“God is good.”
The Facebook comment in response to a post about a young man who’d been in a car wreck finally coming home from the hospital blinks at me from my iPad’s blue-light screen.
I am 48 years old and have loved God all my life, and yet today, those words, God is good, sting.
As one family praises God for a life spared, I sit in a sterile hospital room, listening to the ventilator hissing out its death-knell rhythm, as my sweet mama spends her last days on earth fighting pain and waiting for us to just let go.
Spit-in-the-hand, pinky-swear truth? God doesn’t feel so good right now.
My head understands we all have to die. My heart needs a little help getting to David’s conviction that goodness and mercy shall follow me.
And yet, even as I wonder why God gave my mom, who had already faced health challenges like colon cancer and a gallbladder surgery that almost killed her, one of the worst diseases to die from, ALS, I still lean on my faith. Since her diagnosis in October of 2015, I’d say I’ve honed it.
Still, my emotions, in turmoil, show me I still need pruning.
No wonder those who don’t believe in God’s grace hate us. Believe me from the other side of the fence, when you praise God that you got good news today, you’re stabbing in the heart the person for whom God’s answer to prayer that day was a no that felt just like a knife to the chest.
Jesus assures us that suffering is universal and no sign of one’s goodness or badness. He also assures us of His comfort in all circumstances. It’s a good thing He offers it because these tough times are impossible to survive without it.
Calling out to Jesus when I hurt is one of many skills I’ve improved since that day in a Houston hospital when the doctor told my mother she was going to die. I hope I’ve learned to be less judgmental. My empathy skills are growing. I want to embrace mercy and grace and love and not worry so much about truth and right and wrong.
Jesus talks about how narrow the way to God is for many reasons. In one sense, the narrow path is good news. The only way to salvation is to believe that Jesus died on a cross and rose again for the sake of all sin and to accept Him as your Savior and Spiritual Guide. There may be many ways to come to the knowledge of that path to salvation, but the actual achievement of being saved comes only as the gift of salvation from our Lord Jesus. This is the narrow way that makes salvation so simple for any and all to achieve.
But the narrow way of fulfilling one’s potential by growing through Christ is a life-long pursuit from which we easily and frequently stumble outside the lines. We say words we don’t really mean. We judge others without first considering our own failings. We despair.
I am convinced that the farther we stray from treating others with the grace God has bestowed upon us, the farther we are from the narrow way of a life lived in Christ. And I am also convinced that when we work harder at seeing the world in black and white instead of through eyes of empathy and compassion, we are no where near the narrow path upon which we should tread.
Maybe that is why the Facebook comment hit me with such a force. How can we be thankful for our blessings and yet still be mindful of those who don’t have an immediate reason to feel blessed?
I have to turn again to Jesus, the master of empathy and grace. In His ministry, He had such compassion for those in need of physical and spiritual healing that He gave all of Himself. He raised more than one loved one from a death bed. He freed those enslaved to demons. He gave the blind sight. He refused to condemn those who were ready and willing to turn away from sin. Perhaps, like the woman who was to be stoned to death, they turned from sin because Jesus refused to condemn them.
When we are so fired up about something, whether it be a hot-button issue like abortion or our enthusiasm for a miracle, we often bulldoze our way through the mire when a much gentler, slower approach will do. If your idea of promoting a cause is pointing a finger at somebody else instead of offering to help or to try to see things from that other perspective, then you’re just part of the problem, not the solution—no matter how divine you think are your intentions.
Jesus had no use for those who worshiped the law more than they worshiped God: And you experts in the law, woe to you, because you load people down with burdens they can hardly carry, and you yourselves will not lift one finger to help them. (Luke 11:46)
I want to be a Christian who lifts not one finger, but both my hands to help others carry the burdens of this life that are difficult enough without the law becoming more important than love.
So maybe, next time you want to thank God for being good in a public forum, consider how you would say that to the family who just said good-bye to someone they love. I do praise God for His goodness. He loves me even when I don’t have Him at the top of my Hits List. He is so good, that if we fail to praise Him, the stones will cry out. (Luke 19:40)
God is able to do all things, even soothe the ache in a much-battered heart. Sometimes, it’s all He can do. It’s one of the many things I want to ask Him about when my own time to pass into glory comes due. My friend, Katie, who’s seen more than her fair share of troubles, says she has a clipboard filled with such questions. It’s a sign of our faith that we hold on to our right to ask them of a loving Creator, even in these moments when we feel least loved.