When it’s early and cold and the sun shines off the pond in the park as I wander by feeling peaceful despite the swirling surrounds, I want to thank God. I want to say that it’s because of him that any of my days are beautiful. God is good. When things almost go wrong but don’t, and I recognise the path that my foot wavered over, I want to acknowledge that it’s God who directs my steps. God is good.
It is because of God that I feel inexplicably joyful and thankful for rain and a day to study indoors with endless cups of tea. It is because of God that I hesitate before walking onto the road and being mowed down by the car that didn’t see the red light. In these moments, God is good.
But what about the bad moments? When I lock myself out instead of realising at the last second. When my car doesn’t start and I feel despair for no reason and I sleep instead of run and I can’t bring myself to answer the phone? Or worse… in terrible loss and sadness and overwhelming grief such that I have never known. What happens to my good God then?
I have been thinking about this for a few weeks, ever since a bible conference in Tamworth and a gentle rebuke in a sermon about something else. Is there a sense in which trotting out the “God is good” line for parking spots and laughter with friends is in danger of minimising the ultimate way that God’s goodness is shown?
What does the bible say? God shows he loves people when they are well fed and happy? No. You can know God is being kind to you because sometimes on a hard day there’ll be a letter in your pigeonhole? No! Romans 5:8 explains:
“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
That is the good of God behind every other, the truth that makes the other moments of common grace so. God doesn’t give me a parking spot now but leave me without hope of harbor in the world to come. He doesn’t give me food for my wearing out body but deny me the bread of life. Rather all of those every day mercies point to the mercy that shapes my entire existence, that in the middle of saying no to God, he said yes to me.
That’s what the bible says, in a nutshell. God came into the world in Jesus to deal with my sin, so that I can be reconciled to him. And he did it not when I was warm to him, or naively neutral, but when every fibre of my being rebelled against him. That’s grace, amazing,
Without that incredible, life-changing grace, all of the little things would be cruel taunts or empty shells, hints at the satisfaction of the longing of my soul that will never be realized. But because of that grace my soul knows the certain hope of the satisfaction of that longing, when I stand in front of Jesus, at last. And in the meantime all of those common graces are there, not to be ends in themselves, testifying to a genie-like God who gives trinkets to a random few, but as pointers to the God who gave his son for wretched sinners, to the blood of Jesus shed for me which brings forgiveness. It is free, you know, this grace. The costliest gift of all is free to all who trust in Jesus.
Ultimately I want to keep saying that God is kind and good when a snuffly baby falls asleep in my arms, or when exams that I didn’t know how to endure are over, were endured. But when I do I want to both remember and remind that were those things untrue, were every incidental good thing bad, God would still not be. The incredible good of Jesus will always be true.
“How His kindness yet pursues me
, mortal tongue can never tell. Clothed in flesh, till death shall loose me,
I cannot proclaim it well…
O that day when freed from sinning, I shall see Thy lovely face. Clothed then in blood washed linen , how I’ll sing Thy sovereign grace.”