Sometimes the holidays are the worst part of the year by no fault of your own. Your spouse, kids, parents or in-laws may spend too much, drink too much, debate too much. The worst fights and relational discord happen around the holidays. Sometimes those uncontrollable factors in our story make us ask, “God, what the heck? Why have you allowed this in my life, because it’s not good!” If God really has the ultimate veto power and he’s ultimately good, then why do I have to live with this ultimate pain in the keister?
In CS Lewis’ work, the Chronicles of Narnia, Lucy asks if Aslan the lion, the figure that represents Jesus, is nice. The response she gets is that Aslan isn’t nice, but he is good. Good is more complicated than nice. Good will kill the white witch, wake the sleepers, take out its claw and cut you out of the dragon. Good will do whatever it takes for the ones it loves.
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If Santa were watching God’s behavior in the Bible moment by moment, God would get coal in his enormous stocking. Because in the moment, it’s hard to tell how God will resolve the subplots of our story. But if Santa were to read the whole story, he would see it resolve and give him…I don’t know…maybe a tie or something? What do you get the God who has everything?
God’s goodness is apparent, not in every chapter, but in every story
What I mean by that is that God’s goodness is most in question in the chapters in life when things aren’t going good for us. I was talking to a pastor friend the other day whose son had gotten in a bad way and tragically took his own life. It was devastating, but his dad, the pastor wrestled with God over it big time. He went to counselors, he bore his soul to colleagues and they would say things like, “God has some good in it for you,” or “God did this for your good, you just can’t see it right now.” And he was not going to hear of it! No, this isn’t good. No, this is evil. God didn’t do this, God didn’t have anything to do with this!
Who’s to blame?
Remember the story of Job who was a good man and things were going good for him, but then Satan caused bad to happen to him, even to the point where he and his wife were sitting literally and metaphorically in the ashes of their former life scraping the boils on their skin with garbage and his wife said, “You’re still trying to be good? Curse God and die!” And Job said, “Don’t talk crazy! We’ve accepted good from God and now we need to accept trouble from him.” If God had given that to him, it was the Worst. Gift. Ever.
But wait, it was Satan that caused him trouble. Throughout the rest of the book things don’t go so good for him. Job and his so called friends wrestled with the question, when things aren’t good for us, does that mean that we aren’t good, or that God isn’t good, or…? And God eventually answers him out of the storm and says, “Can you even begin to imagine how big I am and the reasons I have for doing what I do, or not doing the things that I don’t do?”
Hang in there through the holidays
In the end Job did the only thing any of us can do: trust God. Sometimes that looks like just hanging onto him like a plastic bag stuck in a tree in the middle of a hurricane. But when the storm passed, God blessed Job with twice as much as he had lost. Were the things that happened to Job good? No. There was nothing good about them. But God was, Romans 8:28, “Working all things together for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Do you love him and do you live a life aligned with his purposes? Just wait till the end of the story! This is gonna be good!
I see the wrong that round me lies, I feel the guilt within, I hear with groan and travail cries, the world confess its sin. Yet in the maddening maze of things, and tossed by storm and flood, to one fixed trust my spirit clings: I know that God is good! John Greenleaf Whittier
Remember that God is for you even if everything else seems against you
Before people come to really know God’s goodness, they’re rightfully afraid of God because they only know of his greatness. If we could really fathom how great God is, we would be terrified of him, he…is…powerful. Only when someone understands his goodness do we dare to approach his greatness. We were once rightly terrified of him, but now, because he’s good, we can take infinite courage in his greatness. God is greatly good and he is for…you…. Beware the ferocity of God’s great goodness for those who love him. Unwrap that gift and be amazed!
Hang on to this
God’s love for you is so great that he sent himself in the person of Jesus Christ to suffer the injustice of his people. That’s what we celebrate at Christmas time. That’s not going to get God on the Nice List. In the end, however, God raised Jesus from the dead and exalted him, and he will exalt you if you’ve given your life to Jesus and walk in the pattern of his life, even this Christmas season.
What matters supremely, therefore, is not, in the last analysis, the fact that I know God, but the larger fact which underlies it – that he knows me. I am graven on the palms of his hands. I am never out of his mind. All my knowledge of him depends on his sustained initiative in knowing me. I know him because he first knew me, and continues to know me. He knows me as a friend, one who loves me; and there is no moment when his eye is off me, or his attention distracted from me, and no moment, therefore, when his care falters. This is momentous knowledge. There is unspeakable comfort…in knowing that God is constantly taking knowledge of me in love and watching over me for my good. There is tremendous relief in knowing that his love is utterly realistic, based at every point on prior knowledge of the worst about me, so that no discovery now can disillusion Him about me, in the way I am so often disillusioned about myself and quench his determination to bless me. JI Packer, Knowing God