Is God good?

Questioning God’s goodness

Is God Good? We have a chalkboard in our family room that for the past four months has stated, “God is a good Dad.” I originally wrote the phrase on the board because I felt my heart straying towards anxiety and fear instead of embracing the truth I’ve often fought to believe: God isn’t a cruel taskmaster, he’s not sitting around waiting to punish us for screwing up, and he isn’t hands-off. God is a good Dad.

This week has me asking God again, “Are you good? Are you a good Dad?” I learned of a horrible tragedy involving two precious little ones and their grandmother drowning. One moment they were alive and well, and the next . . . just gone. There are no words for what my cousin and her husband’s family are going through.

I’ve talked about this before, but I grew up in a way, tiptoeing around trying to not upset God. When pain visited my heart, I believed God was punishing me. I often sensed a distant Father throwing down a “one day you’ll understand” magnet and leaving me to go at it alone.

This view of God first came in the form of church attendance, reading my Bible, tithing, and not saying cuss words when the other kids were. Later, it turned to telling my friends about Jesus, not having sex, not drinking, and eventually moving to China to be a missionary.

My view of God thrived in middle school, blazed it’s way through high school, graduated college still plaguing my thoughts, and moved to China alongside me. This cruel, unpredictable, distant God didn’t come to comfort me when my heart was broken, didn’t rescue me from pain, and didn’t stop trauma. And in my mind, God’s apparent lack of love for me was all because I needed to do better.

When I lived in China, nothing went as planned and my heart was wrecked. The details of what happened are not important for this story, but I started questioning everything. I felt I was doing everything right, and God still allowed pain.

I finally had to face this God that I didn’t have much of a relationship with and figure out why He’d allow such trauma if I was doing everything ‘right’ (insert list of spiritual disciplines and accomplishments: mission work, daily scripture reading, fasting, etc.)

I did a lot of yelling and screaming and asking questions and crying. Sometimes, I’d remain silent and listen to what God had to say, but for months He said nothing. I now look back and see that He was just sitting with me, listening. Healing didn’t take a week; it took a full two years.

God transformed in my mind from this cruel Father, to a Dad who wanted to hear about everything, weep alongside me in the pain, sit with me in the darkness, and never, ever leave me to go at it alone.

When I talk to God now, I refer to Him as “Dad” because I fight to remember that no matter what hardships come, He is a Good Dad.

As Madeline L’Engle says,

“I will have nothing to do with a God who cares only occasionally. I need a God who is with us always, everywhere, in the deepest depths as well as the highest heights. It is when things go wrong, when good things do not happen, when our prayers seem to have been lost, that God is most present. We do not need the sheltering wings when things go smoothly. We are closest to God in the darkness, stumbling along blindly.”

I also think back to my favorite video by Rob Bell where he talks about being caught in a furious thunderstorm with his one year old son and their long walk home. All his son knows is the terror of the thunderstorm and the reality of his fear. Bell holds his shrieking son close and whispers in his ear over and over, “We’re gonna make it. I love you. Dad knows the way home.”

I don’t know why God doesn’t put on his cape more often and save His precious ones from unbearable suffering. But I do know this hope our good Dad gives each of us that swells our hearts in time of deepest pain-hope that promises not to disappoint. In my experience, our good Dad always knows the way home.

Have you experienced this hope? Can you relate to questioning God’s goodness?

Please pray for the Monroe and Cohen families in grieving the loss of Renee, Reagan, and Jax. We cannot fathom what they are going through, but we can grieve alongside and lift them up to their Good Dad.

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12 Responses to “Is God good?”
  1. Margaret says:

    I think that God is in the process of changing my heart and helping to see His goodness and love for me. I grew up in the church, so I didn’t realize until recently that although the idea of His infinite love was drilled into my head, this reality was something that I struggled to embrace, and I also have a tendency to view Him as a harsh taskmaster. Over the past year, my relationship with God has deepened tremendously, but I have found that the closer I grow to God, the more of a burden I feel to clean up my life. I feel like as I become a “good Christian” (in quotations because there’s really no such thing), I should be able to transform my behavior and become more like Jesus. I know that only Jesus has the power to transform me, and my priority as a Christian should be to lean on Him, not try to take it on myself to become more clean. But it’s really, really hard to accept the love and grace that, as sinners, we know we don’t deserve.

    Anyway, your post was the latest in a series of things I have read and songs that I have heard that remind me that God loves us unconditionally, and like a Good Dad, His love has nothing to do with how we perform. It was really encouraging to have a reminder of His goodness and love, and it also helps to know that I am not the only one who struggles in this regard. God used this post to speak with me, and it is amazing to know that even when I am confused, God reaches out to me in love and truth.

    I am praying for you and your family in this hard time!

  2. Lerato says:

    Thank you Ruthie for this post.

    I completely relate with you and Margaret.

    I lost a close cousin-brother last year and I found out this morning that a friend (Mayaya) in my circles has passed on due to an accident. I have struggled previously to understand why the Lord did not raise my cousin-brother and why I have felt that He was aloof.

    I trust that the God who has been good in all areas, is consistent… and therefore just as good in these situations. We don’t always understand (as I assume the Monroe, Cohen, Deans families and friends must feel). In these seasons He calls us to hold on to the promises He has given us.

    Mayaya served the Lord with his life and gave it up to serve him on the University Campus and to impact the lives of South African young man and woman. His life echoes in eternity.

    I urge us, that this life has no meaning outside of Christ, and he has taken our loved once because “To die is gain”, Christ lived and dies so that we can die and live..While it is still called today let us not choose to harden our hearts, let our lives echo also in eternity… And Oh what glorious life we will behold.

