It goes without saying that God is good, but…

Here’s a recurring theological problem I run into in church life, and I’m perfectly willing to concede that it’s a personal problem that I need to work through. Any insight that my readers can offer is appreciated.

My problem is this: Someone, often an older adult, is facing a potentially life-threatening health crisis. People in the church are praying for this person. The surgery or other medical intervention is successful, and the person survives. How do those of us who prayed for that person respond? Thanking God for someone’s recovery certainly seems fitting, so long as we understand—as C.S. Lewis said so poignantly—that every deathbed represents an unanswered prayer. The last prayer for someone’s successful recovery, in other words, will be unanswered. We all will die sometime.

But I often hear this response: “God is good!” And others will chime in their agreement: “Indeed, God is good!”

And I strongly agree: God is good. But this response implies that the person’s successful recovery affirms God’s goodness. “Look what God did in saving this person’s life! This proves that God is good.”

What if the person for whom you were praying died? Would God still be good?

2 thoughts on “It goes without saying that God is good, but…”

  1. Wow! Good question. In a world that views death as an enemy rather than an eventuality, how do we proclaim God’s goodness in the experience of pain and loss? The truth is God doesn’t become less good, but God sure doesn’t FEEL good in those terrible times. It sounds a bit cold to say it, but this is an emotional question rather than a theological one. How can we identify God when God isn’t who we feel God should be? It calls us to self-examination for our response when we don’t get what we dearly hope for.

    1. I hear you. God is good because every moment of life is a pure gift. We’re not entitled. It’s only because a gracious God gives us life that we have it at all. Still, I would be reluctant to try to correct someone when they something theologically incorrect in the face of pain and suffering, but it does bother me.

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