The Lord is Good??

A question wound its way into my heart as I glanced at the beautiful, custom-made scripture text on the wall.

“The Lord is good, his love endures forever, his faithfulness continues to all generations.”

Hand painted on reclaimed wood. Each letter beautifully formed. The perfect shade of blue for my living room. I loved it.

Made by Helen’s Upcycling (Find her on Facebook)

But was it true?

As I looked at it, it seemed to taunt me.

The Lord is good.

Really?

We had just received some hard hitting news about my mother-in-law in her ongoing battle with cancer. Our family had already suffered the pain of losing my lovely sister-in-law a year and a half ago – my brother-in-law losing his wife, and 3 young children losing their mother.

And yet, there was my beautiful new text staring at me, shouting THE LORD IS GOOD.

As I gazed at that verse over  the next few days, it challenged me.

How do you reconcile the two?  What do you do when you are faced with suffering, loss, and pain?

Do I still believe that? Can the Lord be good and allow all of this?

As those words, “the Lord is Good”, rang loud in my head, I realised something.

This is a declaration of God’s character. Something that is unchanging. It is just who He is. The Lord, He is good.

In difficult times we come face to face with a choice. Will we still say “the Lord is good”?

Despite the circumstances and whatever we might be going through?

Can we say it honestly?

When the situation is definitely not good – with fear, pain and heartache – how can we declare that the Lord is good?

When we read the Bible we find this proclamation all the way through.

In creation… “Then God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good.” Genesis 1 v 31

In bringing the Israelites out of Egypt… “Then Jethro rejoiced for all the good that the Lord had done for Israel.” Exodus 18 v 9

When giving the law… “keep the commandments of the Lord and His statutes which I command you this day FOR YOUR OWN GOOD.” Deuteronomy 10 v 12-13

And when we read the book of Psalms we find the theme of God’s goodness repeated many times over… “O taste and see that the Lord is good: blessed is the man that trusteth in him.” Psalm 34 v 8

“I will praise thy name, O Lord, for it is good.” Psalm 54 v 6

“The Lord is good, his mercy endureth to all generations.” Psalm 100 v 5  

“You are good, and do good.” Psalm 119 v 68

And then, the greatest display of God’s goodness is seen when we move into the New Testament and see God providing a Saviour for us – His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.

“Through the tender mercy of our God, with which the Dayspring from on high hath visited us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death.” Luke 1 v 78.

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believeth in him should not perish but have everlasting life.” John 3 v 16

The thread of God’s goodness runs all the way through God’s Word, but there is another, darker strand woven throughout too. One of sin, death, disease, wars, betrayals, murders. God does not paint a picture of a world free from trouble. Far from it! This world was marred by sin in Genesis ch3, and it wasn’t long until the first murder occurred. All the way through the story of the Bible the consequences rumble on, resulting in pain and suffering.

“For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now.” Romans 8 v 22

When I was in my late teens, I really wrestled with this. How can there be a good God and at the same time so much suffering in the world.

I’m not saying I have all the answers now, but one verse that really helped me at that time was Nahum 1 v 7.

“The Lord is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble, and He knoweth them that trust in Him.”

The Lord is good….the day of trouble…

Side by side.

Both real and true.

I came across other verses… “God is our refuge and strength a very present help in trouble .” Psalm 46 v 1

In the time of trouble He shall hide me in His pavilion; in the secret place of His tabernacle He shall hide me.” Psalm 27 v 5

You are my hiding place and my shield…Hold me up and I shall be safe.” Psalm 119 v 114, 117

God is not promising a trouble free life, rather He seems to be anticipating hard times.

So many of the descriptions of God wouldn’t be necessary if life was one long, smooth ride.

Refuge. Shield. Hiding place. Resting place. Shelter.

Consider the final phrase. “He knoweth them that trust in Him.”

This is so personal. God Himself knows when we are trusting in Him.