    Sometimes as believers we forget that, we focus only on the pain and forget to rejoice in His goodness (I am guilty of this too), to rejoice that they too are with Christ, no longer prone to wonder, prone to leave the God they love, prone to be selfish, to sin. He is Good, He is consistently Good, because that is who he is.

  3. Erika says:

    Wonderful post. I was reminded of how great our Heavenly Father is when my own dad, uncle and a friend’s godfather reached out to me on Facebook in a tough time. In their own unique way they expressed their support. I felt protected, loved for and encouraged to keep fighting when things get tough.

    I totally agree with the comments from Magaret and Lerato and God is teaching me some of those same lessons.
    And Ruthie, after reading some of your blog posts, I was encouraged to start my own!

  4. a says:

    Its hard for me bc of my relationship with my earthly dad, i think God loves smacking me around, and is generally uninterested in smaller heartbreaks bc after all theres soul winning to do. Sometimes tho my attitude makes me wanna talk to somebody else bc after all if He doesnt care and is just gonna tell me im silly for worrying about stuff thats not important to Him i wont pray about it.

  5. Ris says:

    Has anyone ever felt like the enemy in their life IS God? Like He is angry at you and is punishing you for all your messes? I have been a Christian all (almost) my life and always eager to please God. But now I find myself in the most painful wilderness of discouragement, fatigue and sickness…praying, fasting, quoting scriptures, sharing with brethren…but nothing seems to be giving. If anything, I think its getting worse.

    It’s like the more I draw near to God the further He pushes me! I can hardly pray anymore and reading the Bible is like looking at blank pages!

    I KNOW He is loving…but knowledge is one thing, and the situation I am in is another…I am so numb!

    • Keri says:

      I am so, so sorry to hear that you are feeling this way. I know how scary and discouraging it is to feel far from God, but know that even in the hardest trials, He IS with you. Please don’t stop reaching out to God. I know that I have a tendency to feel like I need to “clean myself up” before I can go before God, but Jesus meets us where we are at! When you have no energy left to do anything but cry out in agony, Jesus is right there, holding on to you.

      God promised to love us with an everlasting love. The Bible says that when we fall, He is holding our hand (Psalm 37). Hold on to these truths and know that the idea that God is against you or angry at you is a lie!

      I am praying for you, friend!

    • Emily says:

      Be still. Simplify. Give everything to God.

    • Martha says:

      I actually feel that God has set himself against me in the area of family life. I have never had a whole family. I grew up with no dad due to my parents divorcing, and am my mother’s only child. God did not provide me a spouse until I was 40, then stood by when he died after we had been married just 4 years. We had no children. Less than 15 months after my husband died, my mother died after an agonizingly slow, painful decline that culminated in her losing a leg and her mental faculties before death. I am currently in a relationship that has no chance of producing children, because my significant other has been rendered impotent by diabetes (so no physical intimacy either). To cap it all off, I started a search for my half-siblings from my dad’s first marriage (my mom was his second wife). I have learned that all three are deceased, the most recent passing only 3 months ago. So, I can’t establish a relationship with them.

  6. I also lost my only son to drowning. He was entering kindergarten the following week. My relationship was so deep with God that I knew ,that very second, that I needed God’s power. I had been through a lot of difficult things (2 doctorates, single parenting, crop losses, etc) all on my own. This, though, exploded me. I was “out” of this game called “life”. I threw my hands up in surrendering worship , asking God to come into me with all HIS power. I did not care if it was coming from above, the earth I was standing on ,or that water before me – but I prayed “GOD COME”! God did & I had an out of body experience. My whole life flashed of “things I did for God”. I said, “God you know Josh & I had flea market evangelism every week where I gave out bibles & commentaries at my own expense, loaded the truck up at the wharehouse every week to unload it to load the church food pantry shelves to give away to the hungry, went to jail ministering every week, brought seniors in nursing homes church every week, started programs for the handicapped all my life, etc, etc, etc. “What more do you want God? Just tell me & you know I will be obedient to do it.” God started talking to me (& has never stopped-it has been 7 yrs) saying. “This is what I wanted- you are totally surrendered and asking Me to come into you with all MY power. From now on, whatever healings you do-you do in the name of my son & I get the glory. I am not going to blog (unless there is a request to) about all of the miracles that came since that day. There are books I have to publish when the extra money is available to. I am a healing deliverance evangelist and watchman over churches . This winter , I was chosen as N.America’s rep . for World Restoration Service 24/7 ChristianTV show. I traveled with them thru S.Africa and Israel this winter. They are coming to NYC’s Grand Hyatt nxt 2 Grand Central station July 19th. Then I go back December again. We are performing the last action-destroying the works of Satan’s kingdom according to Rev 11:15 before Gods ‘ Kingdom rules in reign on earth. You see, I am more active in God’s army now than before Joshua’s death because it was an attack of Satan who always comes to kill, steal destroy. The little girl who pulled my son into the pond was alcohol syndrome. So was her brother & mother becaus the grandma was angry at God &drank during her pregnancy. The mother foretold 2 hrs before it happened that it was going to happen. I thought she was just mentally challenged was all. She claims she has foretold a lot of deaths. Turns out, she had eeven been at 2 other drownings of children that I know of. A year after the tragedy, God instructed me to go back to that town & tell her to get that gift of prophecy under the blood of Jesus Christ. I asked her why , when we got her daughter right off the bank, she was not near the bank helping me look for Josh. She said there was a force that dragged her out to the middle & fought with her, not allowing her to help me. She pulled up her pant legs & showed me the marks up & down her shins plus a 4 pronged red fork on her chest! Her church told her she was now marked for the devil. Like Job in the bible, I knew the enemy to my soul would desire to sift me & get me to curse God & not serve anymore. Satan did not know the fight for God’s kingdom &faithfullness in me though! I have even seen God resurrect the dead many times since then.

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