In the months before we all turned twenty-one, I watched my friend (now husband) lose his best friend to a cancer he’d battled for years. I observed all the ways my husband cared for his friend’s physical needs as he came to the end of life. I noticed how he attended to his friend’s family and young bride. And when our friend died, I saw that, though my husband grieved, he was not destroyed. I remember asking him why. In the years since, I’ve never forgotten his answer to me: “I decided early on that God is good.”
It’s easy to look around, see evil and sadness and pain, and doubt God’s goodness in this world. But when His goodness becomes bedrock, I’m able to start seeing it despite and even within that same evil, sadness, and pain. His goodness gives me reason to hope; if I know He has been good and is good, I can believe He will continue to be good, no matter how circumstances appear. Making His goodness non-negotiable in my own mind, filtering everything through the truth that ‘God is good,’ has changed my life.
OUR GOOD GOD
The God we serve is infinitely good. Christ said, “Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world” (John 17:24). We tend to think of His goodness and love as it relates to us, but those attributes aren’t limited to the tiny portion of eternity “after creation.” It’s who He IS, even before the foundation of the world.
While God’s goodness is preexistent, it’s also abundantly evident throughout human history, from the beginning of creation to the rescue and restoration that was promised. He created darkness and light, sun and moon, land and sea, plants, animals, and people, and declared them good (Genesis 1). Yet when our first parents sinned—tainting the goodness He created in us—He had a rescue plan, and it gave Adam and Eve hope for the restoration to come, even as He was sending them away from His presence in the garden (Genesis 3:15).
The people of Israel continue this gospel narrative—creation, fall, redemption, restoration—over and over again throughout their history.
In Exodus and Numbers, as the children of Israel leave Egypt for Canaan, we see the creation of them as a nation: “I will take you to be my people, and I will be your God, and you shall know that I am the LORD your God, who has brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians” (Exodus 6:7). We read of the fall in Numbers 14, as the people complain and refuse to enter the land the Lord has prepared. God sends them to wander in the desert for forty years. When their children return to the edge of Canaan four decades later, God offers redemption—another chance to choose to trust His goodness. They accept it (Numbers 32) and the book of Joshua opens with God shepherding His people across the Jordan and into the land where He hands the city of Jericho to them without a battle, and they are restored.
The gospel story is reiterated through the Old Testament as the people God created choose to walk away from Him and face tragic consequences. Then, He steps in and saves them and they choose obedience again, restoring them to the land He gave them. Throughout the next several hundred years, the Bible records repeated exile and captivity of the people of Israel—yet through it all, God shows His faithful goodness to them.
All of this points to Christ, who came to fulfill all the promises of a Messiah to Israel—to bring redemption and restoration to all people. So we can be confident—His goodness isn’t only for Israel, it’s for us, too.
MY GOOD GOD
Fifteen years after our friend died of cancer, my husband and I have three children (one named after our friend) and we’re ready for a fourth.
I’m fertile and neurotic and buy pregnancy tests in bulk because if I happen to be pregnant, I need to know yesterday. One Saturday morning, I decide to test and see a faint second pink line. I climb back into bed, head spinning with calculations—last period, due date, space between the third and fourth babies. I whisper the news to my husband, still barely awake. He smiles sleepily, submitting to my deluge of dates, numbers, and implications, by this time used to the manic whirring my brain does when I find (or suspect) I’m expecting.
A few days later, I decide to test again “to make sure.” (I told you—neurotic.) That second line, rather than being bright and bold as I expect, getting darker as hormone levels rise rapidly, is barely discernible. This initiates several days of compulsive testing and maddeningly inconsistent results. The line (and baby) seems to be fading, no matter how many times I pee into a cup, willing the line to get darker or reappear. A few more days, maybe a week after the first frenzied calculations of the estimated delivery date, I begin to miscarry.
I don’t cry. I still have three children under five to care for, and my brain seems to be glitching. Instead, I withdraw. My preschoolers, with their tendency to mirror me in emotion and tone, also become very quiet. We run out of food after a while, and my husband begins to do the grocery shopping so we can eat. After more than a month of this, someone realizes I’m not being lazy, rather, I’m depressed. Medication and counseling ensue; I get off the couch, and finally start to process what happened. I am no longer pregnant.
We decide to grieve our baby as a girl. The emptiness in my body is visceral. She was the size of a lentil, but somehow I physically feel the absence of her, and it takes me by surprise. Suddenly I can’t breathe. Despite a six-week delay, the questions fall on me like rain. Yet watching my husband grieve his best friend all those years ago has embedded the same truth deep in my soul.
God is good. I know this for sure.
I’m not sure what this loss implies about the world or me as a mother or human. I have questions about theology around the death of babies. I don’t know how to help my big-feeling four-year-old grieve her ladybug-sized baby sister. I have no answers for her because I have none for myself.
She peppers me with questions. “Where is she? Why did she have to die? If she could be small like she was but still be alive, she’d be the best at hide-and-seek. Why can’t she play with us? Did she have a mouth?”
But God’s goodness has become bedrock within me—the foundation upon which I slowly reconstruct my definitions of my body and self and motherhood. Rebuilding isn’t easy—it’s slow and painful and involves lots of circles and backtracking.
Today, several years later, the rainbow baby born after the miscarriage is three. Still, every April around her due date and around the time we lost her, I feel a little squirmy inside, wondering what might have been.
God is good, and His goodness is not up for debate within my soul. If not for the years spent pondering this truth, my experience may have been quite different. Perhaps there would have been deconstruction and disintegration instead of the reconstruction story I can now tell. I’ve watched with dismay as it’s happened in the lives of far too many people I love, and I remain convinced—the grace that allowed me to grow forward rather than grow bitter is His non-negotiable goodness, through it all.
I beg you to consider and re-consider God’s goodness. Study it. Allow it to sink into your soul as the basis of your hope, the truest thing, the bedrock that will hold you up when other things crumble.
Oh, and that baby? The one we lost? We named her Hope.
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