Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Truth is deceptively simple. It's also happy.

In which I ramble rather disjointedly. A lot.

It's funny to me that deep down, we all know that words don't inherently mean anything. They only mean what we mean by them. So we forget, sometimes, what the real meanings are behind the little words we say. Sometimes they sound so small, and they sound so insufficient and flat, and especially when the idea we are trying to express is inexpressible, our phrases become trite, both in our minds and in our conversations.

We say that God is good, but I wonder if we know what we mean by it. I wonder, too, whether or not we would find that we were right if we did know what we meant.

Granted, I don't think anyone really knows what is meant by God. We can spend our lives discussing just Who He is, and certain things we know, but we can never grasp it. It is too wonderful for us. It will take all of eternity to even begin comprehending this, and already, I feel in over my head in what I do know.

And what of "good"? An enigmatic little word, that. It is, I suppose, the broadest positive expression we have. Things can smell good, look good, be good morally... There is no end to the uses. Which, of course, is why one is sometimes told not to use it when writing specific description. It's too broad for that. You can't possibly mean all the uses of good when you are talking about a bowl of soup. Soup is good in its own way, but it is not good in the way of a butterfly or of the sky or of a just judge. You probably also don't mean that it is the best soup you have ever tasted. All you mean is that it isn't bad. You have positive feelings toward the soup. (I know, I know, bear with me. Analogies always sound weird.) If you wanted to say more than that, you would embellish and say something more exciting, something more convincing, to pin down just how good the soup really is.

This makes it a bit surprising when you come to the Bible's statement that "God is good." Unqualified. Unspecified. Unembellished. Just good.

When we say that God is good, we aren't just saying that He isn't bad, and we aren't even saying that He excels in a particular point. He is good. The phrase needs no qualification, because unlike your situation with the bowl of soup, you do mean every single use of good in this context. He is beautiful, just, satisfying, strong, gentle... Everything you can rightly call good is found in its deepest sense in Him. And why embellish it? Once you try to say just how good He is, you're setting a limit. But there isn't any limit, and I suppose that is why the phrase is so simple. It leaves the door open for God's goodness to reach as high and as deep and as wide as it really does, beyond the comprehension of our minds.

He is good. In the deepest, truest, broadest, most terrifyingly brilliant way imaginable. And of course, more than that, because our imaginations cannot do it justice. He is the sort of good you recognize at the happiest moments of your life, at the times when you see beauty so stunning that you cannot speak, at the times when music makes your skin tingle, at the times when someone treats you so kindly and gently that you start to cry, and you cannot understand it. And those are just shadows of how good He is. Tastes. Whiffs. Touches. Glimpses.

If I had to boil down everything, everything, to a single statement of truth, if the whole universe could somehow be compacted, sucked into a tiny pinpoint of reality, and then named, I would say, "God is good." I am alive because He is good, and somehow His goodness motivated Him to make me. Same for every other person. Same for every creature, every thing, every material, every atom that exists. He is sovereign (I suppose that's some of what we mean by "God" -- a being that is in control of it all), and He is good, and therefore everything is as it is because in some way or other, He in His goodness wanted it so. Every question in the world, if you trace it back long enough, is answered by those three words.

The world in which we live is the story that this God, the God Who is good, has written. I think it is safe to say that the story will be good as well. Deeply, broadly, breath-takingly good. So take heart, friends. Take heart, and marvel, and rejoice always, for God is good.


  1. When Dr. Arnn posits, "What is The Good?", I want to shoot back, "God is." And like you said, exploring the nuts and bolts of goodness sometimes limits "good" itself. Goodness is goodness, and there's really no way to pin it down because the thing about goodness is that it shows up in the most unlikely places and unlikely ways. I've even seen goodness in the dark places -- in discipline, in pain -- so perhaps goodness isn't always happy. It is, however, always good.

    B T Dubs:

    Over lunch, we must eventually discuss something I've been curious about. I did a quick search of all the times good is used in reference to God (in the ESV, of course). Goodness is an aspect of God -- generally used to describe a particular characteristic (e.g. His steadfast love is good) or His gifts or creation. God alone is good, as Jesus said. But nowhere is God defined as goodness. He is, however, defined as love -- not just loving, but love itself. Love is the sum of His nature. Love ought to characterize His disciples. Love sums up all the law and the prophets. So basically, I'm just curious as to the interplay between Love and goodness. Is The Good really the main pursuit of life, or is Love? Or is Love The Good?

    Figure this out for me, my philosophical friend. Lovies!

    1. Precisely. I was actually thinking about writing another post about goodness showing up all over the place and especially in unlikely circumstances... Great minds think alike. Or perhaps weird ones do. ;)
      Oh, fascinating! I eagerly await this conversation, and I will be contemplating the subject in preparation. Thank you so very much for bringing it up, my dear.