it roll off of our tongues in a group setting when we're talking to friends and in our own private times.
We mostly say it when good things happen and prayers are answered. Medical test results come out good after all; a husband got a new job after six months of unemployment; there's been a healing. We should praise God in those times. We should surely show our gratitude to Him for His wonderful gifts.
But what about when something terrible happens? Do you say God is good when medical tests reveal cancer or some other horrific disease? What if tragedy strikes and a baby dies from SIDS? Do we say "God is good" or "God is faithful" when a spouse has been unfaithful and wants a divorce? When our beautiful teenager develops schizophrenia? Do we say "It is well with my soul" when all our hopes and dreams are shattered? Sometimes we do and sometimes we don't.
We may not think God is bad necessarily, in hard times, but we might say He's dropped the ball, forsaken us, been unfair. We might even get angry with God. Most of the time we don't say "God is good" until the crisis is over and the outcome is positive.
The word of God is full of people who declared God is good in the midst of tremendous adversity, and we can learn from them. Let's look at three people and their stories who declared God's goodness in their adversity - Job, Joseph, and the Apostle Paul.
Job is an incredible story of suffering. In chapter one we read that Job had it all. He was one of the wealthiest people in the world, had ten children he dearly loved and prayed for them regularly to sanctify them after their parties. Job was the greatest of all the people of the East. Wow.
One day Satan came before the Lord. He told God he'd been roaming around back and forth on the earth. His meaning was he was looking for prey. God did a strange thing.
"Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man who fears God and shuns evil?"
Paraphrased, Satan said "Of course, you've blessed and prospered him. But if you remove those blessings he'll curse you to your face."
Remarkably, God gave him permission to afflict Job. "Behold, all that he has is in your power; only do not lay a hand on his person.”
We can almost see Satan rubbing his hands with glee along with a "Mwahaha." In one fell swoop, Satan destroyed all his possessions, livelihood, servants, and all of his children. But Job did not curse God after these unfathomable tragedies. Instead, he tore his robe, shaved his head, and bowed down and worshiped the Lord, proclaiming, "Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked I shall return there, blessed be the name of the Lord." Job in effect was declaring, after losing it all, that God was still good.
At the beginning of chapter two, Satan went before the Lord again saying if Job was attacked in his body he would surely curse God then. God gave him permission to afflict Job with the caveat that he not kill him. Job broke out in hideous boils that were frightfully painful, he was feverish and in utter misery. He scraped his boils with potsherds.
If all this weren't bad enough, Satan entered the heart of his wife. She said, "Are you still going to hold onto your integrity. Curse God and die. Remember, cursing God was exactly what Satan wanted Job to do. When his own ploys didn't work he used Job's wife.
Job called his wife a fool. "Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?” He knew the practical fact that good and evil happen to everyone but God still loved him, was for him, and would be with him through it all.
Job had three friends who came to "comfort him." For one week they sat silently by his side suffering with him. But then they opened their mouths and tormented Job by accusing him of sin and saying he got what he deserved." Job argued his case with them, revealing who God was. He also expressed his doubts, wished himself dead, and contended his case before God. There were moments when hope surfaced, like when he proclaimed in 13:15: "Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him; I will surely defend my ways to his face." Though Job sinned by his doubts, and pridefully contended with God, he never cursed Him nor forsook Him.
When Job's friends ceased their accusations and cruel words, God challenged Job for several chapters, beginning with "Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?"
The last thing Job lost was his pride. He humbly gave it up in exchange for something far greater. He saw God's glory and magnificence like never before. "My ears had heard of you, but now my eyes have seen you, therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes" (Job 42:5-6).
We really cannot fathom the kind of suffering Job experienced. In a similar situation, would we have stood the test? God restored to Job twice what he had before and he lived another one hundred and forty years, enjoying four more generations in his family. He no doubt declared God's glory and had a deeper and more meaningful relationship for the rest of his days.
A faith that cannot be tested is a faith that cannot be trusted."— Greg Laurie
Joseph was the son of the patriarch, Jacob. He had ten older brothers. Jacob favored Joseph because he was the son of his old age and was born to his wife Rachel who had been barren. He gave Joseph a special coat of many colors. The brothers hated and mistreated him. Joseph had two dreams that symbolized he would one day rule over his brothers and father. The brothers hated him even more. Joseph also tattled on his brothers when they did wrong. At age seventeen, he was sent to check on his brothers one day who were out tending the flock. When he arrived they threw him in a deep pit and sold him as a slave when a caravan came by. Imagine his fear when he was thrown into that pit, defenseless. Then to be sold as a slave and lose the good life he'd always known.
Joseph was sold into slavery in Egypt. A man named Potiphar, the captain of the guard for Pharaoh, purchased him. Potiphar put Joseph in charge of his household and everything he owned because he could see God was with him and honored him in everything he did. Then Potiphar's wanton wife desired Joseph as a lover and tried to seduce him on many occasions. Joseph rebuffed her and told her he could not commit this sin before God and Potiphar. Finally, she caught him and demanded he lie with her. He fled but his cloak came off and remained in her hands. In fury, she cried rape and Potiphar had him thrown into prison.
