In the Bible it is written, “O taste and see that YHWH is good: blessed is the man that trusteth in him.” (Ps 34:8) God knows there are times when we are tempted to doubt His goodness. In the midst of our pain and suffering God calls us back to Himself to “taste and see.” Losing our sense of His goodness is perhaps the most debilitating and difficult of all experiences; it intensifies the rest of our suffering. In calling us to taste again of His goodness, God is not calling us to stop feeling our pain, but to come back to a place where we can bear it with integrity, hope and joy.
Why We Doubt
First, perhaps it is good to try and understand why we tend to doubt the goodness of God. For most of us this is obvious: the evil and suffering we experience is so bad we conclude that no good can possibly come of it, at least not enough to justify it. And since we instinctively know that God can prevent any suffering He pleases, we are left with what feels like a contradiction: if God was good He would do more to care for us, so either God is not good or there is no God. On the surface it seems a powerful argument.
We can certainly ask God the hard questions, and try to understand why He allows terrible things to happen, but questioning His goodness as we do so is really to start answering the questions ourselves rather than letting God answer, and this is not our place. As hard as it is to give Him the benefit of the doubt, the alternative is actually worse.
The Fruit of Doubt
When we are suffering we might be tempted to think that questioning or denying the goodness of God might make us feel better, give us a sense of resolution or control. But we are not in control and we never will be … and understanding evil to be evil is not so satisfying. What then does questioning God’s goodness achieve?
In thinking God is not good we take an enormous step away from God and start cutting ourselves off from Him. Being honest and vulnerable before someone we don’t trust is extremely difficult; it is actually impossible to seek God unless we are convinced of His goodness: “He that cometh to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him.” (Heb 11:6).
Losing hope in the goodness of God is actually to lose everything; giving this up is to give up all — there is nothing left worth having. If God is not good then there can be no ultimate good in suffering, yet our suffering remains; losing hope makes all suffering even worse. (Rom 8:24)
In the end, if God is not good … nothing else actually matters. If God is untrustworthy or sadistic or unjust in any way, if He is not ultimately and genuinely benevolent and faithful and reasonable … how are we going to escape Him? Then nothing we can say or do or think matters in the least. We lose our very definition of good and evil, all conscience becomes an illusion, no more trust or belief or faith or truth – nothing remains to anchor our hopeless souls. We don’t need to live like this.
What We Need
To get where we need to be, God must help us believe one simple and glorious fact: God is good.
Knowing why God is allowing something to happen is not the most important thing: what we need to know first is that God is allowing pain and suffering for a good reason and that He will eventually glorify Himself in and through it. “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose … For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen” (Rom 8:28, 11:36)
This is all that really matters, and resting here requires faith and trust. We may not yet be in a place where answers will help our troubled hearts; seeing may not help us believe — but when He helps us believe and trust then we can start to see: “ I had fainted, unless I had believed to see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living.” (Ps 27:13, also John 11:40)
Even though we may not yet be able to see clearly why God is allowing so much evil, pain and suffering, there is one thing we all can be sure of: in the end of days, when we are looking back on all that God has done, and all that He has allowed, it will all make perfect sense. We will not be disappointed in Him. No one in Heaven will be accusing God of any wrong doing, injustice, indifference or negligence. Your case will be no different than mine. There will come a day when we will fully understand and rejoice in all of God’s ways: “Now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.” (1Co 13:12, also 1 Th 5:18) Until then we need to trust Him, that He knows what He is doing.
More of God is what we all need; not answers. The more we have God, the better we know Him and the more closely we are walking with Him, the more answers become optional … the more everything else becomes optional. Until we are where we should be He will keep pursuing us to give us more of Himself … because He is good.
O Taste and See
Once our trust in the goodness of God is strengthened and restored is it much easier to submit to His working in our lives, to start actually looking for evidence of His goodness, and to begin to see the overwhelming evidence all around us … in the design of our bodies, in the beauty and intricacies of His Creation, and in the splendor of His universe. As He heals and transforms us we can behold Him anew and delight in His ways. (Ps 19)
Ponder again God’s willingness to even send his own Son to the cross to be tortured and put to death for us, for us rebels and sinners, how He offers Himself to bear the punishment of our own sin and shame. How can we even begin to measure this kind of benevolence and lovingkindness? It is unfathomable! If God cannot be implicitly trusted, no one can be trusted. No mistake about it: God is good … and that is an incredibly vast understatement.
Meditating on the goodness, beauty and majesty of God leads to peace in suffering, and to a fullness of joy even in the midst of pain that is difficult to fathom, a “joy unspeakable and full of glory.” (1Pe 1:6-8)
Evidence of God’s infinite goodness abounds: “the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering.” (Rom 2:4) “O taste and see!” (Ps 34:8) Position your mind and heart to receive the knowledge of His goodness as you ask Him to give it to you. This is life changing at the core of our being … which is what we want, to be delivered from our darkness and to walk more and more in His light and truth.