The Overcoming Kingdom

When life upends you, it’s tricky to balance human suffering and the goodness of God. It’s tempting to default to cliché tautologies–God is good because he is God–but these kinds of pat answers seem unsatisfying in the moment, and the starkness of our personal suffering seems to heighten awareness of the plight of all humanity. There are wars, famines, diseases, injustices, and where, pray tell, is God?  

Today, Tanya Marlow has graciously asked me to share words at her blog regarding the goodness of God in times of suffering. I hope you'll join me there.

*Photo by my lovely bride, Amber Haines.

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God is not good because...

Some of you followed Titus' struggles, his rollercoaster ride through weight fluctuations and our visit to Arkansas Children’s Hospital. You may remember the stories of the creeping prosperity gospel, how we were told that God would come through, that Titus would be healed if we asked in faith because God was good. I heard sermons of the blessings received when one lives in God's “favor,” as if grace were a lollipop given to the good-grade kid. I wrestled with these theologies, theologies that lacked balance and brought no comfort in the trials of the moment. I thought about the faithful followers who can’t seem to catch a break, or worse yet, are broken by persecution. I remembered college friends, strong believers who lost two children to early graves. Are they less favored or blessed? Is God less good because he failed to deliver from the pit?

In the waning worry of this season, I’ve come to a simple conclusion: you can sum God in simple self-help theologies that misapply words like “favor,” and “faith,” but when tragedies come calling, don’t expect comfort from your lowercase gospel. It won’t be there.

This week we received good news about Titus. He’s turned a corner of sorts, and he’s climbing back onto the growth charts. (A parent couldn’t be more proud of the fifth percentile than I am.) And let me be clear—I am grateful for God for seeing fit to give my son life; I am grateful to those of you who faithfully prayed and continue to pray. But likewise, let me be clear—God is not good because he spared me grief; God is not good because he shortened a dark season; God is not good because he healed a frail toddler. God is good because that is his nature; he is good because he is.

You may say that’s tautological double-speak in-and-of itself. That’s your call. But I ultimately found that the less I tied God’s goodness to the result of my choosing, the freer I was to experience the joys of a redeeming, preserving, merciful, and faithful Christ.

That's the pearl that was worth the struggle. I hope I don't easily lose it.