When we step out in faith, placing our own life and circumstances into God’s hands. Trusting God with whatever is happening, we discover that the promise is real. God is a very present help in times of trouble. God Himself is with us. He will make His presence known. The promise is not that God will fix everything, but He will reveal Himself to us, and we will know without a shadow of a doubt that God is real and God is good. We can rest in Him in the middle of the storm swirling around us. He knows us, He is holding us, and He will not let us go.

As I considered all of this, I realised something.

I do still believe it.

The Lord is good.

“I would have lost heart, unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait on the Lord; be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart.
Psalm 27 v 13-14

“Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”
C.S.Lewis. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

Christmas, a Different Joseph and Looking Ahead

So Christmas is over for another year. The flurry and chaos has calmed. I love Christmas! It is a beautiful time of year, but it is also a time of sadness for so many as they think of loved ones who have passed on and are missing this year from the celebrations. Or others, who are watching loved ones suffering with illnesses or other trials.

On the run up to Christmas, people were brought to my mind who were in need of a card, or a call, and I was very aware of how I had totally failed this year in reaching out to a lot of people that I care about. As I sat down to write my Christmas cards it was again brought home to me as, with nearly every other name on my list, there was someone who I should have called with, sent a card to, arranged a coffee catch up, had over for dinner, and so it goes on. I confess it has been a theme with me in recent months. People on my mind that I knew I should reach out to in some way but I hadn’t got organised and made it happen. A list of “should do’s” that were never done. (Follow through has never been my strong point!) Good intentions all the way!

So I had been feeling a bit down on myself, when one morning I was reading in my Bible about Joseph of Arimathea.

“Now when evening had come, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who himself had become a disciple of Jesus. This man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then Pilate commanded the body to be given to him. When Joseph had taken the body, he wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, and laid it in his new tomb which he had hewn out of the rock; and he rolled a large stone against the door of the tomb, and departed.” (Matthew 27 v57-60)

As I sat enjoying my hot cup of tea it struck me what a beautiful act this was. Joseph loved the Lord. He wanted to reach out and do something to show his love for the Lord Jesus. He was not intimidated. He went in to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. It cost him his reputation. He voluntarily gave what was to be his own tomb. It cost him financially. He wrapped the body in a clean linen  cloth. It cost him in time and effort. We remember him for this act. We honour him. We can see his love for the Lord shining through.

And yet when we read in John 19.38 we see that “Joseph was a disciple of the Lord, but secretly, for fear of the Jews”. He wasn’t like Peter and the other disciples, who left all and followed the Lord so there was no doubt they were his disciples. Joseph was a man of high status. He had become convinced that Jesus was the promised Messiah and believed on Him, but was afraid of the repercussions of letting everyone know where his affection lay.

But now…Jesus has died.  Joseph knew what it was to have regrets. Did he wish he had publicly proclaimed his belief in Jesus. He had missed his chance.  It was too late! Or was it?

Like a switch being flipped, Joseph goes into action. His Lord has died, but he would see that His body was given a fitting burial. He could do that. He would take care of it and in doing so his love shone for all to see.

Now I am not in anyway equating what Joseph did for the Lord to the small everyday things that I do in my life. But it did make me think. Joseph didn’t sit and brood on how he had failed. He didn’t give in to despair and feelings of his own worthlessness. There came an opportunity and he grasped it. He jumped in there and did what he could. He didn’t look back and dwell on his past failures – letting them bog him down, feeling too embarrassed to start to do something now, when he had missed chances before. He got his mind on the present.  He saw the need. He knew he could meet the need. He determined to do it. And he did it!

There have been times when I have known that I should do something. But haven’t done it, or kept putting it off, until I was too embarrassed to do it as it was so late. But as I read about Joseph of Arimathea I am encouraged to just go do it. Perhaps I need to apologise to someone,  or give someone a call, or send a card.  It is never too late. We can be like Joseph.

Don’t look back and live in regret. Go forward into the New Year and determine to bless those around you in small, meaningful ways. Let your love shine through. I’m praying I can make it more than mere good intentions this year, and like Joseph, get up and do it!

