Any of us can point to something and ask, "okay, what about that? Is God still good?" This is not a question that just goes away with one snappy answer, it may come back each time we face difficulty or tragedy. Some may wonder if God was ever good and this is an important question because if God isn't good then we can't trust him. Instead of trying to provide a quick answer can I ask you to enter how I see God by agreeing, just for a minute, to two beliefs? First: God created everything we see and experience; second, God wants us to know stuff about him. I know those can be pretty big deal so feel free to take a moment before reading on. 

 

The first few chapters at the very beginning of the Bible talk about how God felt about all he created: it is good! 

I bet you could make your own "good" list, but here are some of my favorites: tide pools, giant redwood trees, sunsets, friendships, kittens, kindness, clean drinking water, the birth of a baby. None of these is perfect all the time but we can catch glimpses of perfection in what is good and beautiful. There's some pretty awesome stuff in the world, some amazingly beautiful things, but "it's good" doesn't necessarily sum up our experience of the world, does it? 

If God said about everything he created, "it is good," but our experience is sometimes the opposite of good, you might wonder why a good God would allow anything to mess up the goodness in the first place. For that answer we go back to the Bible and to a story about the first time humans got to make that choice between good and evil. You can read that story here

So evil messes up beauty and God allows us to choose a response in the face of evil. I sometimes picture God in heaven saying, "Come on! You know the right thing to do here...you can do it! Come on!" In every situation he invites us to respond the way he does, to do what we can to create and encourage the flourishing of beauty and to push back against that which destroys it. God is not a puppet-master, and so there are people who commit horrors, and when they are stopped it gets a little lighter. 

God's goodness is not always obvious when we look at the big picture of our world because of the garbage (natural disasters, genocide, disease, death). But God's goodness can be shown in the ways people respond to tragedy and in the broad sweep of history that is moving toward the promise that God made in Genesis 3:15, (paraphrasing again) evil will strike painfully and will wound humanity, but there is one who is most fully human who will deal a death blow to evil. 

This essay has moved from the big picture, to the small picture, to the cosmic picture, and I'd like to end with the small picture: you and me. Big picture events have many, many sides and all those events and all movements begin with one person or a small group of people who lead, inspire, and shape history. You and I have the opportunity to shape our world, no matter how small our part may seem. Where do you see God's fingerprints?