“Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good…” Psalm 34:8
“You are good, and do good…” Psalm 119:68
“Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good!…” Psalm 107:1
Tonya and I had been married approximately one year when she informed me that she was pregnant. To say that I, as a first-time father, was ecstatic would be an understatement. I couldn’t wait to hold our little bundle of joy in my arms. I was serving as the pastor of my first church, Mckinney Cove Baptist, at the time, and life was good. It wasn’t perfect, but it was good. And the birth of our child was going to take everything to an even better level.
Naturally, then, we did what young couples do in that situation: We told everybody. As the word got around our area, people were lining up to be happy for us. Our parents, in particular, couldn’t stop beaming. It was all such good stuff. But then, approximately two months into the pregnancy, Tonya started having some physical problems. Again, we did what young couples do in that situation: We asked people to pray that God would make everything alright with the baby. And, no doubt, scores of prayers were offered up on our behalf. Even when Tonya’s problems worsened and it became obvious that a miscarriage was likely, one well-meaning Christian lady assured me, “God isn’t going to let anything happen to your baby.” It was only a few hours later that our doctor gave us the official verdict that Tonya had miscarried. That news was then followed by weeks of us having to explain to uniformed friends and acquaintances that we had lost the baby. Talk about adding insult to injury!
Now fast-forward about a year-and-a-half to June 17th, 1997. There we are, enjoying Ryan, our newborn son, who is as healthy as a baby can be, almost twelve pounds worth of health to be exact. The following Monday morning I attend the local pastor’s conference, where during the prayer-request time I thank God that both mother and child are doing fine. I end my words by saying, “God is good,” to which an elderly preacher tacks on, “All the time.” Then all the other preachers give either an approving nod or a little chuckle and we move on to the next item of discussion. For me, though, things aren’t quite so simple. I’m sitting there thinking, “If God is good all the time, what happened with our first child?”
Wow, here you were reading a nice safe blog post when all of sudden things took an unsettling turn, right? I mean, for heaven’s sake, we shouldn’t question whether or not God is good all the time! No, we’re supposed to just forget the miscarried child and focus on the living one. Thinking about that lost one gets too complicated, too tricky, too messy. It hurls us out of our spiritual comfort zone and causes us to question God in ways that bother us. It’s during such times that Christians start to play the “spin” game.
You know how to play the “spin” game, don’t you? Sure you do, you’ve done it before. We play this game anytime we survey what has happened in real life and then “spin” it to where God gets nothing but praise. Has there been a deadly car wreck in which two of the four passengers were killed? “Thank you God for protecting the two that lived.” Has a loved one died peacefully in his sleep after a long battle with cancer? “Thank you God that You didn’t let him suffer in the end.” Did that loved one suffer terribly in the end? “Thank you God that you mercifully ended his life and didn’t let him suffer any longer.” Did a machinist lose a finger in an industrial accident? “Thank you God that You saved the other four fingers.” You see, the “spin” game keeps God’s reputation in tact when the simplest, most obvious interpretation of events flies right in the face of that reputation.
Now, I wish I could say that losing our first baby was the only time that Tonya and I have had reason to question God’s goodness. Unfortunately, however, that would be a lie. Among other times, we had reason to question it: when Tonya suffered a second miscarriage between Ryan’s birth and the birth of Royce (our second-born); when Tonya’s dad died unexpectedly; anytime my ministry wasn’t going well; anytime our finances got tight; anytime either Tonya or myself was stricken with some fairly serious medical ailment; and anytime that some type of injustice was doled out on our family.
Of course, these are just some instances from our little corner of life. If I wanted to offer a list of instances from all around the world, that list could be endless. Among other things, it would include: the millions of deaths during Europe’s Black Plague era; the millions of Jewish deaths during Hitler’s Holocaust; untold numbers of deaths via untold numbers of wars; the deaths caused by the 9/11 attacks and other terrorist acts; every black person who was ever lynched in the old South; every person who was ever murdered by any means; every child who was ever sexually molested; every person who was ever raped; every poverty-stricken child who ever went to bed hungry; every prisoner who ever went to prison because a judge or jury got it wrong; every faithful spouse who ever got cheated on; etc., etc., etc., etc., etc., etc., etc. You get the idea. Where was God’s goodness during all of these times?
