What is goodness anyway?
It seems to be a rather vague term. A quick look in the dictionary and we see a definition: “the quality of being morally good or virtuous.” That helps and yet can still appear to be general. Perhaps that is because the context in which it is used gives more clarity.
God’s goodness is connected with his faithfulness and love demonstrated through grace. And grace is the manifestation of God’s goodness. He extends love and relationship to us before we ever choose Him because He has already chosen us. That blows our mind away…or should!
We see the evidences of God’s goodness played out in the Father’s embrace in the story of The Prodigal Son. Such goodness displayed in authentic love has great power to bring about change in any one of us who is blessed to receive it.
What’s puzzling is how often we find such goodness uncomfortable.
The broken chaotic lonely life we have been living may be miserable, but at least it is something we know. Accepting goodness results in our relinquishing control and experiencing vulnerability. Both of those create fear.
Andrew J. Bauman puts this in focus in his new book, Stumbling Toward Wholeness:
“Goodness produces hope and desire, which feel entirely too susceptible to heartbreak, so we cling to control because we are convinced the goodness won’t last.”
We cannot conceive that God actually would delight in us.
“Most of us were taught that God would love us if and when we change.”
That kind of “love” we understand better. It is what we have experienced over and over again in many of our relationships from childhood onward. We have missed the point Rohr later makes:
“In fact, God loves you so that you can change.”
That resonates strongly with me. In my years of counseling others, I listened to heartbreaking stories that brought tears to my eyes while the one speaking reported the story to me as if reading a news item. Their pain had been so great that they shut off the feeling and emotion of their own story. My therapeutic skills and academic training would result in little progress unless I first could be a channel of God’s love for them.
Authentic love allows us to be who we truly are with someone without fear.
“Goodness and beauty always reveal what is truest in our hearts.
Surrendering to love is a sacred act of opening our hands, loosening control, and trusting in a God we cannot see.”
Andrew J. Bauman
Goodness expressed in authentic love and grace helps us look at ourselves as we truly are and accept the truth of that, also knowing the truth that God knew that about us all along. That is what makes all the difference. We can sigh deeply and let go of everything weighing us down with an assurance we will not be rejected. Then we can face the hard work changing the lies and habits that have bound us.
Only when the source of our love is His goodness in our own lives can we offer ourselves to be a conduit of goodness to anyone else.
“Guidance, like all God’s acts of blessing under the covenant of grace, is a sovereign act. Not merely does God will to guide us in the sense of showing us his way, that we may tread it; he wills also to guide us in the more fundamental sense of ensuring that, whatever happens, whatever mistakes we may make, we shall come safely home. Slippings and strayings there will be, no doubt, but the everlasting arms are beneath us; we shall be caught, rescued, restored. This is God’s promise; this is how good he is.”
J.I. Packer in Knowing God
“So we are convinced that every detail of our lives is continually woven together to fit into God’s perfect plan of bringing good into our lives, for we are his lovers who have been called to fulfill his designed purpose.”
Romans 8:28 (TPT)