The Lord is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; he knows those who take refuge in him. (Nahum 1:7)
Last spring, we were anxiously awaiting our upcoming vacation to Florida. Even more than in years past, I was desperate to get away and catch my breath from all the hardships and stresses that were pounding on us. As any Midwesterner knows, it was a winter that will forever be remembered… and not for good reasons.
We had been stuck inside for months due to the cold and snow and had been plagued with one sickness after another. I had given birth to our fourth child in January, and the months that followed were tumultuous, to say the least. So as the day approached for our vacation, I pleaded with the Lord for good health and restful time away.
We made it to Florida, and I was so thankful that we had escaped all the sickness and had arrived to enjoy our vacation. God is good! But the very next morning my daughter woke up with the stomach flu.
What?! NO! Didn’t God know that I needed a break, just a moment to come up for air? I pleaded with him to protect the rest of us, but two days later I came down with it.
As I laid on the couch while the rest of my family ran off to the beach, I felt angry and confused at why God would allow this. Did he not care that I felt so beaten down? I knew God was good, but this didn’t feel good. I felt a battle in myself, not wanting to grumble and complain, yet struggling with doubts about God’s goodness.
We’ve all experienced times when things happen that just don’t make sense, often things far worse than a stomach bug. A life-altering illness, a death of a loved one, a lost job, a broken relationship, years of a seemingly unanswered prayer; such things can challenge us to the core of whether we really believe God is good.
When I look at the circumstances surrounding my life right now, not much looks hopeful. Many days are filled with hurt, confusion, fear, and questions about why God has chosen to withhold answers despite tears, prayer, and pleading.
But do I believe God is good by what I see, or do I believe God is good because of who he is?
Unfortunately, I have often tried to reduce God to a god that I am comfortable with and can make sense of, instead of trusting the truth of who God is and accepting what he has allowed as his good and perfect will.
I appreciate what Lydia Brownback said in her book, Trust:
God often acts contrary to how we think a good God should act. The answer we think we need seems so logical and clear to our way of thinking, yet God does not provide it. That is where faith comes in. Real faith isn’t the belief that God will do a particular thing; real faith is the conviction that God is good, no matter what He does and however He chooses to answer our prayers. God always has our best in mind, and He works to bring it about, no matter how it may look initially to our way of thinking.
There is no greater example of this than the cross:
It was the will of the Lord to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for sin, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his day; the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand. (Isaiah 53:10)
God’s good will was to crush his own Son. That certainly doesn’t sound like something a good God would do, until we realize that his will was to crush his own Son in order to save us, sinners in rebellion against him. I’m so thankful that God does what is good in his eyes, not in our eyes. We may never fully understand the pain we experience while on this earth. But we must run to the truth that he has proven his goodness in the greatest way possible through Christ’s death and resurrection. We can choose to trust in that same goodness, even when we can’t make sense of the circumstances we face.
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 55:8)
Be gracious to me, O Lord, for to you do I cry out all the day. Gladden the soul of your servant, for to you, O Lord, do I lift up my soul. For you, O Lord, are good and forgiving, abounding in steadfast love to all who call upon you. Give ear, O Lord, to my prayer; listen to my plea for grace. In the day of trouble I call upon you, for you answer me. There is none like you among the gods, O Lord, nor are there any works like yours. All the nations you have made shall come and worship before you, O Lord, and shall glorify your name. For you are great and do wondrous things; you alone are God. (Psalm 86:3-1)
We can come to Christ with our doubts and weaknesses. We can ask him to give us faith to take our eyes off what we can see in front of us, lifting our eyes again to the cross, because that is where we will find assurance and confidence in the undeserving goodness of our Heavenly Father.