Furthermore, I might add that there are even several Biblical examples of God appearing to act, shall we say, “not good”:
- In Genesis chapter 7, we find the inconvenient little matter of God killing off the entire population of the earth except for Noah and his family.
- In Genesis 19:12-29, God has two of His angels kill off the inhabitants of the twin cities of Sodom and Gomorrah by raining fire and brimstone down upon those cities. That death toll included the children of those cities.
- In Deuteronomy 20:16-18, God commands the Israelites to annihilate the Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites as a part of Israel claiming the land of Canaan as its own. Likewise, in Deuteronomy 7:1 God includes the Girgashites on that list. Again, the command to wipe out those races included the children as well.
- In God’s Old Testament law for Israel, He commands the death penalty for an amazingly lengthy list of specific sins. There are so many of these sins that it’s hard to offer an exhaustive list, but some of them are: idolatry (Deuteronomy 17:2-7), false prophecy (Deuteronomy 13:1-5), blasphemy (Leviticus 20:13-16), breaking the Sabbath (Exodus 31:14), premeditated murder (Exodus 21:12-14), infant sacrifice (Leviticus 20:1-5), occultism (Leviticus 20:6,27), sorcery (Exodus 22:18), adultery (Leviticus 20:10), incest (Leviticus 20:11-12,14,17,19-21), male homosexuality (Leviticus 20:13), bestiality (Leviticus 20:15-16), striking one’s parents (Exodus 21:15), cursing one’s parents (Leviticus 20:9), and rebelling against one’s parents (Deuteronomy 21:18-21).
- In Joshua 6:17, God orders the deaths of all the citizens of Jericho except for Rahab and her household.
- In 1st Samuel 15:3, God instructs King Saul to attack the Amalekites and kill them all right down to every last man, woman, infant, and nursing child. He even tells Saul to kill Amalek’s oxen, sheep, camels, and donkeys.
- In Luke 16:19-31, Jesus warns about a hellish place called Hades in the Greek. It is an afterlife abode where lost souls are tormented by not only physical flame but also mental regret.
- In Matthew 10:28 and Mark 9:47-48, Jesus warns about another hellish place called Gehenna in the Greek. Gehenna is nothing less than a lake of fire where one day all of the lost souls that abide in Hades will be transferred (Revelation 20:11-15) to spend eternity in flame and torment.
- In Revelation 19:11-21, Jesus returns to walk the earth again and promptly lays waste to all the armies of the world that are gathered at Megiddo for the battle of Armageddon. The birds of the air will feast upon the corpses of all those soldiers.
You see, we Christians have become so accustomed to such passages that they no longer register with us. Truth be told, we’ve built up an immunity to the God of the Bible and all His harsh, brutal, sometimes downright vicious commands and deeds. God kills millions of people in a worldwide flood, but we’ve trained ourselves to focus on the eight He spared. He sentences billions of lost unbelievers, many of whom never even got a chance to hear the name “Jesus,” to a place of fire, torment, and suffering, but all we do is sing His praises for the relative “few” (Matthew 7:13-14) who will spend eternity in perfect bliss with Him. Do you see what I’m saying?
So, Christian, I’m going to ask you to do something for me: Try to deprogram yourself and see the God of the Bible the way unbelievers see Him. If you can do that, you’ll find that the question, “How can God be described as being good all the time?” is a perfectly reasonable one to ask. It’s also one that we Christians aren’t readily prepared to answer. But that’s exactly what I’ll begin to do in my next post. Until then, I encourage you to do some thinking for yourself and see what answer you can formulate. Then check back in with me next time and we’ll compare notes. Until then………………..