“I say to the LORD, ‘You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you.'” Psalm 16:2
My brain has been trying to understand the goodness of God lately. When doubt arises, there is a conflict between my definition of good versus Scripture’s definition. In many ways, they don’t align. About a month ago a dear friend and the pastor of our sending church died of cancer. Is that good? My mom has also battled autoimmune disease for most of my life. Is that good? My grandmother had severe rheumatoid arthritis. Is that good? My Pawpaw, a devout man of God and pastor of several churches, suffered with alzheimer’s disease in his older age. Is that good? The definition of good that my heart had begun to write is centered on my comfort, the ease of life, lack of pain, and evidence of success. To be quite honest, it is centered on the advancement of myself. Death, suffering, losing memory, struggling with finances – none of these fit into this definition the world teaches of “good.”
And yet, Jesus, our Teacher and Savior, taught us that it is good to suffer for His sake. 2 Timothy 3:12 reminds us that it is a guarantee that we will suffer – “Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” Philippians 1:29 tells us “For to you it has been granted for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake.” The word used for “granted” in the Greek means “to do a favor, to give graciously, to bestow.” In God’s sovereignty and perfect love, it is good for us to suffer for Christ. Not only that, but it is a “favor”, a gift from the Lord. This trumps my definition of good.
Paul even goes a step further in Philippians 3:10 –
“I want to know Christ–yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death,”
If we want to know Jesus, we must take part in His sufferings. To fellowship in Jesus’ sufferings is to taste and see of God’s goodness. Scripture makes it clear that this cannot happen apart from suffering. In all of this, Romans 8:28 holds true – “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” All things includes suffering. It includes hardship. In includes need. It includes death and loss. It includes…everything we ever experience. God has the power to work these things together for “good.”
The “good” we see in this verse refers to things that make us happy, joyful and useful. Do you believe that? Do I believe that? This is the definition of good according to the Word – that we would take part in the sufferings of Jesus so we might fully know Him. Not just an “I know you” kind of know. But an intimate, deep, tethered together kind of know. This is good. Anything that makes us more useful for the Kingdom is good, and sometimes that means a failed plan or mistake that leads me back to the cross of Christ.
The death of our beloved friend, the suffering of my precious momma, the loss of my Pawpaw’s memory, the crippled hands of my Mawmaw – all of these, when viewed through the light of the hope of the Gospel are “good.” Not as we might define it, but as Scripture reveals God’s goodness in it and His faithfulness to meet us in brokenness. We may never understand fully how or why suffering and hardship work together for good, but we can know with confidence that our God is near in it and that we can see Jesus more clearly because of it. If suffering and hard times, unanswered prayers, and rough days mean that I can see my Savior with clearer vision, thought sometimes through a cloud of tears, so be it. Anything to be closer to the One who died for us.
Redefining good is not a one-time thing. It is a day-to-day choice to meet Jesus in our mess and glorify the Gospel when we’ve tripped up once more. It is watching in His blood and being scrubbed by His Word. The good that I want is the good David described in Psalm 73:28 –
“But as for me, the nearness of God is my good; I have made the Lord GOD my refuge, That I may tell of all Your works.”
That is the good that will last forever, give hope in the hard times, and joy in the mundane moments. Jesus Christ is good. Let me write that one more time – maybe you need to even say it out loud or write in on your hand.
Jesus Christ is good.
May our definition of good always come back to Jesus. “Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever!” Psalm 107:1
What is your definition of good? How have you met Jesus in your suffering? How can you redefine good? How does this affect our joy?
Thinking on these truths with you.