Why you can (and should) assume the goodness of God

Assuming the goodness of God
'The Parable of the Prodigal Son,' Pompeo Batoni (Kunsthistorisches Museum, Wikimedia Commons).

A friend recently told me about an acquaintance who’s convinced that God is angry with her. She’s in a rough patch right now and believes that he’s punishing her.

I’m not equipped to plumb the mind of God, but I wonder about that. Some people seem quick to assume the anger of God. Perhaps there are personal reasons they feel distance from him, and that distance feels like God’s displeasure toward them. If you read the Psalms, you’re familiar with the dynamic. But I don’t think that God is far away from David; I think it’s more like David has drawn away from God.

God is there, ready to forgive, ready to make peace. That’s the assumption of Psalm 51. “A broken and a contrite heart—these, O God, You will not despise.” The psalmist assumes the goodness and graciousness of God. I wonder why we don’t do that more often, more readily.

In John 14, Jesus says that there are many mansions in the Father’s house, and that he’s preparing one for us. But notice what he also says: “If it were not so, I would have told you.” What I love in the statement is something not actually said because it’s too obvious to warrant saying: that we should assume the beneficence, provision, and love of God. “If it were not so,” after all, “I would have told you.”

But of course it is so. It’s a given. It’s assumed.

Do we assume it? Or do we assume that God is holding out on us, that he resists and resents us, that he’s less than beneficent and loving?

Both Psalms 103 and 145 say that God is slow to anger and abounding in mercy. They are picking up on a theme that appears elsewhere in the Scripture. Quoting, for instance, the second chapter of Joel: “[R]end your heart, and not your garments; return to the Lord your God, for He is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness; and He relents from doing harm.”

I’m not debating whether God disciplines his children. Scripture says that he does. But the passages that say so assume his love as well. “[W]hom the Lord loves He chastens,” as Paul says in Hebrews, quoting from Proverbs, which adds the hopeful line, “Just as a father the son in whom he delights.” Delights, not detests!

We all have sins that can cause us to feel separated at times, maybe much of the time. If that’s the case, there’s all the more reason to get this right. Assuming the worst of God is only bad for us. We should instead assume the best and be encouraged: If your heart is broken by your sins, God will not squash it. He will bind it up like the Samaritan meeting us on the roadside. If we return home, he will rush out to greet us like the father of the prodigal.

Question: Do you have a hard time assuming the goodness of God?

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  • I am with you! I trust God’s goodness. I know that God will lead us to the valley and let us experience the challenges that help us grow. What a blessing! I’m convinced that a cushy life, free from hardship and discipline, would leave me weak in my faith.

  • Cassie

    I don’t doubt God is good . . . I doubt myself and my ability to be near to Him. I know that how I feel about God has a direct correlation between how much time I have been putting into the relationship. Some days, it is an ongoing conversation. Others . . . not so much.

    I also don’t doubt that there have been times, and will be many times in the future, when God allows Satan into my life to give me a chance to grow and learn in my relationship with Him and with others around me. God allowing me to be hurt doesn’t mean he doesn’t love me, I believe it means He is teaching me. Just as when my almost-4yr old jumps off the couch and hurts his knee. I’ve told him, over and over, that doing it will cause pain. He had to figure it out for himself. Then, being a boy, he does it again to prove the point AGAIN, but that’s another matter! 😉

    So no, I don’t doubt God’s goodness. I struggle with accepting that with all my flaws, I am deserving of His goodness.

    • Cassie, thanks for being so vulnerable. It’s a tough place to be. Perhaps the most challenging and liberating things about God’s love is that it doesn’t welcome words like “deserving.” God loves because that’s his nature and, as he told Moses, he’s the God who is. God loves because he is God, not because we deserve it. He made us for the purpose of loving us. You flaws don’t dampen God’s love.

  • I agree with you, Joel–here’s a passage that has helped me get a handle on the hard times (I Peter 5:8-10):

    Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. You adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.

    But resist him, form in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world.

    AFTER YOU HAVE SUFFERED FOR A LITTLE WHILE, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, WILL HIMSELF PERFECT, CONFIRM, STRENGTHEN AND ESTABLISH YOU.

    What a wonderful promise!