Is God really good and what does that actually mean?
The question came to me as I pondered a rash of recent marriage engagement announcements. From early spring through the summer, my Facebook news feed was littered with pictures of ring-finger bling and smiling couples squeezing their faces together in self-portraits. Many of their status updates echoed the same sentiment: “God is good!”
I don’t doubt the words, and the act of two people coming together for the purposes of marriage in this messy world is certainly something to celebrate. However, I wondered, if we call God good when things go right, does it mean He’s not good when things go wrong? If one person is hearing wedding bells and another is served with divorce papers, has God’s goodness changed somehow?
I immediately went to Scripture and spent some time doing a word study on “good”. Let’s just say, the Bible has a lot of “good” in it. Using the King James Version, Bible Gateway found more than 700 references.
The first thing I noticed was that God is the ultimate judge of what is good. He was the first one to declare something as good when, in Genesis 1, He called creation into being.
Before we can label a person or situation good, we have to look to God. And if that’s the case, then we need to look at what God’s definition of good is. I’m sure it encompasses many things, but here’s what I’ve learned thus far.
Good is something or someone being perfect. Now before you think you’ve already lost that battle, let’s unpack the statement. When “perfect” is used in the Bible, it doesn’t mean “without flaws”. It actually means “complete.” Something is perfect when it’s finished and whole. Again, look at creation. God declared that each piece of creation was good when it was completed.
Good also means in abundance. The Bible often uses good as an adjective that could be translated to “a lot of” or “very.” Look at Joshua 1. God did not just implore this young soldier to be strong but to be of “good courage” (Joshua 1:9). A good thing should be showing no signs of lack, and that overflow is for our betterment. That’s why God said that it wasn’t good that Adam was alone in the Garden (Genesis 2:18). He was in lack, so God gave him Eve. That’s what good does. It gives us more of what we need to stay in tune with God and to do His will.
Good is morally right. David lamented the evil people of his day saying that “there is none that doeth good, no, not one” (Psalm 14:3). Yet, he goes on to say in chapter 25,
“Good and upright is the LORD: therefore will he teach sinners in the way” (Psalm 25:8).
We know that good is the opposite of evil, and doing good is a choice we have to make. God gives us that ability to do the right thing as the ultimate source of what is good.
So is God really good? Well, let’s rethink the question. First and foremost, let’s take it out of the context of getting our wishes granted. It is always wonderful when our prayers are answered; however, His goodness doesn’t start and end there.
Is God abundant? Absolutely. He cannot be held within the bounds of space and time. He owns the cattle on a thousand hills (Psalm 50:10). His love is infinite, and His mercy endures forever. He is and always will be more than we need.
Is He perfect? Yes, He needs nothing else to be God. He is complete in and of Himself.
Is He morally right? Of course. God literally wrote the book on morality.
So the answer is yes. Despite our ups and downs – whether we are rejoicing on the mountaintop or wallowing in the valley – He is good. And His goodness is a foundation solid enough to build your faith upon.