I wholeheartedly, fully, and truly believe that God is good. This belief becomes more solid and certain the closer I get to the things that are often cited as reasons for why a good God couldn’t exist. “God is good” isn’t some intoned denial of reality; it’s an indisputable fact. But as thoroughly as I believe he is good, I am just as thoroughly aware that suffering and brokenness are undeniably, agonizingly present.
For a bit of technicality… Cognitive dissonance is a psychological theory explaining that people are uncomfortable when two parts of them don’t align. Maybe their behaviour isn’t consistent with their beliefs, their words don’t match their values, or their experience doesn’t line up with their expectations. The theory holds that people are driven to resolve their dissonance, often in whatever way is easiest, rather than what is most logical or effective.
Contrary to this instinct, I consciously choose to live in cognitive dissonance everyday. It’s inherent to my lifestyle. I choose to fully love children while I remind myself that they’re only mine to lose. I choose to submit to a system that’s set on family reunification while I simultaneously wish I could hold these babes forever. And I choose to believe that God is good while I stare down the glimmer-less tunnel of injustice, illness, trauma, and tragedy. In both my personal and professional life, I am deeply aware of the haunting darkness, the subtle deceptions, the broken families, the hurt hearts, the persistent addictions, the tragic loses, and the chronic pains. I’ve lived them, witnessed them, carried them, and fought them. I say all this to establish my recognition that the world is often cold, unbalanced, cruel, and painful. I have no naïveté about that. So when I say that I believe God is good, I mean that I believe that he is good against all the prickling, thundering, experiential evidence to the contrary. I see and feel that the world can straight-up suck, but I know that God is good. Y’all I am full of dissonance.
So why do I choose to be in unsettled internal conflict all the time? It’s simple. There is no other viable option. I regularly watch people suffer and I can do little but comfort, support, and validate them. I can’t, really can’t, do what I do without believing that there is a good God who loves me, my husband, my kids, my kids’ parents, every client who sits in front of me, and every person I love.
I realize that this reads like foolishness and a poor man’s bread. Through the lens of reality, I’m grasping at ethereal wishes. Through the truth of eternity, though, I’m standing on solid ground.
Here’s the thing: God isn’t good in the sense that he’s someone who does good things and is, y’know, nice. God is goodness. Goodness exists in God. Anything good is God. Good isn’t what he does, it’s who he is. It’s his person and his character. Trusting who he is, rather than what he does or doesn’t do, means that I don’t lose confidence when something doesn’t go the way I expected, hoped, or prayed. I already know how it all ends and it ends good. I know that my perspective is finite, his infinite, and that he is right to act or not act when he does or doesn’t. I also know that all the bad endings serve to make the good and final ending — the new beginning — all the sweeter. I know all of this because I know who he is.
Years ago, when I was trying to get pregnant (in case you ever wondered, infertility bites), I read this quote that carved itself into my core:
God is too good to be unkind and too wise to be mistaken. And when we cannot trace his hand, we can trust his heart.Based off of a CHARLES SPURGEON sermon
When things don’t look good, as is often my view, I ask myself this: do I trust him? Do I believe that he is who he says he is, that he is good, and that he loves me and those I love? If I’m afraid, that’s a pretty good indication that I don’t fully trust him. I won’t deny that I often have real reasons to be afraid. It’s part of my job, and, honestly, my nature, to look down that ominous tunnel a lot. I can easily find my fears in there. Some of my worries have a decent chance of becoming reality; a few already have. When my dissonance rears up loudly I have to decide: What’s real? The darkness of my tunnel or the goodness of my God? What do I really believe?
There’s one more important thing I know: Jesus is well acquainted, intimately acquainted, with my sufferings. He walked this life, and then he took on all of my pain, all of my heartache, all of my mistakes, and all of my consequences. He suffered them all then and he’s with me as I suffer them now. When I don’t know how to breathe another breath or step another step, I know he’s right in the middle of it all with me. When I’m sitting in the mud, you best believe he’s right beside me. If I’m thankful for one thing in the life that I’ve chosen, it’s that I suffer. It’s easy to find him, because there’s little else here and there’s no other option but to see him. Nothing will suffice to comfort me but my assurance of his presence and his goodness. You’d think he feels far and unreal when things are at their worst. But my friends, I assure you, it’s quite the opposite.
To be continued.