Perhaps you have heard the saying, “God is good, all the time. All the time, God is good.” This is one of those easier to believe sayings when times are going well as opposed to those more difficult times. When we are suffering physical or emotional pain, it may be difficult for us to rejoice in the “God is Good” mantra. When we are under great stress or duress, we may have trouble focusing on the goodness of God. When our emotions or our circumstances have us living on the ragged edge, we may be strained to see the goodness of God.
I have experienced a number of scenarios when I could have heeded the call of Job's wife when she said to him, “Curse God and die.” Part of Job's response was, “Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?” We like our free will when it comes to the freedom to choose. At times we may even claim it as though it was a right. It is a gift we possess at the will of our Creator. The flip side to that free will is the responsibility of dealing with it's ramifications. Sin entered into the world through the free will of mankind and now some of the unfortunate results we experience are due to our own choices as well as the choices of others.
God remains good even as we deal with the occurrences and circumstances in our fallen world. The good news is that God has not simply wound up creation and stepped back to see what unfolds. In His infinite wisdom, God does intervene as he deems necessary. At times His will aligns with ours, while at other times we fail to see His will at all. We wonder how God, who is holy and good, could allow evil to exist in this world in which we live. The free will we often hold so dear now appears to us as God perpetrating evil. We cannot have it both ways.
As I write this article, I am in pain from arthritis with an acute attack of gout. From this episode and others, I know what pain is. Through physical and emotional trauma, I know what suffering is. Through depression, addictions and other sinful behavior, I know what lack of self esteem and self worth is. At the very moment I am typing this paragraph I am experiencing a piercing pain in my foot due to the gout that is as if a nail is piercing both flesh and bone. The gift of free will, the freedom to choose, affords me the current opportunity of deciding whether I will curse God and die or to declare the goodness of God even in my suffering.
At the point of my salvation I was miraculously delivered from alcohol and drug abuse. I was not delivered from every struggle that I was experiencing. In times of prayer I have experienced healing of a physical issue while at other times the healing was not forthcoming. I have also had healing occur after a time of prayer, fasting and dealing with the removal of sin that I had allowed to exist in my life. It is also interesting to note that I have issues with which I must regularly deal including arthritis, gout, diverticulitis and post concussion trauma. I say this to make the point that whether I am healed or not, God is still good. His goodness does not change based upon our circumstances.
If it is the will of God that I endure these things for a greater good that I may not see or realize, then so be it. I do know that for some people who have shared their feelings with me, the way that I deal with these issues has been an inspiration for them. If God can use my suffering for His glory and to strengthen others, then so be it. I am honored anytime God counts my life worthy of being used to bring others to saving faith or to live a holier life.
The Apostle Paul was no different when he called upon God to deliver him from an ailment and God chose not to do so. In his second letter to the Corinthians, Paul wrote, “Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.” True spiritual strength is in allowing the Holy Spirit to work through us. God will use us in the everyday circumstances and happenings of our lives when we make ourselves available to Him. I believe that, at times, God will even orchestrate some of our circumstances to allow us to participate in the accomplishing of His will. That would be living for Christ's sake. To endure what life has to offer while putting Christ's plan first and foremost. When we live for Christ's sake, we can even experience joy in the suffering. There is nothing that compares to the joy received when living for Christ's sake. Take the stoning of Stephen as a case in point. Just before he was stoned to death, we read in Acts, “But being full of the Holy Spirit, he gazed intently into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God; and he said, 'Behold, I see the heavens opened up and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.'” Then as they stoned him, his dying words were, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them!”
The way we conduct ourselves, especially when dealing with struggles and issues, is a testimony of our faith to others. Will our testimony be to curse God and die? Or will it be to glorify God and praise Him for His goodness? If our choice is not the latter, then I suggest that we do not know God well enough. It is only in that personal relationship with God that our faith will grow. A personal relationship is an active and growing part of our life. The question I must ask myself is, “How big and active do I want this part of my life to be?” Knowing God and living my life for Christ's sake reveals amazing things everyday. Sometimes suffering needs to be endured along the way. I keep in mind that nothing in this life compares to the glory to come in eternity. The worst that this short lifespan has to offer is nothing when compared to the joy to be lived through all eternity.
Thursday night I laid on the couch in the worst pain that I can recall having ever endured. I recalled God's goodness in the week since prayer on Easter Sunday that though there was stiffness and increased swelling, the pain was far below and the flexibility was far more than what I knew was normal for the circumstances. I also found that, in lieu of actual gout medication, Advil Migraine does a wonderful job of relieving symptoms temporarily. That alone was worthy of thanksgiving.
We cannot always control our circumstances, but we can determine our reaction to them.
God is good, all the time. All the time, God is good.