Wishing you all a blessed and peaceful 2019

Joy in Despair

Sundays are meant to be peaceful.

That was my fleeting thought as I mounted the stairs yet again one Sunday morning.
Being a mum of four boys I am no stranger to noise, but this particular Sunday things were getting out of control at an alarming rate. Hurtful words, someone left out, tears and shouting. Doors banging. Emotions boiling over.

I had already refereed several disputes that morning and as I waded into the melee I was met with a barrage of accusations and defences. What left me slightly bemused and extremely frustrated was that this scenario was sounding identical to the previous dispute only ten minutes earlier. Only this time the players had changed position!
One who had been upset moments earlier by his older brother’s hurtful comments and exclusions, was now treating his younger brother in exactly the same way. Yet somehow was unable to see (or admit) that he was doing anything wrong. This was completely different apparently!

It is in moments like this that you just want to roll your eyes, grind your teeth, and walk away – fast! And I have responded in one or all of these ways at different times.
But this time I knew I needed to see this through.

I was determined to see this through.

Surely I can make an eight year old see sense!
I could convince him that he was not being kind.
I could make him see his actions from his brothers point of view.
I could make him admit he was wrong.
I could handle it.
And so the debate raged on, moving from the bedroom, to the kitchen and still he stubbornly clung to his position that he had not done anything wrong and he was completely innocent.
I was trying every angle with no success, and in that moment I realised something.

I am completely helpless to change his heart.

I cannot make my child compassionate.
I cannot make my child humble himself.
I cannot make my child have a kind and caring heart toward others.

Despair seeped in, tinged with fear.
Fear for the future. What sort of man would he grow up to be? My imagination ran wild.

“I can’t do this!” was the cry from my heart as I sat down at my kitchen table, feeling at a complete loss. I can’t make him into the man I so want him to become.

But in that moment of complete helplessness and deep despair I felt the Lord whisper in my heart.

“This is good.”

What?!

“This is a good place to be. This is exactly where I want you to be.”

Realisation dawned on me and with that, a deep joy flooded in.

This is where the Lord wants me!
He wants me to know I can’t do this on my own.
He is reminding me, “You can’t change their hearts, but I can.
I’ve got this.”
I can rest in Him.
It is not my job to make and mould my children into what they should be.
Ultimately, they belong to God.
He can do the heart transforming work. I can’t do that.
It is not my job to try and conform them to His image.
I can give that burden to God. I can give my child to God and trust Him to change them from the inside out.
He will make each one into who He wants them to be in His time.

It is very humbling to admit our inability. We want others to look at us and our children and applaud our efforts. We love to hear compliments on what lovely children we have, how well behaved they are, etc. And of course we want our children to behave, but often I find it is my pride that is at work.
I start to feel pretty good about myself, as though their good behaviour is a credit to my parenting skills, or when they misbehave, my first thought is, “what will people think of me?”.
We forget God and become our own god, thinking we are in control of our family. We will ensure everyone behaves so as not to embarrass ourselves, rather than because it is sin against God.
While it is humbling to be faced with our own inability, it is also very freeing.
To know that if our children are to become anything for God, it is up to God, not us.

Of course we are not able to do this work of raising children and training them in the instruction of the Lord. That’s why we desperately need the Lord.”

(G. Furman, Treasuring Christ When Your Hands Are Full)

We should know this. All through scripture this theme is repeated.
It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in man. (Psalm 118 v 8)
We are to be strong IN THE LORD and in the strength of HIS MIGHT.

Not our own strength, remembering that “the Lord is the strength of my life”. (Psalm 27 v 1)
And yet so often we fall back to thinking we can do it on our own. That we should be able to do it on our own.

What freedom in knowing we don’t need to “have it all together”. The Lord is not finished with us yet. He is not finished with our children yet.
For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works. (Ephesians 2 v 10) He is still at work. We can trust Him.

Release the reins to God.

Rest.