Last September 26, I was asked to share a short message along with other volunteers, doctors, and parents at the Philippine General Hospital for an event: CANcer BEAT IT.
I was told that the audience would be cancer survivors, cancer patients, caregivers, doctors, donors, volunteers, and the medical staff. I planned on sharing something that would uplift them, reminding them that God is good. But knowing that I had to say this to children wearing hats to hide their hair loss,
young ones with an arm/leg amputated because of bone cancer, energetic kids with an eye patch (eye cancer), parents sitting beside their only child suffering from a terminal illness… I had to have a stronger defense to backup the claim that “God is good”. I don’t think they needed it because their faith was already established, but I needed it. God knows I needed it.
Thinking about what to share really made me internalize God’s goodness.
I know it’s an old topic, but after hearing and seeing reasons that question God’s goodness, I desperately needed an answer that I could hold on to, an explanation other than the usual “Just have faith. God is good”. I’m not saying that’s not enough, because in essence, that pretty much sums it up. But I just needed something more — perhaps a step-by-step rundown of how to arrive at the conclusion that God IS good — to convince my mind that there is an answer to the unending taunts and questions the world throws nowadays to those who believe in God. Because the truth is, whether I like it or not, most of these questions make sense.
I’ve recently heard people dismiss the Bible as a fictional novel because they cannot accept their idea of a good God to be one and the same with the God who commanded Noah to build an ark because He was going to destroy the rest of the world, or the God who told Lot to escape because He was about to throw burning sulfur to Sodom and Gomorrah. To them, the God of the Bible was a “power-tripping” God. Unacceptable. Thus, they chose to believe in a God outside of the Bible that is “more” good — a God that falls under their definition of what is good.
On the other hand, I was able to converse with a mother whose 6-month-old baby was diagnosed with leukemia. She, along with many caregivers of cancer patients, still believes that God is good. I honestly think that one of the admirable traits of Filipinos is their strong faith in God. A friend once said that Filipinos in general are visual and emotional people; their faith is strengthened by what they see and feel. I agree. We, however, lack in the aspect of faith being intellectual.
I am not a Bible expert and I’m not as smart as I want to be, but I had to begin somewhere, so this is my starting point: Man is not good (duh), and can never be completely totally purely good. Therefore, man cannot define what is truly good. Period.
Two things I realized about God’s goodness:
1. We will never understand it with our human minds, at least not yet while we’re still here on earth.
Can the framework of a pig’s mind understand the goodness of a Man — the complexity of his thoughts and motives, his feelings and convictions? For a pig to try to understand a Man within his piggy brain is impossible. For a pig, Man can be viewed as loving because Man feeds them and cares for them. For another pig, Man can be viewed as wicked for killing pigs for food. A pig can never understand the depths and the core of Man because his viewpoint and perspective will always be limited and confined to that of a pig’s. It can only make inferences from observing a Man, interpreting all his actions in the level of a pig’s mind. Unless the pig can one day become Man and experience the life of Man will it be able to understand who and what a Man really is. So, if pigs can suddenly talk and I asked them if Mother Teresa (not a vegetarian) was good, I think they’d say NO. Why? Because obviously, their idea of “good” is confined to what their minds can accept and conceive as good — something that doesn’t inflict pain or suffering.
Same goes with humans who try to comprehend God’s goodness according to their own understanding. No matter how hard we try to understand God based from observations and evidences, it will never be enough because the moment we try to comprehend God and subject Him to our human interpretation, God becomes limited. God is now confined to our intellect and logic. Imperfection is what makes humans human. A flawed and finite mind simply isn’t equipped to grasp on its own the truth and identity of an infinite sovereign God. Man’s concept of love and of justice is only as good as what we can reconcile with our logic and emotions. God’s concept of love and justice can never be logical in our eyes.
How can a good God allow innocent lives to suffer and die? Unacceptable!
But didn’t God predestined His beloved and holy Son to suffer and die for worthless criminals? Doesn’t this sound cruel and illogical as well? God’s goodness doesn’t do away with pain and suffering. On the contrary, God’s goodness becomes evident in pain, suffering, and even death.
So, the starting point is this : Man is not good, but God is good.
With that as our foundation, we can begin to (but not completely) unravel the illogical, unreasonable, and ridiculous goodness of God as we experience Him and learn more about Him from His Word. Because if you come to think of it, God’s goodness goes beyond our sanity.
2. It’s not bounded by TIME.
No pain and suffering goes unnoticed by our Father. He knows pain. He felt this when He watched them put Jesus on the cross. Why He allows us to experience pain is a question only He can answer. But we should take comfort knowing that there is an answer. And His reasons are and will always be perfect! BUT, His reasons are not bounded by time. His timetable is eternity. On that ground, His purposes behind everything will make sense once we reach eternity. Man’s understanding of what is good is bounded by time because we are beings stuck in this temporal world. Man only considers something as good if it is good NOW. Someone suffering from a terminal illness isn’t good. Physical pain is not good. Being broken and emotionally crushed is not good. Famines, wars, corruption, injustices, murder, persecution- none of these are good…now. Is death good? No.
But in the eyes of an immortal eternal all-knowing God, “precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints.” (Psalm 116:15) Death is good. Why? Because it is our entrance to our permanent and eternal dwelling place where we will be able to experience and comprehend in its totality the goodness of our almighty God.
Unless we accept and internalize that we are eternal beings momentarily stationed here on earth, we won’t be able to make sense of God’s goodness and His promise of hope in our final destination.
I’m sure there are more philosophical and theological explanations on this topic, but this is as far as I was able to go. Haha! And to be honest, this was all I needed. I’ve always known that God is good; I never doubted that truth. But I just personally needed to go through the process of purposely asking myself these questions and eventually arriving at that same conclusion.
As I was closing my sharing at the event, I asked them (in Tagalog), “Do you believe God loves you?” “OO! (YES!)”, they responded. I then added, “Do you believe that our God is good?” A resounding “OO! (YES!)” followed. Holding back tears, I realized that THEY were the speakers, and I was the audience. They already knew the answer. I knew it too, but I needed to hear it from them. And I did. What a blessing!!!