Psalm 34:8 says, "Taste and see that the Lord is good." Honestly though, from my vantage point, the evidence from my life once seemed in direct contradiction to those words. To my way of thinking, only three possible explanations used to exist to explain God's goodness as that verse expressed.
God is good, just not to me.
What we humans define as good varies greatly from what God defines as good, and since He's God, He gets to define things as He so chooses.
I'm supposed to blindly believe that God is good regardless of all evidence to the contrary.
It has been a long journey for me to discover the fourth and correct explanation for Psalm 34:8. At the end of the tortuous pathway, along which I desperately sought to win God's favor in order that He might show me His love, He finally brought me to the end of myself. The striving ceased when I became an invalid for a year, confined largely to bed or a recliner by my bedroom window. During that year, with time passed largely in physical pain, I decided to finally deal with the inward pain of a traumatic time from eight years previous. With incredible insight into the root of my inward turmoil, my Christian counselor wisely challenged to me to CHOOSE to trust God's Word when it spoke of His love for me, even when I didn't feel its truth. She also encouraged me to search the Scriptures for verses on God's love. What transpired, by God's great mercy, were months of meditating on and studying passages on God's love and goodness, which the Savior used to completely transform my perspective.
Knowing that something quite significant was taking place, I began writing a book on what God progressively revealed to me and the tremendous hope for the hurting that the Savior offers. Now, seven years later, that book will be published. It's called, When You Can't Trust His Heart--Discovering the Limitless Love of God. In the book, I vulnerably share some of the details of that specific traumatic time in my life that eventually led me to the stereo-typical counselor's couch and piles of tissues.
In this blog post I want to share with you, what I believe, proves to be a powerful and unique illustration of God's goodness that came out of that traumatic time from over seventeen years ago. Because the focus of this post is the goodness of God and not the details of that event, I will only share enough of a synopsis so that you can understand the analogy but have provided a link to a free download of the audio retelling of the story, should you have any further interest. (It has been shared in person twice, and both times the audiences urged my husband and me to share the incredible story with others.) It is a personal testimony of God's character as it was revealed through His mighty work on behalf of our family. It is a heart-wrenching yet triumphant story--a modern day Joseph account, in a sense. Although it wasn't easy to retell, I hope it blesses you by doing so. It is a story about how bad man can be, but how good God is.
Long ago, when my now adult son, Caleb had just turned three, he became ill with something that greatly affected his legs, caused ongoing fevers, as well as numerous other symptoms. Visits to the pediatrician began. Initial test results were inconclusive, and the doctor recommended that he see a specialist. Unfortunately for us, this was in the early days of HMO's and ours denied coverage. In an attempt to cause the HMO to appeal their decision, my husband Seth wrote a letter to them, and in it mentioned a frustration we were having with the pediatrician. Rather than granting coverage the HMO launched some sort of an investigation into the doctor's care of Caleb. In retaliation, the pediatrician accused us of child abuse--specifically, Munchausen by Proxy Syndrome. After three months of living in hiding in multiple states and houses, while we attempted to build a defense, our only precious child was taken away by the state.
To say I was angry, definitely proves insufficient. I was angry at the state, at the doctor, at everyone involved, but most of all at the sovereign God in whom I had placed my trust. How could He let something so terrible happen to us? How could He allow such despicable evil to prevail! I know bad things happen all over the world, but this was personal. We were His children! We trusted in His goodness.
In God's tremendous grace, He provided the most incredible Christian foster family for our small child, who loved and cared for us all during our darkest hours. Following the judge's decision to take away our son, the foster parents had to physically restrain a distraught Caleb who struggled and pleaded with wrenching sobs for us not to leave him. He was so small and helpless, and we were helpless to save him. In tremendous anguish of soul, we had to leave knowing that he did not understand why he must be separated from all that he knew and loved. Refusing to be comforted, my precious baby sobbed alone that night, and many others as well, while his foster mother sat helplessly in the hallway listening and praying.
After three weeks of foster care, over $20,000, and two separate multiple day comprehensive evaluations by different psychologists, the judge thankfully allowed our son to return home. All charges were soon dropped, and we were free to pick up the pieces of our lives.
