Monday, November 24, 2008

He's Good

Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever.

                        Psalm 107.1

Think About It

The great gospel hymn, “Think of His Goodness,” opens with this: “When waves of affliction sweep over the soul/And sunlight is hidden from view/If ever you’re tempted to fret or complain/Just think of His goodness to you.” It’s a bracing expansion on Psalm 107’s opening. God is good to us. That’s reason enough to give Him thanks. Overlaying that with the hymn taps into a powerful aspect of thanksgiving we often disregard. Moments of despair, alienation, and anxiety are prime times to thank God for His goodness. When there’s nothing top of mind to thank God for, it asks us to search the past for examples where He proved His goodness in the end. Thinking about past goodness leads to thanking God for present goodness. We may not see or feel it, but experience teaches us it’s there and we’re grateful for it—and grateful we know it.

Not Optional

Just as headaches make us reach for aspirin, soul-aches prompt us to reach for thanksgiving. It’s the best antidote for whatever ails us. Paul was so convinced of this he made the pastoral decision that thanksgiving wasn’t optional, not a “nice to do” or a “need to do,” but a “must do.” “Give thanks in all circumstances,” he wrote in 1 Thessalonians 5.18, “for this is God’s will for you.” Whether things are fine or not so fine, God intends us to be thankful. He wills this for our benefit, not His. He already knows He’s good without us telling Him.

By casting thankfulness as obedience to God’s will, Paul implies an operational principle is in effect. It’s slightly complicated and takes a minute or two to unravel, but it greatly improves our insight about why we must respect thanksgiving as imperative and profitable for us. God’s sole purpose in expecting us to thank Him is our harvesting the good that grows when we turn from our situations to consider His goodness. Therefore, asking we give Him thanks in all things is in itself proof of His goodness, another gift we should thank Him for.

Before and Behind

“Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever,” Psalm 107.1 says. God loves us because He’s good and He’s good to us because He’s love. It’s a closed system, an infinite cycle. Jeremiah 31.3 reads, “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness.’” Since we live facing forward, “everlasting love” invites us to look ahead and see God’s love—and, therefore, His goodness—never ends. Here, however, He speaks of the past. He’s always loved us, always been good to us. There was never a moment of decision about this. Before the beginning, His love and goodness existed.

In many ways, it’s harder to imagine that God’s goodness and love have no origin than their having no endpoint. Yet just as they existed eternally before, they continue eternally behind. “Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever,” David writes in Psalm 23. Infinite goodness and love sprawl out in front us. Wherever we go, they follow. We dwell eternally in them. Because they’ve always been and will always be, they always are. By comparison, thankless problems and fears are, at best, miniscule particles fleeting through time. A former pastor sometimes greeted us with, “God is good all the time,” and we answered, “All the time, He’s good!” That’s the meat in our thanks. All the other stuff is gravy.

Daily fears and struggles are fleeting, but God's goodness and love always were, always will be, and therefore always are. That's all the reason we need to give thanks.

(Tomorrow: Ingrates)


johnmichael said...

There are many times I forget the past goodness...and in times of struggle I ask "why me?". Sometimes it takes me a moment of reflection before I realize that these few shaky steps are just that, a few shaky steps (and I continually tell myself that if God takes me to it, He'll take me through it...or I tell myself Let Go and Let God). Sometimes I see that there was a point to those tiring/trying moments, sometimes not. But in the end, I always know that God was with me through it all.

Tim said...

"If God takes me to it, He'll take me though it!"

I LOVE that! And you're right, John; sometimes we come through things and see what the point behind them was, sometimes it's not so clear. That's where faith's "unseen evidence" works. And, indeed, that may be the point after all--teaching us to trust God's goodness is present, even when there's no proof of it in sight!

Thanks for this. You've given us all something to think about.

Be blessed,