Remembering God’s Goodness
September 26, 2021
The women’s 4×400 relay at the 2012 Olympics in London is one of my favorite moments in sports. I remember staring at the screen mesmerized as the U.S. team ran one of the most breathtaking races I had ever seen. The athletes were moving at blistering speeds, but to me they might as well have been in slow motion. As the baton moved flawlessly from one hand to the next everything fell into place and the gold medal was theirs. It was beautiful.
Beautiful events in the last few months of my life have left me similarly mesmerized. I’ve seen the return of things thought lost, the restoration of things once broken and the promise of new beginnings. Unexpected outcomes have left me as stunned as Peter after his boat-sinking catch (Lk. 5:4-9). It has all made me pause to consider one of the most essential building blocks of Christianity—God’s goodness.
In Matthew 19:17, Jesus seizes an opportunity to teach believers an important lesson about God’s goodness. When a young man dared call him “good,” Jesus was quick to respond, “only God is good.” The response was surprising because the crowds following him certainly thought him “a good man.” But Jesus was getting at something a little deeper. He was neither denying the human capacity to produce good works nor his divinity, but he was making a distinction between God’s goodness and ours. He wanted the young man to know that although people were capable of doing good, there was a higher Goodness that described God alone.
Like the young man, we tend to think of goodness (God’s and ours) merely as having a benevolent disposition or the capacity to produce good deeds, and that limited understanding is why we struggle with the idea of God’s goodness in seasons of hardship. God’s goodness, however, is much more. He is not merely good-natured or capable of doing good deeds, goodness is His essence. Our goodness is superficial and expressions of it are often tainted by impure motives but his is pure, untainted, and inextricably tied to his holiness, omniscience, omnipresence, omnipotence and other divine attributes.
God is thus an inexhaustible well of goodness. He alone is and can be consistently truthful, faithful, just, righteous, loving and so on. And because of that, he will never lie (even though we sometimes think he does), let us down (even though we often feel or think we have been let down), treat us unjustly (even if we sometimes think he does), or break a promise (even when we feel disappointed). Whether we understand it or not, everything God does is necessarily good; it cannot be anything else because he is completely good.
Because he is good, we can go before him in prayer fearlessly, confident that we will be heard and we can also rest secure as the world rages around us. May God give us the grace and faith to live each day mesmerized by his goodness.