On Sunday, Luke preached a message that I thought was extremely timely and needed in our current social climate here in the U.S. He spoke about God being good. This, precisely because it is a term that is thrown around so much, has lost some of its meaning in our culture. So to preach and teach on it, is no easy task. We also live in a time and place that seems like there is very little hope, especially for the church. Just here in our region, we have been surrounded by fires and just two weeks ago, a young man that was a part of our community lost his life. Our little town of Red bluff is still struggling with poverty, child trafficking as well as countless other problems that I could go on for. I haven’t even gotten to our political climate yet.
Now granted some (a lot) of the problems and sufferings we face are part of our own doing, and we don’t do a good (absolutely terrible) job of taking responsibility of the mess we’ve created. However, there is a lot of tragedy we face that comes out of no where that we had no control over. This is where it becomes hard to think about and accept the fact that God is good. How can God be good and allow tragedy to happen around us? How does he still allow evil to be imbedded in our world?
This is a question Christians have been wrestling with for over 2000 years. So to say there is no easy answer to this question, would I think, be a pretty fair idea to hold when trying to tackle this reality. There are some questions that do not and will not have an easy answer, and unfortunately this is one of those questions.
In the series this month we have been focusing on characteristics of God and how we hold a lot of false narratives, thoughts and ideas about who God is. Pastor Dawn said last week that “no one is lied more about than God”. I couldn’t agree more. Dallas Willard said most of humanity’s problem’s can be accounted for based on a misconception about who God is. So this is no side project that we can just attend to from time to time. This is essential for being human. Our story is not one autonomous from God, but our identity’s lie within God’s story, not apart. We were made in His image, and so how we think about God has a direct effect on how we think of our selves.
Thus, we see who God is by what he does. In our broken and fallen world, that came about due to our sinfulness, is not saved by a solution, nor is it redeemed by a quick fix. As much as we have been conditioned this way in our western culture, God does not. If something is not fixed instantaneously, our whole world starts collapsing around us. Our smart phone freezes and everything stops. Nothing can carry on until it is fixed. Thankfully God does not operate this way.
God doesn’t provide us with a quick fix solution, but with a person. He doesn’t create a drive through business that sells us quick fixes and relief from what we are going through. He sends us a person. He doesn’t remove us from what we are going through and send us to a magical land where we can spend time with fairies and unicorns, sitting on clouds above the sky. God sends us a person. God comes into our messy world, to be with us.
In Jesus we see someone who healed people from the sicknesses and raised people from the dead, but also someone who mourned with the one’s he loved. Time after time we find in scripture how Jesus was moved with compassion. In John 11, before Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, he wept with Mary. He was moved emotionally by her sorrow. In Luke 19 it states “Jesus wept over the city”. In our suffering Jesus weeps with us. When we experience loss, Jesus is moved and has compassion for us. He doesn’t remove himself from the situation but is in the situation with us through the Holy Spirit. We are comforted by a God who loves us in our suffering. When we cause suffering and tragedy Jesus still weeps. Not just for His sake but for ours, because he knows of a life so very different.
So what we don’t see Jesus do is tell people who are suffering that they need not worry for God is good. We see Jesus come alongside his friends and mourn with them. We can be comforted by the fact that we are loved by a God who comes to be with us during our trials and tribulations. We can trust the Lord is good because we can taste and see it and not just think it. God comes to us in our whole life not just part of it. His presence is a tangible reality that brings comfort.
We serve a God who is so transcendent AND immanent. His transcendence removes barriers between him and his people, so that he may dwell with us. He loves us so much he comes into our world, suffered for us so just so that he may be with us. And the beautiful part is this is only part of the story. We are a part of a story that is still unfolding, and we get to witness to the fact that we serve and love a God whom we will live with eternally. God promises us a future so beautiful, cities filled with flowing rivers and trees blossoming on either side, where we will live in community with Him at the center. Forever we will live with Him. God’s goodness is part of our story now, a story that encapsulates all other narratives within our lives and then transcends it into His reality of wanting to be with us. A reality that can be summed up by saying God is good, all the time, and all the time, God is good.