Recently, I was giving a lecture about the goodness of God in a course about seeing life through a biblical worldview. In discussing God’s goodness, I explained that “good” doesn’t mean “less than great.” Rather, “good” is a qualitative characteristic that describes the motive and nature of God. He is good, pure, and righteous.
During the lecture, one student was clearly wrestling with the discussion. He shared some of his life story, which involved experiencing great difficulties, and he was struggling with a question all of us have likely asked at some point: How is God good when we see so much evil in this world?
This question is particularly potent during the Christmas season. We have much to celebrate now: Christ has come, and his presence is with us today. For many, Christmas is a time of celebration and joyful experiences with family and friends. But Christmas can also be difficult. Some people are away from family this Christmas, while others will be experiencing their first Christmas without a loved one. The paradox of the Christmas season is it brings great joy for some and great sorrow for others.
As we navigate the ups and downs of life this Christmas season, after a year that has been difficult for many, we may be asking, “Is God good?” Like my student who wrestled with the idea of a good God in an evil world, many of us may wonder, “God, if you are good, why did you let that happen? Why me? Why now?”
The Goodness of the Cross
One of the beautiful realities of the Gospel is that Jesus always models what he expects from us. When he asked us to pray, he prayed. When he commanded us to be baptized, he was baptized. Jesus’ desire is not for us to cultivate vain religious practices; he wants to teach us the essence of an abundant life, a life that abides in the presence and will of God (John 10:10).
Jesus also models for us the goodness of the Father in a fallen world. As finite human beings, we often focus on ourselves and our own woes when we go through difficult times; we tend to question God’s motives when our lives aren’t going as planned. It can be easy to forget that what happened to Jesus on the cross was not fair to him. Jesus was tortured and his body was mutilated after he was betrayed and abandoned by his closest friends. The cross and its brutality ultimately serves as a great reminder that our Heavenly Father is good—even when facing the wrath of God upon himself for the sins of all humanity, Jesus did not question the Father’s goodness. Instead, he said, “Your will be done.” Jesus understood the Father is good, even when this fallen world exhibits great evil.
Growing Amid Struggle
When we reflect on Jesus’ incarnation, life, death, and resurrection, we realize that God is good, and he does some of his greatest work during life’s sorrows. Because God chooses to work with us and through us, he gets in the valleys of life and pulls us out. Life’s sorrows do not nullify the goodness of God, but they provide opportunities for a good God to demonstrate his love and power in the most unsettling of times. If it was not for the cross, the wrath of God would remain upon us forever but because of the goodness of God toward us, he provided a way for the wrath of God to be applied to his Son so we could become free. It was the goodness of the Father that caused the Son to take on human flesh and be our propitiation, and despite the challenges of this process, the Son was in full agreement!
If we are honest, most of our growth in life happens during the hardest times because these moments force us to rely entirely upon God. After we have exhausted all our efforts and strength, we have no choice but to trust God, and this is when miracles happen.
As we look to Jesus Christ this Christmas, we can rest in the knowledge that God is good. Christ is not a myth; he is the incarnate God who came to us in our mess, lived among us, and provided a way to pull us out of our mess. God does not call our mess good, but he works good out of our mess.
Even in the face of difficult circumstances, we have much to celebrate because the reason for the Christmas season is found in the goodness of God, which is on display in the incarnation. The Father sent his Son through the power of the Spirit to come into our fallen world to redeem us from our sin. We can ask tough questions about God’s goodness because God has broad shoulders, but if we allow life’s challenges to move our focus away from God, we will miss opportunities to see the goodness of God in action.
Remember, God does not call all things good (evil is always evil), but because of his sovereignty, he is able to bring good out of all things. As we follow the Spirit at work and home this Christmas season, let’s demonstrate God’s goodness to those with whom we come in contact by pointing them to Immanuel, God with us.