A Pepper Grinder Post

God is so Good

sunrise in treesUnspiritual confession of the day: I hate it when I hear or read someone say, “God is so good.”

It isn’t really the words themselves that I hate, but the situation in which they almost always seem to be said.  If someone had just lost his job and he said, “God is so good,” it wouldn’t bother me at all—I would be impressed.  However, these words seem to be said invariably when someone is recounting some especially wonderful thing God did for them.

God has given this man a job that pays well and that he loves, and has given him a wife that he adores and who is drop-dead gorgeous.  God is so good.  God has given some woman children who all lived, grew up, and became sincere believers, and became successful by the world’s standards as well.  They all live close to her, and want to be in her life.  God is so good.

Does this sound like sour grapes from someone who has suffered some (though very little in comparison with many)?  There probably is some of that, but I honestly don’t think I would mind if someone in good circumstances said, “God has been so kind to me.”  I have three major problems with the way people use the phrase, “God is so good.”

  1. It sounds smug.  Perhaps people don’t always mean it this way, but, especially to someone who has suffered, it sounds like what the person is really saying is, “I’ve got it so good.”  It is hard not to feel that there is also just a little hint of a feeling that the speaker deserves the good thing he or she has received.  Of course, most Christians have picked up the idea that they shouldn’t really say something like, “I’ve got it so good.”  Here’s where the phrase that I am complaining about comes into play.  It allows you to take a selfish feeling and spiritualize it.  After all, we all know that praising God is a good thing.  So now you can gloat in your good fortune and sound like a spiritual giant at the same time!
  2. It hurts people for whom things aren’t going so well.  I honestly assume this is not the intent of people who use the phrase in the way I’m talking about, but take it from me, it can feel like a knife in the gut.  For people on the receiving end of pain, it is hard not to feel that God must love the person experiencing good fortune more than the sufferer.
  3. It has disturbing implications about God’s character.  If we say, “God is so good,” when good things happen to us, what does that mean when bad things happen to us?  What does the man whose son committed suicide, or the woman who desperately wanted to be married and have a family but who is still single at age 42 supposed to say?  God is so bad?? 

    God IS so good, but this is a statement that is ALWAYS true because it is part of his very character.  When God showers us with unmerited kindnesses, he is so good, but he is no less good when he brings unbearable suffering into our lives, for which we can see no purpose.

cloudsI feel a little bad writing this article.  My fear is that some sweet Christian lady who has been saying, “God is so good” for years will read this and be mortified.  I am not saying it is always wrong to say this phrase.  It is a totally true statement, and it can be a wonderful declaration of the goodness of God’s character.  I would give 3 cautions to people who regularly use this expression.

  1. Be sure that you aren’t using the phrase as a way to spiritualize a feeling of smug self-satisfaction.
  2. Be sensitive to hurting people and how it may sound to them.
  3. Do not only use the phrase when things are going well for you.  You should be just as quick to say this when you are miserable as when you are happy, because it is just as true.

Remember, most of all that God is so good not because of anything he does or does not do in our lives.  He is so good, because he is so good.