Children live so exuberantly, full of wonder and intense emotion. A couple weeks ago, as I served supper and sat down at the table with my family, Aviya repeatedly exclaimed to me, “Oh my Honey, you make the best quiche in the whole world!” (And how could I argue with the truth?) In addition to enjoying caring for my own sweet sister, I also do a lot of babysitting over the summer and get to hear all sorts of wonderfully precious things. I must admit that having kids say, “When are you coming again? It’s our favorite when you come to watch us” was one of those heart-melting moments for me. It delights me to delight the children in my care.
What I truly enjoy most about children is that they simply accept kindness; they don’t question the good things that come their way but rather receive happily. And I find myself wishing that we, as God’s children, would do the same with the good things He provides.
Instead, we lose our confidence in seeing goodness and experiencing kindness – we think they are rarities, if not impossibilities. Perhaps this is true among people, but it is false in regard to our heavenly Father: He is the very definition of goodness.
“Oh, that men would praise the Lord for His goodness, and for His wonderful works to the children of men! For He satisfieth the longing soul, and filleth the hungry soul with goodness.” – Psalm 107:8-9 KJV
I was recently explaining to someone my perspective: God’s goodness is always at work, and I see His mark on every good thing that is in my life. Because of this, I live a life that overflows with thankfulness. I can confidently say, to anyone and at any time, that my life is amazing and that I am incomparably blessed. I am always thanking the Lord for big things as well as small, all of which are part of the gracious and lavish outpouring of His goodness. I feel blessed when I spend time with my amazing family, and I feel just as blessed when I find a tiny flower blooming while I am on a walk. But how can I equate the blessing of something as simple as a flower with that of a loving family? Because the “things” aren’t actually what is “good.” I look at every sweet thing in my life as just another manifestation of God’s goodness toward me. Thus, if I lose any one of these things, I am not obligated to doubt God’s goodness because I “realize” (know) that the thing is not God’s goodness. God’s goodness is not limited to the things we call “good” – His goodness is who He is!
After attempting to explain all this, the patronizing rebuttal I received was that sometimes “good things just happen.” In other cases I have had people say, in sorrow-laden tones that tear at my heart, “I wish I could believe that, but I have seen too much of the world.” Yes, perhaps they have seen too much of the world – too much of the world and not enough of the One who created it, who holds all eternity in His gentle, capable hands.
Unfortunately, we often see our blessings – relationships, possessions, positions – as being the sign that God’s favor and goodness are real, rather than seeing them as just another piece of evidence the reveals that God is good. When we do this, we are actually worshipping the things – the stuff of life – as being “good” rather than worshipping the good Father who gives them. We mistakenly cling tightly to these things because we think that if we don’t have these “good” things, we are not experiencing God’s goodness.
When I talk about God’s goodness and my thankfulness, I am not espousing a mere feeling or notion – and it is more even than an ideology. It is my lifestyle – I can’t live my life any other way except in awe of His continual goodness.
But how can I truthfully always claim that my life is “amazing” and that I am “incomparably blessed”? Is it because I have had a breezy, happy Christian life in which nothing ever goes wrong? Not at all. Rather, my life is ever-beautiful because I know who my Father is, and my Father is good. It breaks my heart when people fail to see God’s goodness toward them, because their lives will always feel inexplicably empty. When we do not accurately behold the goodness of our God, nothing will ever seem as lovely or whole as it should be. This is because there is truth that runs deeper than the lack-luster, life-just-happens façade that the world presents us with:
“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.”
– James 1:17 NKJV, emphasis mine
It is neither naïve nor self-deceptive to believe that all good things come from my Father’s hand, for according to Scripture, they truly do come from Him. Interestingly, this statement is made by James, who was possibly the most practical, down-to-earth New Testament writer. James wasted no words to bring a firm message to his readers. The verses prior to James 1:17 explain that evil is born of sinful human desires – God neither tempts us nor visits evil upon us. God cannot, for it is not His nature, and He cannot deny Himself (2 Timothy 2:13). In verse 16 James gives an interesting plea-command: “Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren.” There is some scholarly debate about whether this applies to the verses about man’s sinful desires or the verse about God’s goodness, but I rather think it is both: do not be deceived about your sinful nature and God’s good nature! Don’t be confused, thinking that any evil comes from God, who is the Giver of every good thing! You see, James was not writing in an emotional high nor penning lofty nothings to make us feel good about God; he simply stated the blatant fact that God is good.
Even though we are God’s children, we are often blind to the fullness of His goodness — yet that does not stop Him from being good. He fills, He satisfies, and He works mightily – and still we remain in blind ignorance. The plain truth is that all goodness, all perfection, every sweet blessing and little pleasure we have is given by our Father who delights in lavishing us with His goodness. The above verse from James calls God the “Father of lights” who does not change. And not only is our God unerringly good, there is not even a hint of His turning from His goodness – not even so much change as the wavering of a shadow. This is why the “I-have-seen-too-much” theology is a dangerous trap: it denies that God manifests His goodness in the earth. And this is also why the “good things just happen” theology is perhaps even more dangerously ignorant: when we shrug and say that “good things just happen,” we are looking directly at all the goodness around us and saying that it doesn’t come from God. In effect, both these lie-laden theologies deny the good nature of God.
I think about my life, and I can’t help but see my Heavenly Father’s goodness. I have never been prone to tears, but tears do come when I consider such exquisite kindness – I am utterly undone. In my few years I have lived more life, experienced more humanity, held more titles, and been part of more cultures and social classes than many people do in a lifetime. And it was hard. My missionary family has many experiences that we couldn’t talk about at the time, many stories that are waiting for a time to be shared. Yet no matter how many difficult moments there have been, I have never doubted that I have a good life. I cannot doubt it when I look back to the time when I was a girl growing up in the Midwest. Neither can I doubt it when I look at my life now: a soon-to-be senior at a small-town Bible college, pursuing the path God has set before me, gracefully debt-free and eager to take the next step. Like a sturdy thread that holds a tapestry together, my Heavenly Father’s goodness is woven throughout my past, my present, and my future by His steady hand.
I have walked through fire, and there is one thing I have discovered: my God is exquisitely, unfailingly good. His gentleness has made me great (Psalm 18:35), and I have become strong. And this inheritance does not belong to me alone; it is also yours as a child of the Most-High God, our good Father. His goodness is always present; it never fails. His kindness is indescribable. The words of Graham Cooke come to mind:
When Moses said, “God, please show me Your glory,” maybe he was expecting some great display of power and light, but God just looked at him and smiled at him and said, “I will cause all my goodness to pass before you” because the glory of God is the nature of God – that God is good! He is good! He is unfailingly good! He is good! He is good! God is good! Good! He is good! And He is never changes – He will always be good! Yesterday He is good, today He is good, tomorrow He will be good. And it is your destiny to have the goodness of God pass before you. He’ll never change. You will always know where you are with Him. He never changes. He is consistent – the most consistent Person ever. He will never change His heart toward you no matter what you do. He cannot be anything other than what He is. He is a covenant-maker, a covenant-keeper, and He is good!’
– Graham Cooke, “The Nature of God”
Take a few minutes and listen to the song below. Won’t you let His goodness wash over you today?