(60 friends & family crammed into our tiny home to welcome Caleb home.)
The very circumstances with Caleb that wounded me so deeply, surprisingly became a powerful illustration to me of God's goodness. Oh, how Caleb wanted to come home, but no matter how much he begged, cried, and pleaded, we, his parents, could not grant him his request. Did this make us bad or mean parents? Certainly not! In fact, we hurt deeply because this trial hurt Caleb deeply. However, we saw the big picture. He had to stay or we would go to jail, and then he would be taken away for a very long time. Therefore, since we truly loved him we must not give in to his pleadings. Instead, we did as many other things as possible to show our love and kindness towards him and to make the trial as bearable as possible. In spite of the difficulty of those days, he could "taste and see" that his parents loved him and his memories of that time now testify to that fact.
I began to see that in life in general, Seth's and my behavior during those weeks when Caleb remained in foster care compares with God the Father's behavior in dealing with His children as they endure suffering. Likewise, a child of God going through a trial compares well to Caleb during that time. Let me explain.
Many times we pleaded with God to end our trial and not to allow our son to be taken away. I assumed that when God didn’t do this that He wasn’t good. However, like we grieved over Caleb's pain, we're told in the Bible that God also hurts for His children. He instructed the prophet Jeremiah to say to God's chosen people:
“‘Let my eyes overflow with tears night and day without ceasing; for the Virgin Daughter, my people, has suffered a grievous wound, a crushing blow (Jeremiah 14:17).
Some would say that compassion for the suffering yet taking little action only reveals an impotent God. However, Almighty God, infinite in wisdom, sees the big picture of this sin-cursed world and beautifully orchestrates His good and perfect will in its midst.
It's not that He redefines what is good to suit His liking. Many Christians like to excuse away the pain and suffering God allows His children to endure with the explanation that God's view of "goodness" is merely to build character in us. Although, without a doubt, making us more like Jesus is one of many good things that God brings out of suffering, I believe that to be a separate issue altogether. Here's why: Psalm 34:8 says to "taste and see that the Lord is good." These are tangible human senses. Jesus said in Matthew 7:9-11,
"Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!"
These passages clearly indicate that God defines His goodness in real, human terms that we can readily grasp.
To know another element of God's goodness does require faith, but not unsupported faith because all along the way He demonstrates His goodness in tangible ways. This other element comes from recognizing that His vantage point differs from ours. Like how Seth and I demonstrated our goodness and love for our son by making tough decisions out of our superior knowledge of what was truly good and then interjected many evidences of our love for Caleb during his ordeal, so also God works in the midst of sinful earth to bring about true good. With tremendous compassion, He also does countless things for His children to show His love and to make their trials more bearable. Therefore, God is truly good.
As I thought about the difference in perspectives as seen by God and man, the movie, Vantage Point with Dennis Quaid came to mind. It revolves around an investigation into an assassination attempt from the vantage points of eight different individuals. Each one witnessed a very limited and different angle of the crime, which provided only pieces of a much larger puzzle. Our vantage point in life is comparable to any one of the single witnesses in the movie, whereas God's is comprehensive, taking in not only all angles in the present, but also for all of time.
At the beginning of this post, I spoke of my understanding of Psalm 34:8 from my limited vantage point of a life of much pain. I've noticed that pain has a blinding affect. All details of one's surroundings fade into the background while pain screams out its existence. Often, it isn't until much later, when the pain and even the memory of it subsides that one recalls and can appreciate countless other details from the event. This certainly proves true in childbirth! Likewise, with time and healing countless details of God's incredible goodness, demonstrated endlessly throughout my life have come into focus. Fourteen years after the fact, God even revealed His purpose in allowing us to go through the temporary loss of our son. (But, you'll have to listen to the recording to hear about that, as there isn't time in this post to tell it.)
So, while I wait for His eternal vantage point on all matters, I can at least attest here on earth with the psalmist's words, "Be at rest once more, O my soul, for the LORD has been good to you" (Ps.116:7).
(If you struggle with your vantage point of God's love and goodness
due to painful circumstances or know someone who does,
make sure to check out my book when it comes out soon.)
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The Juliin Story--A Struggle with Man & God
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