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God is Good All the Time

God is Good All the Time

Editor’s note: Death and suffering comes to all of us. Tim Challies shares his very personal journey of trauma and heartache after the loss of his son and finding comfort in Jesus.

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I’ve heard of an old man, a stalwart of the Christian faith, who slipped from earth to heaven with the words of a child’s song upon his lips: “I have decided to follow Jesus, no turning back.”

I’ve heard the account of a renowned theologian who summarized his entire life’s work in a melody he learned upon his mother’s knee: “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.”1 Sometimes the simplest words are the most important. Though we hike beyond theological foothills to explore the towering mountains of God’s thoughts and deeds, we never forget the beauty, never stop needing the blessing, of the simplest truths.

I once attended a church where it was the custom of the pastor to pause in his liturgies or sermons to say, “God is good,” to which the congregation would reply, “All the time.” Then he would say, “All the time,” and the congregation would answer, “God is good.” It was a recital of the simplest of truths — that goodness is not an occasional attribute of God, not an infrequent disposition, but a constant one. It was meant to remind us that God’s goodness does not vary with our circumstances but is fully present and on display in our worst moments as well as our best, in our most lamentable experiences as well as our most joyful. And though the pastor’s little phrase may have become trite over time, though I may have grumbled about it in the past, today, right now, nothing is more precious to me, nothing is more important to me, than this:

God is good all the time, and all the time God is good.

This is not the only truth that is propping me up.

I’ve heard people in grief speak of God’s sovereignty, perhaps repeating a well-known phrase that compares it to a pillow upon which the child of God rests his head, giving perfect peace.2 Sovereignty speaks to power and the right to reign. It is the attribute of kings or potentates or others in positions of supremacy. Ultimately, it is an attribute of God himself, who rules Heaven and earth to such a degree that nothing happens or can happen apart from his will. Nothing is given to us that does not pass first through God’s own hand.3 God’s sovereignty is a sweeping doctrine that touches every aspect of life across every moment of creation and every corner of the universe. There is no moment, no spot, no deed, no death, that falls outside of it.

God’s sovereignty is offering me comfort in these dark days. It assures me that there was no earthly power, no demonic power, no fate or force above or below, that had its way with my boy, that interrupted or superseded God’s plan for him. There was no mo- ment in which God turned his back or got distracted with other affairs or nodded off to sleep. There was no medical deformity or genetic abnormality that had been overlooked by God. God’s sovereignty assures me that it was ultimately no one’s will but God’s that Nick lived just twenty short years, that he died with so much left undone, that he has departed and we have been left here without him. When Job was told of the death of his children, he did not say, “The Lord gave, and the devil has taken away,” but

The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away.

And with that certainty he blessed the name of that Lord.4

But while God’s sovereignty offers comfort, it offers comfort only if I know something more, something of his character. After all, God might be sovereign and capricious. He might be sovereign and selfish. He might be sovereign and arbitrary. He might be sovereign and evil. So for this reason I ask, “What else is true of God?”

If I am laying my head on any pillow in these days, it is the pillow of God’s goodness. I keep saying it: “God is good all the time.” I may be saying it with sorrow and bewilderment and something less than full faith. I may be saying it as a question: “God is good all the time, right?” But I am saying it. I don’t necessarily understand how God is good in this, or why taking my son is consistent with His goodness, but I know it must be. If Nick’s death was not a lapse in God’s sovereignty, it was also not a lapse in His goodness. If there was no moment in which God stopped being sovereign, there is no moment in which He stopped being good — good toward me, good toward my family, good toward Nick, good according to His perfect wisdom.

God can’t not be good!

God’s goodness means that everything God is and everything God does is worthy of approval, for He Himself is the very standard of goodness. Those things that are good are those things that God deems good, that God deems fitting, that God deems appropriate. For something to be good is for it to meet the approval of God, and for something to meet the approval of God is for it to be good.5 If that’s the case, then

who am I to declare evil what God has declared good?

Who am I to condemn what God has approved? It falls to me to align my own understanding of goodness with God’s, to rely on God’s understanding of good to inform my own. Ultimately, it’s to agree that if God did it, it must be good, and if it is good, it must be worthy of approval. To say, “Thy will be done,” is to say, “Thy goodness be shown.” It’s to seek out evidence of God’s goodness even in the hardest of His providences. It’s to worship Him, even with a broken heart.

  1. The first anecdote I heard long ago but cannot now place; the second is widely attributed to Karl Barth.
  2. This is widely attributed to Charles Spurgeon, but I’ve had trouble tracing it to its original source.
  3. See “Lord's Day 10” (Q&A 27),, Canadian Reformed Theological Seminary, accessed April 19, 2022, www.heidel
  4. Job 1:21.
  5. See Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical

Excerpted with permission from Seasons of Sorrow by Tim Challies, copyright Tim Challies.

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Your Turn

Oh, this is so hard! When the Lord does or allows something that breaks our hearts, it’s a spiritual wrestling match to still declare, “God is good all the time!”. Yet, trusting Him and His goodness is imperative for the believer. Let’s struggle and yet believe! ~ Devotionals Daily