When difficult circumstances arise or life becomes mundane, we find ourselves either overwhelmed or numb or a combination of the two. I find in my own life these are the very seasons when I most struggle to see and acknowledge God's presence and goodness. Instead of worshiping, I grumble. Instead of seeking him, I grow passive and apathetic. Sometimes even the busyness created by good things makes me prone to seek solace in the created rather than the Creator. Where is God? And what is he doing? A fog rolls in, clouding my view of him, and I start to believe the fog is what's most true.
But God is there, available, having made himself reachable to us. How, then, can we find God's goodness when we've started believing it's not actually there to find? Where do we find him when the fog has rolled in?
Come Awake to Creation
Psalm 19:1-2 says, "The heavens are telling of the glory of God; and their expanse is declaring the work of his hands. Day to day pours forth speech. And night to night reveals knowledge." In other words, we must notice the created: the stars, the rain, the blade of grass, the barren tree in winter. All speak of a God who has designed and who continues to nourish and who brings forth life out of silence. He has set rhythms in nature that he's sustained since time began, and noticing these things speaks so much to us of his goodness to care for all he's created, including us. Though he is silent--the winter speaks this most of all--he is never still. He is ever working.
When was the last time you truly noticed God's creation? Are you too distracted by the manmade and perhaps allowing your own heart's cloudiness? Go outside and look. If all you can see today is manmade, look up at the sky. How does what you see speak of the One who created it?
Search Scripture for Security
Creation is called God's general revelation while the Bible is called his specific revelation, meaning we can look more specifically at who he is through the Scripture and what the walking, talking Christ reveals about his character. I grew up believing the Bible was one giant to-do (or don't do) list, but that only placed a focus on self and an attempt to earn God's goodness. When I began instead to look for God's character and his actions on behalf of his people, I discovered a God who is infinitely good, and I found my place within his people as a recipient of his goodness through Christ.
Are you a student of the Scriptures? If not, what are you looking to for security? Confess this to the Lord, because nothing else is truly secure and he is jealous for you. Start your search of the Scripture by reading Ephesians 1:3-14 and making two lists: 1) What has God done on your behalf? and 2) What does that say about who you are?
Label Life Correctly
John 3:27 says, "A person cannot receive even one thing unless it is given him from heaven." Even one thing. In other words, all the gifts in your life, including the hope and perseverance you've learned through trials, have come from God's good hands. The place where you live, the gifts and skills you use in your daily life, the relationships you enjoy, and those circumstances you count as blessings--all are God's grace to you.
In my life, I've found it especially helpful to consider my successes and recognize those as not from my own hard work and unique skill but as opportunities and blessings from God. This perspective breeds thanksgiving and humility and helps me rest, knowing it's not up to me to "keep" success or develop future success on my own. Knowing all of life is a gift means we don't have to fear the future.
What gifts in your life do you enjoy? Write them out and thank God for each one. If you don't know where to start, you can begin with the breath in your lungs and the bread on your dinner table. Each are a simple gift of grace.
Connect the Dots Between Failures and God's Good Discipline
Hebrews 12:7-8 says, "It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline. If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons."
Sometimes God disciplines us. He points out our idolatry and calls us back to himself. He allows us to suffer the consequences of our sin. Even in our confession and repentance, we feel the weight of choosing something other than him, and this can often feel like a bit of fogginess and heaviness rather than God's goodness. How good it is, however, that God has pointed out what we couldn't see and has made a way for our return to him. How good it is that God patiently and lovingly disciplines, showing us the path of life.
How is God convicting and disciplining you? Are you confessing, repenting, and waiting on him to do what work needs to be done in your heart? Name out loud to him and to others that this is his goodness to you that he has not left you in destructive sin patterns.
Seek Refuge in the Psalms
When we are questioning God's goodness to us, we are often also at our most emotional. We're grieving, feeling abandoned or rejected, questioning and uncertain. Emotions, however, are not the enemy. In fact, they often act as arrows, pointing us to what lies deep in the heart and offering us an invitation to connect intimately with the one who knows our hearts more than we know them ourselves. In other words, we take our feelings to God, and we find that he cares, and when we find that he cares, we know that he can carry the full weight of our emotions. We seek refuge as we cast our cares upon him.
One way we find God's goodness in the midst of deep emotion is to seek God in the Psalms. The Psalms show the range of human emotion and how humans wrestle their way back to trusting God. They give voice to our own thoughts. They teach us that God isn't impatient with our emotion and is close to the brokenhearted.
What emotions characterize the fog you're in? Have you laid your feelings out before God and applied the truth of the Psalms to them? Read Psalm 40 today and find God's character in answer to your deepest cry.
Listen and Learn from Others
First Corinthians 12 describes the church as a body, with Christ as its head. We are united with others, there for one another's edification and sanctification. In other words, we need the ministry of others, and they need our ministry to them. When we cannot see the goodness of God, when a fog has rolled in and the truth of who God is remains clouded, we often need others to help us see. We must listen to their stories of God's faithfulness and learn truth spoken from human lips. Fellow believers are a gift of God's goodness to us.
Are you in community with others at the relational level where you are sharing and hearing stories of God's faithfulness? Are you listening to the proclamation of God's Word? Are you placing yourself under the authority of Scripture and learning from the "great cloud of witnesses" who've gone before us?
Know What God Has Promised
In my own life when I've questioned the goodness of God, it's often because he's allowed a circumstance in my life I believed I didn't deserve. The truth is that, although Jesus promised we'd have trouble in this world, we often want to believe the very opposite, that Jesus will save us from trouble and fix our every trouble if we simply have enough faith. I heard someone say recently that God's promise is his presence, and I think this is the heart and foundation of all his promises. If we're a Christian, we have God's indwelling presence with us always. We can't be separated from him, and thus we can't be separated from his love. Because He is always with us, we have security when the fog of circumstances rolls in or our emotions are disconcerting. This is his goodness, indeed.
What are the promises of God? What are you believing that isn't actually a promise of God but rather how you wish he'd act? How is his indwelling presence a good promise to you today?