How disheartened Joseph must have been. He was in prison for a number of years with no hope of release in sight. The prison warden found favor with him and put him in charge of the prisoners and the general running of the prison. He was faithful to God in his duties and was granted success. He still hoped to be released.
A baker and a cupbearer to the king were also in prison with him. They had dreams that concerned them and Joseph interpreted them. The cupbearer would be freed in three days and return to serve the king. The baker would be executed in three days. Joseph asked the cupbearer, "...mention me to Pharaoh and get me out of this prison. I was forcibly carried off from the land of the Hebrews, and even here I have done nothing to deserve being put in a dungeon."
The cupbearer forgot about Joseph's request. Another two years went by. Imagine his discouragement, but he trusted God anyway.
One day Pharaoh had a disturbing dream no one could interpret for him. The cupbearer remembered Joseph could interpret dreams and recommended him to Pharaoh. Joseph interpreted the dream - a famine was coming - and recommended a solution. Joseph was honored and made second in command of all Egypt and implemented his plan, resulting in saving many from starvation.
As it turned out, his own family came from Israel to Egypt searching for food. They did not recognize Joseph. He put them through some hard tests then revealed himself to them. It was a sweet reunion. His brothers repented and Joseph forgave them. He declared, "As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today."
And therefore, what you actually have is that the joy of the Lord happens inside the sorrow. It doesn’t come after the sorrow. It doesn’t come after the uncontrollable weeping. The weeping drives you into the joy, it enhances the joy, and then the joy enables you to actually feel your grief without its sinking you. In other words, you are finally emotionally healthy.”— Tim Keller, Walking with God Through Pain and Suffering
Paul, the Suffering Apostle
We could fill an encyclopedia with stories about the apostle Paul and his suffering. As the writer of a good portion of the New Testament, and hearing Luke's account of Paul's life of triumphs and tragedies in the book of Acts, starting in chapter nine, we learn about a brave, humble (sometimes not so humble), passionate, persevering preacher and teacher of Jesus Christ. Before his conversion on the Damascus road, he was a persecutor and murderer of Christians and a blasphemer.
Here is his life of suffering after his conversion:
From 2 Corinthians 11:23-33:
- in labors more abundant
- in stripes above measure
- in prisons more frequently
- faced death often
- from the Jews five times I received forty stripes minus one
- three times I was beaten with rods
- once I was stoned
- three times I was shipwrecked
- a night and a day I have been in the deep
- in journeys often
- in perils of waters
- in perils of robbers
- in perils of my own countrymen
- in perils of the Gentiles
- in perils in the city
- in perils in the wilderness
- in perils in the sea
- in perils among false brethren
- in weariness and toil
- Despaired even of life (2 Corinthians 1:8).
- No kindred spirit who would be concerned for the welfare of the Philippian church.
- in sleeplessness often
- in hunger and thirst
- in often fastings
- in cold and nakedness
- besides the other things, what comes upon me daily my deep concern for all the churches
Just the tip of the iceberg. But in every book Paul wrote we see His praise to God for what he gained. Here are just a few samplings:
- Romans 8:18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us (Romans 8:18).
- Romans 8:31-39 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written: “For Your sake, we are killed all day long; We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.” Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
- 2 Corinthians 12:9 And He has said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness " Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.
- Romans 5:3-5 Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.
- Galatians 2:20 I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.
Many would say God was not good because he allowed such suffering to people who loved, feared, and served Him. If you read those stories carefully (and read them to the end) you will see that great good came out of it. We live in a fallen world. God gave us free will since Adam and Eve. Thus sin abounds. But without free will, there would be no love. I opt for love.
God reveals Himself so powerfully to those who keep trusting and honoring him in the hard season, that they are given blessings. What blessings? Through suffering, we gain inner peace, grace, humility (not humiliation), endurance, character, hope, and God's love is poured into our hearts through His Holy Spirit (Romans 5:1-5).
Then we give it away.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ's sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too (2 Corinthians 1:3-5).
I have had my fair share of heartache as have you all. Many times I gave into despair and nearly took my life. I went through a season of anger and rebellion. I could add to the list. All this adversity uncovered my lack of faith and character. Finally, I saw God was there with me the whole time and His love never depended on my actions. I realized if I had turned to him instead of wallowing, running, getting mad, I would have experienced His love, comfort, strength, and glory in the midst of it.
I have learned what it means to have peace and joy in the midst of adversity. When I start to get squirrely during a trial, I go back to God's word, pray my heart out, and reflect back on the Lord's faithfulness in past sufferings. I can read His promises and believe them. I take His hand. What's more, God has used me to pass on the hope and comfort He's given me.
I've learned "All things work together for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28).
Let me be real and say I don't have it all aced, but I'm growing, and learning and experiencing God greater and greater.
But let me not forget the greatest blessing of all time, Jesus, God's own Son, pure and holy, went to the cross for our sins. The day I repented of my sins I received His forgiveness. My slate was wiped clean and when God looks at my record, He sees what Jesus did. And I love that God did not leave us orphans. Jesus rose from the grave and lives today in our hearts through the Holy Spirit.
Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good;
Blessed is the man who trusts in Him! Psalm 34:8
My two favorite gospel singers singing Great is Thy Faithfulness
© 2019 Lori Colbo