When Is God Good?

Test results come back the way we want. We have safe travels through bad weather. We find the house we want fairly quickly. We get a good deal on a car. The new job comes with benefits we didn’t know about when we took it. And we claim,

God is good.

We claim God is good when things go our way.

But God is good all the time. That’s why and how He works all things for good.

We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God: those who are called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:28)

It doesn’t mean we experience all things as nice, comfortable, and convenient. It doesn’t mean we’re thrilled about everything we go through. Following God’s will doesn’t mean we have neat and tidy lives. It means we find purpose and claim His goodness in whatever context we experience even when we don’t understand.

Even when the tests come back with the worst results, God is good.

Even when we are in inconvenient or life-changing accidents, God is good.

Even when our house doesn’t sell and we incur more costs than planned, God is good.

Even when we feel the promises of the new job are overpromised and undelivered, God is good.

He can be nothing other than good, because it is who He is.

So why does bad happen? Is God not in complete control?

He is.

But we are not surrounded only by good.

That doesn’t mean we can’t see and claim God’s goodness. We can be wise, discerning, and shrewd in a confusing world, claiming God is good every moment of every day.

Not because we are good, but because God is. No matter what.

Are You Not Bad Enough?

il_fullxfull.588807341_7eiyThere are many virtuous and capable women in the world, but you surpass them all! (Proverbs 31:29)

The Bible is full with redeemed people. The worse the person’s reputation, the more amazing the story of transformation seems to be. The woman at the well in John 4 had multiple husbands, yet her encounter with Jesus spurred her to share her changed life with many. Rahab was a prostitute but “was shown to be right with God by her actions” (James 2:25). Perhaps you can recall stories of people you know or have heard or read about whose lives were drastically changed from bad reputations to beautiful reflections of God.

What happens when you didn’t have such a bad reputation? You’ve lived a good life – not perfect by any means, but you certainly wouldn’t be identified as the black sheep of your family or voted Most Likely to Serve Prison Time by your high school classmates. Having a good reputation can be a blessing, but it can have downsides as well.

A good reputation can make us question the impact our story has on others. Our stories can seem too boring. Remember, God doesn’t need drama to shine a spotlight on Himself. Your consistency, quiet struggles, and gradual growth are important themes in the story He’s telling through your life.

A good reputation can cause us to be insensitive to what needs to be pruned. Because we’re seen as “good” by so many around us, we can rationalize some of the small steps we’re taking away from God, because “at least we’re not…” doing what the person next to us is doing. Remember, God doesn’t measure your spiritual growth against anyone else. He is the standard of measurement and the one who does the measuring.

A good reputation can pressure us to wear masks. We can feel pressured to keep up the image of our good reputation and end up leading lives of charades. God wants you to be authentic. He wants you to be transparent with Him and those around you, because when you are, He shows through more completely.

Thank God for where you’ve been, where you are, and where He’s taking you. Celebrate with a mini-party today. Treat yourself to an ice cream cone or a long walk in the park. Buy a balloon to place in your work station or home to remind yourself of the blessing of God’s reputation, the keeper of all promises for your life!

A Chance to Respond

I recently drained the battery of the van while sitting in Kohl’s parking lot waiting for the girls to get done shopping. Instead of waiting for roadside assistance, I thought of someone who lives ten minutes away. He was soon on his way. Just as I was wondering how he was going to pull alongside the van when he arrived, the car to my left backed out. I jumped out to stand in the empty space, hoping to keep it clear until help arrived.

Busy department store. An empty parking space close to the doors. Congested shopping a couple days before Christmas. Well…at least it wasn’t as cold as it had been recently. I watched many faces of people who spotted the great parking spot and frantically tried to reach it before someone else. I saw puzzling looks when they saw me standing in the space. I’d smile and motion for someone to roll down a window so I could apologize for the inconvenience after a brief explanation that I was trying to save the space for someone to help me.

