Wednesday, April 4, 2012

God's Goodness Exceeds Our Normalcy

"God is good!"

It's a phrase I heard a lot of people repeating yesterday when learning that friends and loved ones had escaped the wrath of north Texas' destructive tornadoes.  I probably even said it myself, and I certainly thought it.

After all, it's a normal reaction from people of faith upon learning some good news after a disaster.

But just because it's a normal reaction, is it entirely Biblical?

Yes, as the saying goes, God is good.  But He's good all the time.  All the time, God is good.  When we think things are going well, and when we think things are terrible, God is still good.  He can't not be good.  Amen?

So, if and when we learn that friends and loved ones have suffered injury, damage, and even death after tragedies like tornadoes, why do we still not say, with equal enthusiasm and relief, "God is good!"

Sure, we respond to bad news with prayerful condolences and reminders that God is in control, which is also true.  But don't you have a hard time saying "God is good" when bad things happen?  Even yesterday, although probably 99% of us residents here in the Dallas - Fort Worth area escaped damage and harm, several hundred of our neighbors have lost their homes, and a couple dozen have been injured.  Was God bad to those people because He didn't spare them like He spared the rest of us?

Did those people deserve to have their homes flattened, their cars whipped through their neighborhoods, and their health compromised?  Did the rest of us who suffered only frayed nerves yesterday afternoon as the storms ravaged north Texas deserve to emerge relatively unscathed?  Is God capricious in His goodness?

What's left of what was a two-story single-family residence in the Dallas suburb of Forney. As far as we know, nobody was injured here.  Photo by Wayne Walker, a friend of mine and a resident of the same neighborhood, whose home was spared any damage.

Theologically, we know that God is not capricious.  His goodness is everlasting.  God is indeed good all the time.  So why do we affirm that truth only when, well... things are going well for us?  

When we're relieved that friends and loved ones - not to mention ourselves - are spared from harm and calamity, might we be taking for granted the very normalcy to which we're comparing that harm and calamity?  We assume that normalcy equates to something that we deserve, we've earned, or something to which we're somehow entitled.  Normalcy serves as a benchmark for everything better or worse that happens to us.

At least, that's how I view normalcy in my own life.  I place a high value on my normalcy, even though my lifestyle is not what I would consider to be luxurious or glamorous.  Compared to Majority World residents, where even electricity and clean water are luxuries, my level of normalcy is quite desirable.  But here in the United States, few Americans would look at my normalcy and be content with it.  I'm not even content with it, but it's my normalcy, and it's what I know.  I know how to function in it, and I know it's better that what it could be.  Enhancements to my normalcy would be welcomed, but compromises to it?  Not so much.

In the back of our minds, we know that our normalcy could fall to standards far lower than what we currently enjoy.  So when we're spared the sudden danger of being kicked down a few notches in our comfort levels by something like a destructive tornado, we heave a sigh of relief and credit God with not subjecting us to a reality worse than what we currently know.  And again, that's probably human nature to react with such relief - and yes, even genuine gratitude.

After all, I don't think it's healthy to wish that bad things would happen to us.  I don't think we express a genuine appreciation for the things with which God entrusts us when we either view them with disdain or cavalierly dismiss their value.   Or take them for granted.

There's nothing wrong with having things that make our lives safer and more comfortable.  But don't we instead value that stuff too much?  Don't we value our normalcy, and the comforts we enjoy in it, more than we should?  How often do we relish the truth Job proclaimed:  "The Lord giveth, and the Lord taketh away.  Blessed be the name of the Lord."

I'm grateful for all of the many things with which God has blessed us Americans.  Our standards for homebuilding are high, our technology is world-class, and our economy - at least here in north Texas - is robust enough to power our area through the rebuilding process after yesterday's storms.  Most homeowners have insurance that may not cover all of their losses, but at least nobody was forced to spend the night out in the damp cold, and nobody missed a hot meal because our community didn't respond quickly enough.

The extent to which we've come to assume that we deserve these amenities, however, might dull our appreciation for the fact that our every breath is a gift from God.  All of the biological faculties we employ to make our morning cup of coffee, or brush our teeth, or drive to work, or read this blog entry via the Internet are gifts from God.  We deserve none of it.  It's just that our highly developed lifestyle in the United States has jaded us into thinking that destructive storms deprive us of things that we deserve.  Things for which we've worked, and saved, and expended sweat equity.

Literally, however, we should proclaim daily these words from the Apostle Paul:

"I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.  I can do everything through him who gives me strength." - Philippians 4:12-13

We can't measure God's goodness by our normalcy.  But we can always be grateful that His goodness is always better than what we deserve.

Of course, this is so much easier for me to say when I'm sitting in my air-conditioned home that didn't even once lose electricity during yesterday's fierce weather.  As I look out my window on this sparklingly sunny day after the storms, no debris lays across anybody's lawns in my neighborhood, and all of our trees are firmly rooted into the ground.  Cars aren't stacked on top of each other like firewood, and roofing shingles don't litter the street.

I don't mind telling you that I hope God never allows me to experience the devastation some of my fellow north Texans are experiencing today. And frankly, I can only hope that if He ever does, God will bring to my mind the very things I'm claiming here today with what I know is a comparatively untested credibility. 

So even if you don't need to hear it again as much I do, let's say it like we believe it:

"Praise the Lord!  He is good.  All the time!"

1 comment:

  1. Right on, Tim! When we start talking about 'deserve' we're in trouble.


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