Moderator: You recently preached a message on the goodness of God, which I think can normally come off as too broad of a topic. Many times, the broader we get in our sermons, the more bland they become. And yet, because of what you’ve walked through these past few years after the death of your son, talking about the goodness of God is anything but bland.
Steve: Right. I have struggled with the question, “Is God good?”, a lot. That question has haunted me since Chase died, and I’m still getting to a place where I feel good about the answer that I’m coming to. You can’t trust God unless you believe he’s good. And if you don’t believe he’s good, you’re not going to trust him. We had to wrestle that one to the ground. Do we believe God is good? And is he good sometimes, all the time, or half the time? Is he good dependent on how I am? Is he good only if I’m good? Is he good if life isn’t good?
Moderator: Is there a difference between God being good and God acting good towards us?
Steve: I don’t think in his view they are two separate things. God is good. Period. Full stop. That’s it. I mean we either have to believe what he says in the Bible about himself or not – and he says that he is good in his very nature – his very core is good and there is no evil in him. If we believe that and then my experience doesn’t match up to that, why then do I go back and question God’s goodness? I think he’s okay with that when I do, but at the end of the day, my life hasn’t matched all my expectations of being ‘good’. But He is!
Moderator: It’s easier to say in good times, “Well, God is good, because right now I’m good”.
Steve: Why do we why do we assume that a human experience somehow defines who a supernatural, infinite God is? My finite experience of sadness and grief: How does that define of an infinite God? We want something to grab onto. We say, “He’s got to have answers to my questions!” and so when we don’t get them, we just start saying, “Well, God must not be good.”
Moderator: Somewhere in Europe there is the actual standard kilogram – it’s a physical weight in a safe. And that’s the standard for what a kilogram weighs. No matter what you do outside of that, it’s not going to change. That is the standard. So if we think about God as the standard of goodness we can’t say he’s not good, any more than we can say that the weight in that safe weighs less than a kilogram. He is the standard.
Steve: If I asked you, “Is there pure evil in the world?” I think most of us would say yes. There’s some pretty evil things out there. So if that exists, then we have to believe that there’s goodness in the world. And I don’t think anybody would say that they found that inside themselves. We’ve seen glimpses of it. Regardless of whether somebody is a Christ follower or not, anytime I see goodness, I know where it comes from. Even if that person who’s being good and living out a good life, and they don’t recognize where it comes from, it doesn’t mean it comes from somewhere else. It just means that they haven’t seen it yet. They don’t know that goodness comes from the God who is good at his core. And I think that’s been really helpful for me as I’ve processed pain and suffering.
Moderator: C.S. Lewis writes about when we get a taste of the goodness of God, how it stirs something in us. A glimpse of heaven. We aren’t enveloped in it yet, but there’s a rumbling in our spirit that tells us there is something better than all this.
Steve: Taste and see that the Lord is good. Sometimes it is just a taste. And is that enough to believe. When Thomas saw that the hands of Jesus, he believed. Then Jesus says if you don’t see and you still believe, that’s better! We don’t get to see Jesus in the flesh. And so we have to believe without seeing.
Moderator: It seems like what you’re saying in all of this, is that many times we look in the wrong places for goodness. We’re looking at circumstances to prove the goodness of God. We’ve got to look in the right places.
Steve: If God decided to check out in my most desperate time of need; I would still be in this place of questioning the goodness of God. But I’m not questioning his goodness because he allowed my son to die. I affirm his goodness because he was with me through the darkest moment of my life. And I think that is where you look – it’s where you put your eyes. You get to decide where you want to put your attention. I get really frustrated with people when they say so flippantly and quickly after tragedy, “God works all things out for good!”. With Thomas, people kept telling him – Jesus is alive! Jesus is alive! He’s like, “I haven’t seen him. I need to see him.” And Jesus was gracious enough to show himself to Thomas. I wonder sometimes if God is challenging me to believe, even if I don’t see the goodness of God in the land of the living. I think our belief in God as Americans especially is so dependent on whether life is working out.
Moderator: Your example might be helpful for leaders out there, how you’ve led through your own tragedy and your own questions. To say, “If you don’t feel like you can say God is good right now, that’s that’s okay!”
Steve: It is absolutely Okay. My unbelief in His goodness is not somehow going to weaken God. You know it’s not. And actually, my wrestling with his goodness has drawn other people into a faith relationship with God. That’s a beautiful thing. If somebody told me “God is good” on week one, week four, even year one, my response would have been: “I’m not there yet. I’m just not there yet.” But today I am. Maybe tomorrow I won’t be; maybe tomorrow something will hit me and I’ll be like, “I just can’t see your goodness in this, God!” I just have to keep pressing forward. Where else am I gonna go?
In Psalm 23, David is saying, “God, you walk with me through the valley of the shadow of death. There you are. You’re there.” He’s not standing above it. He’s not trying to teach us a lesson. I remember being on my face weeping before God in my brokenness. The image that came to my mind was him, on his face, weeping with me. I discovered that even in that place of sorrow, if I drew near to Him, He drew near to me.