I have a difficult time attributing good things to God’s activity. This is not to say that I don’t think God makes good things happen. I absolutely believe that. I recently wrote about my relocation to Arizona last summer and I still look back at how smoothly that all went, and I know that only God can do that. I know that God makes good things happen. However, I’m very wary of the language we use attributing good events to God when God is active in every situation. Is God any less good when bad things happen? Did God step out of the room and lose control of what’s going on when things don’t go smoothly?
I’ve not figured out this conundrum. God is good. All the time. We chant this in church (I find church chanting very creepy and cult-like, but that’s a whole other thing). It seems that every time something great happens we are quick to praise God but anytime something “bad” happens we attribute it to the other side. I don’t think God causes bad things to happen but the fact that bad things do happen don’t change God’s character. Developing the ability to see God at work in all circumstances should be something high on the list of priorities of anyone who claims to be a follower of God.
Part of it seems to stem from our definitions of “good” and “bad” and that they’re different from God’s. We define “good” as “things we like, want, or wanted to happen” and “bad” as “things we don’t like, make us uncomfortable, or didn’t want to happen.” I think God’s definition of “good” is more like “things that bring us closer to God, make us more like Jesus, help us see & bring the kingdom of God on earth.” This can, and often does, include things that we define as “bad”, but when seen in the light of God’s definition, the lens through which we see life’s difficulties should change to sharpen our view of God’s activity in our lives.
In the New Testament, the Greek word for “blessed” does not mean “happy” as it is so often translated. It actually means “To experience the fullness of God.” I’ve talked about this before, but I think it bears repeating because that’s a lot different than the simple “happy”. This is most obvious when reading the Beatitudes.
One view of this passage is that there is a progression of spiritual formation here, beginning with the realization of our spiritual poverty without God and progressing through a pursuit of God which culminates in…being persecuted. Who’s in? Knowing the fullness of God is the light at the end of life’s darker tunnels. The goal is God With Us, not God Giving Us Stuff, or God Helping Us Out Of A Jam. God With Us.
Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, 2 and he began to teach them.
3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
5 Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.
7 Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
8 Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.
9 Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.
10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.