Reconciling God’s Goodness in My Tragedy

It was an innocent comment. But one that erupted an internal reaction which had the power to instantly cut through my own façade. Someone described the close call their husband had with death and a semi-truck. And after describing her husband making it home safe and sound, she ended her story with, “God is SOOO good.”

And my heart skipped a beat as I had two thoughts, unbidden and unwanted, dance around my mind. My initial reaction was….“Lucky you.”(If you could have heard the thought, it dripped with sarcasm, since MY husband didn’t make it home safe and sound. He made it to the morgue after his meeting with a semi-truck.) The next thought…. “If he hadn’t made it home safe and sound, would you still be oozing “God is SO good” all over Facebook?” (This too, infused with bitter sarcasm as I assumed the answer would be negative…….since mine was negative.)

The prick of bitterness that I thought I had buried… the tinge of envy that her story wasn’t my story. The cringe as I saw the inner workings of my heart exposed. Exposed to myself.

But more importantly than all that, it brought the re-evaluation of what “God is good” really means.

A phrase that echoes in churches. A phrase we use when favorable conditions blow our way. A phrase that spills from our lips when we see a trauma that was “kept” from us. And a phrase that is still hesitant on my lips as I battle my own feelings of betrayal.

And so, it naturally begs the question to those hearing the statement, like me, who can’t quite glory in the same “blessing” as the one uttering it, what does the goodness of God actually mean? If God was good to her, was He not good to me?

I could say God was good to me because my daughter, who had a life threatening injury in the accident, lived and recovered in a way the doctors hardly believed.  But would that mean God wasn’t good to others who had injuries after an accident and their bodies lost the battle?

I could say God was good to me because funds were raised that exceeded the cost of the funeral expenses and I had not one, not two, but three offers of grave sites to bury my husband in, offered free of charge. But does that mean God wasn’t good to the one who had to sell their car to pay for the unexpected funeral?

I could say God was good to me because the death benefits are enough to live on while I figure out my new, unwanted life. But is God not good to the one who ends up losing their house after a financial crisis ensues that an unexpected death brought about?

And the questions could go on and on and on….. as I compared my story to the other lady and other people could compare their story to mine. Is God’s goodness relative? Relative to my perception or someone else’s? Or is God’s goodness really summed up in any of it?

Is it wrong to say God is good when we appreciate something in our life and we want to credit God our Father with it? Of course not. But, we as humans tend to not balance the equation, leaving a lopsided idea for the reputation of God’s goodness.

Every time we say “God is good” when an exciting and satisfying event in our life takes place or danger and death passed us over, we further perpetuate the ideology that God’s goodness is somehow tied to me being kept comfortable, happy and safe….

And it’s just not true. If it were, God’s goodness would have been undone thousands of years ago.

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This ideology is what makes us stagger when a massive disappointment comes. We become disillusioned when tragedy strikes. We question our faith when cruel calamity seeps its claws into us. Because even though our faith is in Christ, it’s also mixed with a small dose of the idea that his love wants to “bless” me (our word for good-feeling things) and that our service to Him should bring a return of limited heartache.

And no one saw this more than I did in myself. Because although I wouldn’t have admitted to thinking this way, my response to my tragedy showed it. When I lost my husband, my first response wasn’t to praise God or boast of His goodness to me. It was to shrink away and question everything. And that’s okay. God is big enough to handle it. But I must be big enough to be honest with what has risen to the surface in the refiner’s fire.

If you want to know how human-centered or self-focused your faith is, this is the subject to reveal it. The one who can have soul crushing news, and whose heart can honestly cry out “God is good”, is the one whose faith runs deep in the right direction, untainted by the humanistic version of Christianity.

When my husband was killed, I struggled with the utter hypocrisy within myself. I knew that death happened every day. People lost their babies, their spouses, and other family members and friends young enough to make it feel unnatural. I knew that there were people suffering, caught in the traps of PTSD, rape trauma, starvation, victims of vicious crimes and war. I knew it. And I never stuttered to say God is good. Yet when tragedy happened to me, well, suddenly I had to think about it. It didn’t flow off my lips quite so easily.

And isn’t that just like our human nature. Hypocrites. In some way, shape or form, we carry hypocrisy within us. My conclusion…. If I believed in God’s goodness and sovereignty before, I must believe in it after. He either still is, no matter what, or He never was. It cannot be contingent on my position in life.  I refuse to be that person.

What sets the story of Job apart is his worship erupted from overwhelming tragedy. Not in blessing. Not in a trial bypassing him or seeing the hand of God miraculously prevent heartache. Not in bringing comfort and happiness and ease. But in sudden, crushing, tyrannical waves of tragedy.

Actually, most famous Bible characters expected heartache. And they even seemed comfortable with the idea that God allowed it. David says, “I know, Lord, that your laws are righteous, and that in faithfulness, you have afflicted me.” Psalm 119:75

Job said, “Shall we accept good from the Lord and not trouble?”

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Life promises tragedy. The Bible promises tragedy. And yet, it states repeatedly that God is good. Because God’s goodness isn’t operating in spite of this broken world. It is wholly autonomous from it. It is not dependent on anything or anyone, but inherent to Himself. His goodness is His rightness, His purity. And it is displayed not by His miraculous barrier between evil and His people (or else everyone would want Him if only for that), but it is displayed in His surrender and obedience to become a victim of tragedy Himself and His plan to ultimately defeat it at the very roots.

His goodness is one of the easiest truths to accept when your husband comes home safe and sound, narrowly escaping death’s grasp, and much harder to accept when he doesn’t.

And so, a simple comment brought me face to face with my own frailty. And I continue my painful quest of intimating myself to His goodness as a person and not as what He can do to keep me comfortable.

 

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