God is Good
Melissa was a 13-year-old girl who rode our van to church. Once, when she didn’t show up for church, I went to her house to inquire about her. Neither her father nor her brothers were there. I went to her mother’s house, but she didn’t know where Melissa was. She did not know where she was and did not seem to care, but she suggested I check the half-way house for runaways.
That is where I found her. I met with Melissa and her juvenile officer. We listened to her story of the abuse she suffered at home. When I asked what we could do for her, the officer said, “Well, you could file for being a foster parent.” So my wife and I both filed necessary papers, as did my in-laws. Melissa was placed in my in-laws’ home. She essentially became our church and community “project.”
I remember well the day that Melissa said to me, “It is Father’s Day and I want to go see my dad.” I didn’t think this was a good idea and decided to confer with the juvenile officer, who told me it was acceptable “as long as someone else is with her at all times.” How heartbreaking! Here was this girl wanting to be with her
father, but she couldn’t be with him without supervision because he wasn’t good.
I remember another time when students were participating in a group exercise concerning how to heal from hurts. One student volunteered this painful memory:
“The biggest hurt in my life was when my dad looked at me and said, ‘You can’t never do nothing right.’” So sad!
One very bright elementary-aged boy was not doing well academically. He was sent to my office on a regular basis. I asked his teacher to enter him in the science
portion of an upcoming academic competition. “Do you know what his grades are?” she asked. I countered with, “Yes, but he is the smartest kid in science in your class regardless of his grades.” The next time he stopped by, he announced that he would like to enter two other categories as well. He placed in the top three in all three categories.
When he returned to class, however, he started flunking out again. His dad reluctantly agreed to come in for a conference. At the meeting, he confessed that he didn’t know what was wrong with his son. “I just bought him a brand-new four-wheeler. I give him everything he wants. What’s wrong with him?” His son’s teacher, who also was present, replied, “Maybe that’s what is wrong. Maybe he has everything but you.” He was not a candidate for “Father of the Year.” His was not good parenting.
What about our heavenly Father? From my early childhood memories, I remember my family praying before our meals: “God is great. God is good. Let us thank him for this food. By his hands we all are fed. Give us, Lord, our daily bread. Amen.” Is God good? Is your God good? Is the God of the Bible good? He is; but many times, even though we may intellectually acknowledge that, we have a hard time getting it into the core of our being.
God is good because his character is good
Character is what we are—all the time. For example, a husband who quits beating his wife for a day is not a good husband—he is a wife-abuser. A wife who is faithful most of the time is not a faithful spouse—she is an adulterer. A man who lies occasionally is not honest. Why not? Because there is something wrong in his character. But God’s character is good—all the time. In fact, He is the source of all goodness.
Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised; and his greatness is unsearchable. One generation shall praise thy works to another, and shall declare thy mighty acts.
I will speak of the glorious honour of thy majesty, and of thy wondrous works. And men shall speak of the might of thy terrible [awesome] acts: and I will declare thy greatness. They shall abundantly utter the memory of thy great goodness, and shall sing of thy righteousness. (Psa. 145:3-7)
From this Scripture we see that God is the absolute perfection of goodness (v.7). He is a holy God and He desires us to be holy also—not to punish us, but to make us good. It is comforting to know that, because He is always good, you can ALWAYS trust Him to be good. Since His character never changes, He cannot be anything but good.
God is good because His actions are good
Moreover, because His character is good, His actions are good! We understand that our Lord is indeed “great” and should be praised for His “mighty” and “wondrous” works. These call upon us to rightfully declare His “great goodness” (v.7). God is the epitome of all goodness and the perfection of it. Because God is good, He possesses all the attributes of goodness—honesty, compassion, fairness, and justice, to name a few. These are immutable aspects of His character. As His followers, we should emulate these characteristics.
If God is good, why does it sometimes feel as though He is being a little tough on us? That is simply because He is good. Good parents jealously hover over the concerns of their children. Parents who love their children will correct them. Love compels parents to do what is best for their children (see Heb. 12:5-12).
And, why do some go around with unbelief, thinking God is stingy? Perhaps because they don’t believe He is really good. Even earthly parents know how to give good gifts to their children. How much more will our heavenly Father do likewise (Luke 11:11-13)!
Even in our hurts, we need to be careful about claiming that God is not good. In God’s Wisdom in the Plan of Salvation,* the author gave an illustration about the only two survivors of a shipwreck. Upon reaching the safety of a nearby island, one was full of praise and thankfulness for having survived. The other was very angry because he had lost everything on the ship. When items were discovered that enabled their subsistence, one claimed it was some good benefactor who had prepared for people who may be in need.
The other one claimed it was proof that pirates were there and calamity was just around the corner! We should look for the good in all situations. Our good, heavenly Father gives us what we need, not always what we want—and that is a good thing. God knows best what we need.
A self-described “agnostic theologian” once answered the question “Who is God” this way: “God is that little voice inside that is always saying, ‘Not quite good enough.’” I used to know that God. Some of you might even have that God today. If so, trade him in for the good God!
Let’s turn back to Melissa. She was made to want her father. A father was supposed to be there for her. But she could not be with him, because he was not good. Then one day, as my in-laws and she were traveling across town, Melissa ran away. She ran away from the only people who really loved her and cared for her.
Years later, while they were in a grocery store, my in-laws noticed a lady who kept staring at them. Finally, she walked over and asked, “Did you take in a foster child 30-some years ago?” They replied, “Yes, a girl named Melissa.” She said, “I am Melissa. I couldn’t even remember your name. I was so messed up. I didn’t even know how to find you. And God put me right here. I want you to know something. You probably think you failed, but you were the only people who ever showed me kindness and love, and I didn’t know what to do with it.”
Then my father-in-law said, “Melissa, I have always had a question. When you were living with us, you always slept with your clothes bundled up in the bed. Why?”
“Oh, those were my run-away clothes. Growing up I always kept those near me in case I had to run out of the house at a moment’s notice to escape abuse. Many
times I spent the night hiding in a ditch.”
After having run away from my in-laws, Melissa had lived a terrible life, and she told them about some of it. But one day some ladies knocked on her door and asked, “If you died today, where would you go?” She screamed at them, “Hell,” and slammed the door in their face. “I couldn’t sleep for three nights, and I kept thinking about you. I found a church and I went in and got saved. God has changed me. I am married to a Christian man and raising my children as Christians.”
What about you? Do you have some type of “runaway bag?” If so, you need to throw it away and draw up close to our good God. You don’t have to be afraid to be real with Him or be afraid to open up your most personal world. You don’t have to be afraid to share your fears, your hurts, your deepest secrets. He can handle it. He is safe because He is good.
Maybe you need a fresh reminder of just how good God is. Completely good. Perfectly good. Celebrate that! Thank Him for it. Perhaps you realize that you always keep a little distance between yourself and God because you can’t quite trust Him. You are afraid and a bit defensive—afraid that if He really knows you like you are, He won’t like you or He won’t accept you. No! God’s too good. You can take your worst to God—your Father. He can take it.
Hang around good people and you will be influenced by them. Hang around God and experience His awesome goodness. God is good…all the time!
Richard Miles (BRE ’74) pastored and served in Christian schools for 25 years before returning to GBS in 1997 as Vice President for Student Affairs.
He now serves as Vice President for Spiritual Life. He and his wife, Brenda (Hodge) Miles (BA ’73) have two adult children and seven grandchildren.