A pastor stands up in his pulpit and shouts out to his congregation, “God is good!” And as if on command, everyone in the pews shout back in unison, “ALL THE TIME!”
If you’ve grown up in church settings or been around Christians at all, you’ve heard these sing-song chants—declarations of the goodness of God, of his mercy and love, and of his sovereignty and loving nature.
But then someone dies of cancer.
And then someone is raped.
Your spouse doesn’t love you anymore.
Or your parents get divorced.
Someone might be abused.
Poverty kills millions.
Children die from lack of water and food.
A tornado wipes out your town.
You lose your job.
Or like me, you give birth to a beautiful 5 lb girl whose skull and parts of her brain didn’t form, causing her to die in your arms, even though you prayed every night fervently with your husband, blessing her spirit and believing for wholeness and life in her body.
The goodness of God is challenged every day with the punches of life. And as far as I can see, we’ve all been punched repeatedly. There are some that appear to be hit more than others with a deck that’s stacked against them because of the country they’re born into, the parents they have, the poverty they know, or their personal loss or abuse. But at the end of the day, sometimes it seems as if life is on a mission to simply knock us all out cold.
Even Jesus knew about the punches of life. In John 16:33 he said, “In this world, you WILL have trials.” I can’t think of anyone better to validate that fact than the one who was rejected, beaten, whipped until his flesh showed, pierced with a crown of thorns, spit on, stabbed with a spear, and then brutally crucified.
Punch. Punch. Punch. Punch. Knockout.
As Christians, most of us wouldn’t have any problem shouting out in unison with a congregation that our God is good, because it’s what we’ve been programmed to say. But if a lot of us are honest with what’s going on in our hearts, we’ve all had questions that challenged His goodness when these punches come with their sting.
How can God be good and when I was sexually abused?
How can God be good if my loved one died of cancer?
How can God be good when I’ve lost everything?
How can God be good with so much death and destruction on the earth?
How can God be good when bad things still happen to good people?
I’ve asked all of these questions, and many more, at some point in my life. But because of these questions, I’ve gone on a journey within scripture, and with the person of Jesus Christ, and as a result of that journey, here’s a fact that I’m absolutely sure of:
My God did not kill my daughter, take her back to heaven because he needed her more than I did, take her life for the sake of making me a better person, give her anencephaly, nor was it “His will” for her to be deformed and die a premature death.
And I’d love to tell you why I believe that.
Let’s fly up from the lens of our worldview and attempt a birds-eye-view for just a moment. When you focus on the bug that splatted on your clean car windshield, it’s all that you can see—sometimes making that little bug seem like the biggest thing in your universe. But when you stop, taking your gaze off of the bug, refocusing on the expanse of scenery that stretches out in front of you, you forget about the splat.
Let’s take a moment to fly above our personal “bugs”….our problems, lack, abuse, rejection, poverty, death, loss, and pain. Let’s fly up and try to see the world as God sees it.
In the beginning, GOD.
And who is this God? He is the Trinity—3 in 1—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. (Phil 1:2, Titus 2:13, Acts 5:3-4). In Him was perfect relationship, fellowship, and intimacy, the Father relating to the Son, the Son fellowshipping with the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit in intimacy with the Father.
Within this reality, we have the will of God perfectly displayed. LOVE.
This ‘will’ was very clear in Genesis 1-3 when God created the world. He created light, time, earth, vegetation, living creatures, saving his grand finale for something entirely new: MANKIND. And why was mankind so different than everything else he created? Because mankind was created in His image.
Let’s think about ‘in His image’ for a minute. My son, Moses, looks like me because he has my DNA. He has my little nose. He has my eye shape. And as we’re learning in mothers-day-out, he loves to tell the teacher what to do, so he definitely has my personality for leadership! He’s created in my image and he looks, and acts, like me.
Dear friend, you have the nature of God, so you look like him, too. Why do you think you cry every time an episode of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition comes on television and a widow gets a new house? It’s why we’re glued to our TV when Oprah gives away cars to everyone in the audience. It’s why we love movies like The Karate Kid where the skinny kid beats the muscled, cruel ninja master. Think about it for a minute—when’s the last time you can remember the good guy NOT saving the day at a movie, in a book, or in a story? There’s a reason why our art reflects this nature—-we love goodness. Why? Because it’s inside our DNA, no matter what we believe—every person on the planet was created to have the DNA of the goodness of God.
Adam had that DNA, as well. And because of it, God knew that it wasn’t good for Adam to be alone. The Trinity was in existence far before man ever breathed his first breath—and God had perfect relationship, fellowship, and intimacy within Himself.
It’s hard to release goodness when you’re all alone, isn’t it? God knew it wasn’t good for Adam to hang out on the earth without someone to be ‘one’ with, so he showed HIS WILL when he gave him a companion, Eve. Then, he showed HIS WILL when he created a world that provided for him in abundance. He showed HIS WILL to be fruitful and multiply. He showed HIS WILL for fellowship, so he hung out with him in the garden.
