God is good. A simple sentence, but a huge life changing truth.
Having been a Christian for almost 6 years, I think I’ve always known this, but recently the revelation of its gravity has hit me. God really is good, and if he is (which I wholeheartedly believe), that changes everything.
In the past I think my general approach to God in prayer has been like a small child asking for a pet. It goes something like this:
“Please mum, please dad, can I have a pet?”
“Please please mum, please pleeaaaaaase dad, can I have a pet?”
“Here are some pictures of the pet I would like, I promise I’ll look after it, I promise I’ll feed it”
“Why Not? This is so unfair!”
“Louisa, you are not having a pet”
“You’re so mean, you’re ruining my life! I can’t believe you won’t let me have a pet!”
You get the jist.
Perhaps my past experience with my desire for a Guinea Pig has left an indelible scar, or maybe I just haven’t ever understood the Father’s heart for me, and his continual desire to bless me and give me good gifts. I think in this life it is so easy to read about his love and process that from a theological perspective, but to really know that truth in our hearts, and to live out each day as an overflow of that truth is a different run of rabbits all together.
Now I’m not saying that because God is good it means life is easy and everything turns out the way I want it to. Far from it. Knowing God is good and is sovereign means contentment and joy whatever the situation, because I trust him with the circumstances. The apostle Paul knew this, and whilst I’m sure I don’t know God as well as he did, I think I’m catching my first glimpse of what he meant when he wrote in Philippians:
“…for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” Philippians 4v11-13
If my life is lived for God’s glory, and I know he is good, then my emotions and feelings can be steadfast despite the trials of this world, because even though I might be in pain, God is for me, and he loves me and wants to bless me. That is his heart. If I trust that, then despite anything else, I can be content because my life is hidden with Christ (Colossians 3v1-4).
I take courage from Lamentations, a little book detailing the destruction of Jerusalem. The writer, Jeremiah, describes the horrors of that time, the loss of life and starvation. He starts chapter 3 by declaring: “I am the man who has seen affliction under the rod of his [God’s] wrath;”. He knows affliction, he has witnessed it, he has lived it. Yet, in verse 21 he lifts his eyes towards the Lord and writes:
“My soul continually remembers it and is bowed down within me. But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.” The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him.” Lamentations 3v20-25
Would I rejoice in the love of God whilst my city fell into disarray? As I write about my wholehearted trust in the goodness of God, even I’m not sure that would be my first reaction. It’s quite mindblowing, really.
Later on in the chapter Jeremiah writes:
“but, though he cause grief, he will have compassion according to the abundance of his steadfast love; for he does not afflict from his heart or grieve the children of men.” Lamentations 3v32-33
John Piper gives a helpful analysis of these verses:
“The mercies of God are often hidden and hard to see while they are happening, because it says he does cause grief and he does afflict. And yet it says there is a merciful purpose in it all. And it is not coming from the bottom of his heart. He does not willingly afflict the sons of man. There are purposes for his affliction. It is not the thing he delights most to do and yet he does it. And if we will trust him, there are mercies hidden there for us.”
Isn’t it amazing that even in the thick of affliction, God has a plan? Isn’t it a comfort to know that despite our circumstances, God is leading us through the valley with compassion? I know this strengthens me, and I know there is joy to be found in the hardest of times, because God is sovereign and his plans are far greater than those I might attempt to conceive myself. Through spending time in prayer each day, seeking God and inquiring in his temple (psalm 27v4), I have learned to lean on him and allow his plans to take priority.
So even though he might not give me Guinea Pigs, I don’t blame him for ruining my life (the one I had planned myself), no, instead I will trust him, and trust in hope that maybe he’s got a cool Llama or a curious Snar-Nosed Mole for me instead.
He is good.
“Seek the Lord while he may be found; call upon him while he is near; let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the Lord, that he may have compassion on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. For my thoughts are not your thoughts,neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55v6-9