His (Nahum 1:7)

The LORD is good,
A stronghold in the day of trouble,
And He knows those who take refuge in Him.

Nahum 1:7

Too often, I find that the world in which I live foists upon my mind the question of whether or not God is good. The question is asked by many. Parents who see children die ask how God can be good. Spouses who must surrender their beloved to wasting illness pose the question. People who see the suffering in the world ask the question regularly. The trouble is that nigh all of these askers pose the question in the form of “How can God be good if He allows _____?” The blank is usually populated by some form of suffering. The implication being that God is either impotent to effect the surcease of suffering or that He permits it to continue and is some form of sadist for so doing. Since I have seen a few days of trouble in my three dozen years, I record the following insights.

First: God is good. Nahum writes it and I have experienced it for myself. When my youngest sister passed away for no earthly reason, God was good. He was our Comfort. And, yes, the capital letter is warranted. When a long relationship dissolved and the splash damage from it took others under with it, God was there to walk through the difficulty with me. Why these examples? Because Nahum notes that God is a stronghold in the day of trouble. When trouble comes, I can rest assured that God is there to comfort me and shelter me when things get unendurable.

Second: God is not obliged to protect those who are not His own. Often, those who mewl about how unjust it is for God not to intervene and stop “bad things” from happening are not His. More, these are frequently those who deny His existence entirely. Nahum notes that He knows those who take refuge in Him. God knows which people are His and which are not. If a person is not God’s, then why does that person think God is obliged to do something for them? My parents were not obliged to raise other people’s children. I am not on the hook for maintaining my neighbor’s car. That which belongs to me, I care for. That which does not belong to me consumes whatever of my attentions is left over, should I choose so to invest those energies. I might, just as readily and equitably, choose to invest my energies in hobbies or betterment of myself. God knows who belongs to Him and He takes care of His own. Sure, I go through rough patches, but I trust my God and He shelters me. I know that the trials could be much worse than they are, but He makes them endurable.

Last: just because God can does not mean that He should. So many years ago that I will not embarrass myself by giving the number, my da took me to see Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. Yes, I am a huge nerd. In that film, the President of Star Fleet gives a speech in which he says, “Let us redefine ‘progress’ … just because we can do a thing it does not follow that we must do that thing.” To many, this speech was probably background noise to what was happening on screen. To me, it was truth being spoken. Just because we can; have the ability to do a thing, it does not follow that we must do that thing. I am able to do many things. Some of which are right and good and probably ought to be done. Some of which are ill-advised. Others still are just plain wrong. I, like many, am perfectly capable of going guano insane and running people off the road in my vehicle. That is wrong. Just because I can do it does not mean that I must, or even ought to do it. Before we blather on about whether or not God can do a thing, perhaps we should stop to ask whether or not He should. If He were to stop all the violence and suffering in the world, it would require turning all humanity into automatons. We would obey His commands without question and thereby end all suffering. It would be wonderful. Except that without freewill, we would not have the ability to love and would be unable to adhere to the two commands in which Jesus summed up the entirety of the OT: love God and love each other. Sure, He could strip us of our freewill and He is totally able to remove all suffering. In fact, He has promised that He will one day do exactly that. Part of why I do not piss and moan about suffering now is that I know much of it is our own doing and I know further that He will eventually do away with both cause and effect; sin and suffering.

Will I sometimes wonder about the goodness of God? I suspect so. However, I wish to come back to this place of remembrance when I do and be reminded that God is good; a refuge to me in my times of trouble and He knows that I am His.

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