The will of God is for goodness, fellowship, abundance, creativity, fruitfulness, and intimacy to be released. That’s the way God set up existence in the garden, displaying his ultimate intention for all of mankind—-LIFE.
So what went wrong??
As a mother, my will for my son is that he doesn’t hit girls. Hitting girls isn’t a good character trait to pick up, however, his best friend Stella is his favorite target. He smiles when he lets me know, “I miss Stella! I HIT Stella!” Part of me thinks he hits Stella because he knows I’ll make him go hug and kiss her in apology. (All boy, I tell ya!). But just because something is my will for him as his mother doesn’t mean he’s going to act out my will. Why?
Because my son has free will.
And so did Adam and Eve. And so do you. Mankind will always hold the power of choice.
As a loving Creator, do we really believe it was God’s will for Adam and Eve to eat the fruit, resulting in separation, sin, death, and suffering to fall on his kids? Let’s bring this down into our world for a minute. I’m a mother of a very intelligent toddler who speaks and understands incredibly well for his age. Because of this, I haven’t ever needed to plug up the electrical outlets in our house because he's always listened and understood me so well. You do this=pain, and my kid hates pain. I’ve told Moses many times that if he puts something in the outlet, he will get hurt, and he’s listened and obeyed without even the slightest attempt. But what if one day, he decides to ignore my knowledge of the subject and exercise his free will, sticking something into that outlet? If he does, there’s nothing I will be able to do to stop the electrical current that will course through is little body, even though I would want to stop the pain with all of my heart.
It would never be my will. But he has the choice whether or not to do it.
God didn’t put a security system around the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. He displayed his amazing will for mankind with the abundance he provided for them in the paradise garden. But at the end of the day, God loved Adam and Eve so much, that He gave them their own free will….because they were created in His image.
And giving them free will is a part of truly loving them.
Giving you the choice to love God proves that He truly loves you.
You see, the essence of love always involves choice. If God created mankind and forced us to love him, that wouldn't be love at all. That would be dictatorship. For love to truly be love, it must always involve choice. In cultures where women are traded as cattle, they might perform their wifely duties as required, but it definitely doesn't mean they love their husbands. They obey them, but they don't always love them. When I was falling in love with my Studhub Lucas, I felt like my heart might explode every time I got around him. Love oozed from every pore of my body, making it hard to think, sleep, eat, or sometimes even breathe in his presence. As time goes on and love deepens, the butterflies might go away, but the depth of love roots deep as the tree grows. And the best part about it, I get to choose to love him every day of my life, even when he does something I'm not so happy about, as long as we both have breath.
Love is always a choice. And because God loves you so extravagantly, he gave you that choice whether or not to love him back.
Unfortunately, because of the choices of mankind to eat the fruit, releasing sin and death onto the earth, there have been some terrible choices made by man through the centuries.
Mankind chooses rape, murder, war, anger, cruelty, slavery, greed, corruption, sin, and death every day. Someone chooses to abuse a child, and that child grows up to be an abuser, and God gets the blame. Someone chooses out of their own anger and hatred to murder, and God gets the blame. We choose to destroy our planet, resulting in natural disasters that we blame God for. We choose to pollute our bodies with chemicals, pesticides, and processed food, causing all sorts of infirmities that we blame God for. We choose to carry bitterness, unforgiveness, hatred, anger, stress, and anxiety in our emotions, causing even more physical problems, and many times, God gets slapped with the blame.
We choose, and death happens, all around us.
My daughter's anencephaly was not the result of God willing her deformity and death on the earth. My daughter's death was the result of the choices of man long ago, releasing sin and death into this fallen world.
As my Studhub, Lucas, so eloquently said in a recent Instagram post: “In case you were curious, Christa and I believe in God's absolute goodness towards us. Though, through His love for us, God allows us the choice whether or not we subject His goodness to our pain. He knit together a whole baby. He did not take Luca before her time. She was subjected to the pain of sin and it's wake. In her honor and remembrance, I will not subject God's goodness to that same pain.
He is good. And I will subject MY pain to His goodness.”
Lucas and I have put a stake into the ground–we will not waiver from our belief in the goodness of God, no matter what happens to us in this world where sin and death have taken their toll. God showed us his will in the garden for life and relationship, and then he showed us his will, once again, when he sent his son Jesus to save us from the mess we'd made through our choices.
Which is why I'm very excited to continue writing about my Jesus tomorrow. (:
Ps. I realize that I'm embarking on subjects that will bring up all sorts of opinions. I would like to convey my heart, however, that I'm not writing about my beliefs to cause debate on my website, especially in light of my recent loss. I am absolutely fine with those who disagree with my opinions, but let me make myself very clear. I will be very quick to delete any nasty, cruel, or argumentative comments in honor of my beautiful daughter. Her life, and the reasons I write about this, are something I will treasure in my heart, hoping to bring healing and life to the hearts of the broken. Feel absolutely free to disagree with anything I've written and comment about it.
But in her memory, please make your differences of opinion known with honor, respect, and love.
Thanks so much.