I just finished my lunch, which, like most days this Lent, was a salad of dark leafy greens, a tomato, a few of whatever pre-Lent veggies are still viable in my fridge (not much of those left!), and a simple dressing of olive oil and lemon juice, and a bit of salt and pepper. This week I started adding a hard-boiled egg to get a bit more protein. My routine is to light a candle and thank God for the blessing of the meal; I then thank Him for all the people who worked to grow and raise and harvest each ingredient and those who drive the trucks so all I have to do is pop into a store and grab things off a shelf. I thank God for each ingredient and ask Him to fill all the people around the world who don’t have anywhere near this amount of food (or choice of food) to eat. And I ask Him to bless the food to my body, which sometimes feels superfluous, but I do it anyway, because He is the giver of all good things and my very breath comes from Him, so it doesn’t hurt to ask Him to metabolize my food in the way my body needs.
I have been doing this every day. At almost every meal.
And today it hit me…it’s a strange paradox to be thanking God for blessing me when so many people are starving. The nagging question, that I don’t ask very often, has broken through to the surface — Is God really good? It’s so easy to sing and proclaim, “God is good…ALL the time!” when I am rolling in my Western abundance, sitting on nice furniture in a two-bedroom/two-bathroom home with carpeting and central heat and running water in upper-middle class suburbia. It’s easy to feel blessed when my hard-working husband’s paycheck magically gets deposited into our bank account twice a month. I never have to wonder where my next meal is coming from or if I’ll have clothes to wear. God is good to me, that’s for sure. But what about the people who have little or no food, who live in cardboard box homes by a sewage-filled river? Is He good to them?
What defines “good” anyway? Hmm…
Last night, at my small group, someone shared about asking God if He really was good, and the answer she got was, “First, I’m God.” Perhaps that wasn’t the answer she wanted, but it’s what she needed. And I’m so glad she shared it with us because I needed that answer, too. As I sit at my table with a full belly, I am pondering this very thing.
God first…good second. Good is defined by God, not the other way around. Put another way, “God is good” only “makes sense” when it’s defined by God’s view of goodness, not our own.
We humans have an obsession with needing to make sense of things, some of us more than others. Joyce Meyer calls us “figurer outers” because of our need to always try to figure everything out. But there are some things that will never make sense to our fallible, finite minds. And really, if we’re honest, God should be at the very top of that list. Who am I to think I have God figured out? And more than that, who is anyone to decide that God needs to make sense? And if He doesn’t make sense (however that is defined by the individual), then he/she won’t follow Him, will create gods of their own and refuse to listen to the God of the universe? It takes a special kind of arrogance to define God. And I just realized I was starting to go down that path.
Lord have mercy on me, a sinner.
Oh it’s subtle. The enemy of our souls is sneaky. Self-deception is also sneaky. So we rail against injustice (rightly so), and allow our anger at the unfairness of it all to change our view of God. God isn’t good if (blank) happens. God isn’t good if (blank) doesn’t happen. And so we define not only God but “good” on our own terms and not His. A special kind of arrogance indeed.
For me, it really does come back to free will. And the cross. That’s all I need to know. God is so good that He gave us all free choice to do with our lives what we will. It’s easy to thank God for our freedom in one breath, and curse Him with the next one because of the latest atrocity we see on the news. We want it both ways, but that’s not how it works. God loves humanity so much that He has given us a myriad of choices of what to do with our one wonderful life. He loves humanity enough that He sacrificed His Son (also part of Himself…another thing a finite mind can’t make sense of, the Trinity!) so that we can know God and be known by Him in the most intimate and glorious ways possible. That when we make mistakes, small or large, including when we really f*** up and cause other people harm, we can be forgiven. No matter what the sin. Even corruption that allows children to die in their mother’s arms for lack of healthcare and food. Three nails and a cross is part of God’s definition of GOOD.
It makes me both shudder and fall on my face in thanksgiving.
I think the answer to “If God is good, why….?” is really not about God, it’s about us. This is soaking in deep as I type this. God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. It’s humans that keep changing. We don’t want God interfering in our lives (except to bless, of course) yet we want Him to interfere all over the place where WE think He SHOULD. Aye…there’s the rub. We think we know better than God.
So I sit here and wonder if the question should be reframed. If God is good all the time, then what can I do to show others that goodness? For those who are in awful circumstances due to the misuse of free will by other humans (which is why there is global hunger and poverty and sex-trafficking, and…), what can I do with MY free will to bring God’s goodness to those who are hurting?
What if we first-worlders stopped blaming God for not doing anything and we started to be His hands and feet to do something?
Maybe the problem isn’t with God, but with us.