“How do you reconcile the two? The goodness of God with the pain and brokenness of life. How do you make sense of it all?”
It’s after midnight, and the three of us are sitting around on the floor of our room, Bibles in our laps, honesty hour for each of us. After a long day of travel and unexpected experiences, we’re exhausted and cutting right to the heart of what we’ve all been walking through.
“I guess…I don’t know exactly. I think I often tend to believe that God doesn’t have to be good to me to still be good.”
I pause for a moment, and gather my thoughts.
“Almost this: I know I don’t deserve His love, so I see the love He does give me as a beautiful, wonderful gift, and everything else as extra. I don’t think that’s right or healthy, but that’s how I tend to reconcile it. He doesn’t have to be good to me in my mind for me to still believe He’s good.”
This has been a season of wrestling with truth, and wrestling with God.
A season of living – a season of seeing if what I believe holds any weight. Seeing if I believe that grace is really for me when I fall short, that I am loved in my weakness, that God is enough when I know nothing else is.
And it has been a season where I’ve had to decide if what I believe about God is accurate, or if I’ve been seeing Him through a broken lens this whole time.
As we sat on that bedroom floor, I verbalized for the first time the script that had been playing in my head and my heart, and thought about the way I had been viewing God for so long. For a good amount of time, I’d convinced myself that expecting anything from Him was selfish, and I was setting myself up for disappointment if I believed on Him for anything more than salvation.
That script works, until it doesn’t. It masquerades as a holy, selfless view of God, but when put into practice, is often the manifestation of doubt and fear.
I doubt that God will do good things for me because I am afraid of being disappointed.
I am afraid that my life will not turn out the way I want it to, so I doubt that God will be faithful to me specifically.
A few months back, I started incorporating “self-counseling sessions” into my journaling practice. I start with asking all the deep, hard questions of myself, slowly getting everything out in the open that I know has been going on in my head. I consider the questions slowly, and do my best to answer them as honestly as I can – and let myself be okay with not having answers for a while, if that’s the case.
And so, some of these self-counseling sessions go a little bit like this.
Do I believe God is all-good?
Yes – but do I believe that God is good to me, personally?
Do I believe God is all-powerful?
Yes – but do I truly have faith that He can do all things and will intervene in my life when He so chooses?
Do I believe God is all-loving?
Yes – but do I believe that He loves me in all of my mess and my weaknesses, that my shortfalls do not diminish His love for me, and that He would not have created me if He did not love me unconditionally?
Do I believe that I can trust Him with my life?
I don’t know. Do I?
There is a vast space between what we say is true, and how we live because of what we subconsciously believe. Deep belief cannot help but influence our actions, so we must get to the heart of the ideas we have incorporated into our mindsets.
The key belief that’s wrong here is that I fall into thinking that God’s goodness concluded with Jesus two thousand years ago – and that couldn’t be further from the truth. The grace and the faithfulness of God did not stay on the cross.
The idea that “God doesn’t have to be good to me to still be good” runs counter to His character. If God is good, He will be good to me. If He promises that He is trustworthy, He is worthy of all of my trust. If He is faithful, He will be faithful to me.
It sounds so simple, so trite. Of course He’s good. Of course He’s trustworthy. Of course He’s faithful. Yet, what keeps us from believing it with everything? What keeps us from trusting Him for all the things we know we cannot control? What keeps us in fear when we know His character so deeply? What keeps us from internalizing what we know to be true and letting Him be God?
We do not trust Him fully because we are afraid of life turning out in a way that we do not want, and it makes us uncomfortable to think that His goodness and our comfort may not overlap.
One of my favorite verses in the world is Psalm 27:13 – “I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.”
Here on earth, we will see the goodness of God. Tangibly, truly, deeply – we will unquestionably see His goodness.
And again – that doesn’t mean He always fixes our messes. It doesn’t mean we’ll avoid suffering the effects of living in a broken world. It doesn’t mean that we won’t still struggle or that somehow we’re not human anymore.
But it does mean that He’s with us in the mess. It means He loves us in spite of all our failure and fear and brokenness and calls us holy in His sight. It means He cares about each of us individually and personally, and delights in giving us good gifts.
He was good to us when He sent Christ on the Cross, and that alone should fill our lives with joy and hope in the grace that sets us free from sin and death. And even beyond that, He’s good to us, right here, right now, today. There’s nothing we can do to lose His love and faithfulness toward us. Absolutely nothing.
He wants us. This God, this Creator of the vastest of galaxies and oceans and mountains wants us – our small, fragile, imperfect human souls. He’s good. And if He is good, then He is good to us. And we will see that goodness here, in the land of the living.