The Attributes of God: Good
You’ve likely heard this call and response exchange between brothers and sisters in Christ:
I say, “God is good!”
Y’all say, “All the time!”
I say, “All the time!”
Y’all say, “God is good.”
This kind of exchange is a corporate testimony of both one’s personal experience of God’s goodness and the veracity of God’s goodness. We often think of God’s goodness in what He does in relation to us, rather than thinking of His goodness as an aspect of His person or character.
We can all testify God is good. But His goodness is not merely a response to our circumstances, though we have experienced His goodness in the midst of our circumstances. He’s good because He’s God!
“Oh give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; for His steadfast love endures forever!” Psalm 118:1
If we settle into thinking of God’s goodness only in experiential terms and fail to meditate on His goodness as “the essence of His eternal nature” (Pink), then we underappreciate who God is and miss this aspect of His divine “otherness”. Arthur Pink clarifiers this idea when he explains that “God’s goodness is underived, for it is the essence of His eternal nature.”
We see the goodness of God in His essence. God is essentially and fundamentally at His core good. It is in the divine nature of God to be good and to do good: “You are good and do good” (Psalm 119:68a emphasis mine).
Out of God’s nature flows His actions. We see similarity in other attributes of God, namely God is love. It is who He is. Because He is love, His actions flow out of love. Over and over in the Scriptures, we see this connectedness between God’s character and His actions. We see the repeated pattern of “because of who He is, this is what He does”, or out of His goodness, this is how He acts. He demonstrates His goodness to us, proving He really is who He says He is.
"Good and upright is the Lord; therefore he instructs sinners in the way." Psalm 25:8
"For the Lord is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations." Psalm 100:5
We see the goodness of God in creation. All God created is good (1 Timothy 4:4). We’re introduced to this idea in Genesis 1:4. There it tells us the light He made was “good”, meaning pleasing, excellent, beneficial.
Since God is good, it follows that everything He brings into existence is good. When He said, “Let there be”, what resulted could only be good because it came from our good God. When He surveyed His creation, He pronounced its connection to His divine nature by calling it good. Humanity is not like God in this. We don’t always recognize what is good. We call evil good and good evil. We need to derive our notions of what is good from God, not from our own ideas of goodness. Adam and Eve learned this lesson, and creation will continue to pay the price until Christ returns and makes all things new and altogether good.
We see the goodness of God in His common grace: “He himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything” (Acts 17:25). The fact we live and move and have our being is because of the kindness and goodness of God. He provides for and preserves all of His creation. He gives sinners time to repent. He restrains sin and evil in the world. He gives wisdom and skill and knowledge to us all.
We see the goodness of God in our common experiences of suffering and pain. How could this be? If God is good and everything He created is good, what about cancer? What about the death of a loved one? What about dysfunctional families? What about marginalization and racism and sexism and poverty and environmental degradation? How can we say God is good with so much evil in the world?
Here’s the thing. Scripture reminds us that “the Lord is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble” (Nahum 1:7). He does not leave us to suffer alone. He is with us as our stronghold, our refuge, our deliverer, our comfort. What we need in our day of trouble, He is. God uses the pain and suffering of this fallen world for good. Did he not use Adam and Eve’s sin to bring about a pathway of redemption for all humanity? Did he not use David’s sin and eventual repentance for good? Did he not use Job’s experience to teach us how to suffer well and trust God in all circumstances?
Most importantly of all, did God not demonstrate His goodness to us through the sacrifice of His own Son for our eternal good?
“But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to His own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by His grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life." Titus 3:4-7
What is the believer’s proper response to God’s goodness? Because we know God is good in His very essence, in creation, in the dispensing of His common grace, and even in our suffering, then we can trust Him in all things. And when we trust in His goodness whether we experience joy or trials, we can “praise the Lord, for the Lord is good; sing to his name, for it is pleasant” (Psalm 135:3). Or as the songwriter says, “praise Him anyway, in the middle of it”.
Whatever it is for you, God can use it to demonstrate His goodness. For indeed “the Lord is good to all, and his mercy is over all that he has made" (Psalm 145:9).
Kristie Anyabwile is a pastor's wife, mom, Bible teacher, and author of His Testimonies, My Heritage: Women of Color on the Word of God, which will be released in September. She works with the Charles Simeon Trust as the Associate Director of Women's Workshops, helping to equip Bible teachers. She disciples and teaches women in her church and joyfully supports her husband of 27 years, Thabiti, as he pastors Anacostia River Church in Washington, DC. They have 3 children.