What a myriad of responses…

  • Several smiled understandably.
  • A couple people asked if I needed help. 
  • One asked if I needed jumper cables. “No, thanks,” I said. He responded, “Well, I don’t mind jump-starting the car if you let me park here.”
  • One man looked as if he didn’t believe me but later walked by and told me how odd it was that I couldn’t start my van. His wife had the same issue two rows from the same parking space a couple weeks earlier. He arrived to help and was waiting for an adjacent space. When it became available, someone quickly zipped into it and refused to move even after hearing their story.
  • One man told me he wouldn’t make a big deal about it, but if he came out and saw I’d simply been saving the space for a friend, I might find my tires slashed. I didn’t know if he was kidding. It hadn’t occurred to me that people would think I was scamming.
  • One car, driven by a young woman accompanied by, perhaps, her mom, began to pull into the space despite me standing in it. I motioned for the mom to roll down the window. The driver kept inching her way closer to me. I explained, and the mom laughed while looking at her daughter, who looked disgusted and determined to move forward. She sat there for at least 30 seconds, staring straight ahead. The mom continued to laugh and look between me and her daughter. I apologized several times and thanked them for understanding. The car began to move slightly, but just as it passed me a little more, the driver tried to cut back into the space – then slammed on her brakes, rolled her eyes and drove on.

I have to admit…there have been times I’ve responded with irritation when I feel inconvenienced. There are times I respond with irritation when I feel inconvenienced. I hope those times are less frequent, but I’m just being honest – I don’t always respond with patience, love and understanding.

We can all find situations in which we’ve been generous. We sacrifice our time or convenience for someone else. But what about the times we respond on the other end of the spectrum? In what situations have you responded with anger, irritation or apathy when you could have responded with patience, generosity, and compassion?

Be honest with yourself. And watch for opportunities to choose well…today.

This is my prayer for you: that your love will grow more and more; that you will have knowledge and understanding with your love; that you will see the difference between good and bad and will choose the good. Philippians 1:9-10

Swirling Blanket

“What a beautiful blanket of snow.” – posted as my Facebook status moments before I left my house this morning. 

It really was beautiful. It looked cozy – as if the ground was snuggled under a warm, fluffy blanket. I love the feeling of lying in bed and having a heavy blanket spread into the air over me, floating down to cover and warm me. The snow blanket reminded me of my own favorite blue quilt.

And then the wind began. The blanket, as thin as it was, was torn to shreds. The scattered pieces flew through the air as if a feather pillow had exploded – but the flying snow felt like shards of glass, not feathers. High winds and plummeting temperatures mixed to make less-than-pleasant driving conditions. Walking wasn’t much easier. As I pushed a shopping cart toward my van, it slid across the icy pavement in the opposite direction. (I won the battle by pulling instead of pushing it and using my foot as a brake behind one wheel as I unloaded my bags.)

As I drove home, there were moments I could barely see the car’s lights in front of me. When I could see the road for a safe distance, I’d look around. At times, there was no visible line between the ground and the sky. The swirling snow obscured the reality of the landscape.

And it had looked so peaceful and beautiful only a couple of hours earlier. 

It’s similar to the foundation we’re building by the choices we make. We make priorities. With every choice, we lay a foundation and build. It makes sense to us. It’s appealing to us (I assume…why else would we make the choices we make?!). Each choice is like a snowflake, and our choices create a blanket of snow.

And then the wind blows. Sometimes it’s gentle and barely disrupts our lives. Sometimes it’s beautiful. Sometimes it’s blinding. Not the wind itself but the stuff the wind picks up and swirls around us.  

The swirling blanket of snow slowed me down. As my visibility decreased, my caution increased. And I thought of how some of the choices in my life have blinded me at other times in my life. Having limited visibility isn’t always a bad thing. After all, it makes me focus on what’s immediately around me. My senses are intensified. But limited visibility also prevents me from seeing the details of my surroundings.

I suppose  the most important thing is awareness and discernment concerning the everyday choices I’m making, realizing the choices of today will be part of the storm of tomorrow.

Whether you’re life resembles a beautiful blanket of snow or a raging blizzard right now, choose well. Your visibility depends on it.

This is my prayer for you: that your love will grow more and more; that you will have knowledge and understanding with your love; that you will see the difference between good and bad and will choose the good; that you will be pure and without wrong for the coming of Christ; that you will be filled with the good things produced in your life by Christ to bring glory and praise to God. Philippians 1:9-11