Whenever a plane goes down, there is inevitably a news story about the people who were supposed to be on the plane but weren't -- either because their alarm didn't go off or there was a traffic jam or they switched travel plans at the last minute.
Yesterday was no exception. Amidst the horrifying reports of a plane dropping altitude over the Alps and then crashing into the mountain with 150 people on board, there was the story of a soccer team who changed their travel plans because they decided the layover in Dusseldorf was too long.
When we hear stories like that, us Christians tend to say, "Wow! Isn't God good!?"
We say that a lot -- "Isn't God good!?" -- when we hear reports of people who inexplicably avoided doom.
A woman has car trouble and avoids the fatal 12-car pile-up on the interstate that she would've been in if her car had started. Isn't God good?
A man goes to his doctor for pneumonia and the chest x-ray shows a tumor in his lung that is entirely removed and cured because the doctor accidentally discovered it when it was still in its early stages. Isn't God good?
I survived an aggressive form of breast cancer when I was 28 years old. Isn't God good? people say a lot when they hear my story of how I almost died, and how God spared my life.
Yes, I always say. God is absolutely good.
But is this WHY God is good? If God hadn't spared my life, would God still be good?
Because here's the thing -- for as many stories as there are of people who escaped doom, there are just as many (if not more) stories of people who weren't so "lucky."
There were people killed in that fatal interstate pile-up who usually take a different way to work, but for some reason thought the interstate would be faster that day.
Isn't God good? It sounds obscene to say that.
There were people diagnosed with Stage IV cancer and died weeks later because their cancer was discovered too late. Isn't Good good?
No, my instincts say. It doesn't make sense to draw attention to God's goodness in a situation that seems to be the opposite of good.
Two of my friends have died of breast cancer in their 30's.
Isn't God good?
I have to honestly answer that I don't know, and it makes me think hard about what God's goodness even means.
The thing I can't walk away from is that the Bible doesn't just say that God does good things. It says that God IS good. It's not just what he does; it's who he is -- and who he is never changes.
In Psalm 46, the psalmist says, "God is our refuge and strength, a present help in times of trouble. Therefore, we will not fear..."
In his commentary on Psalm 46, Charles Spurgeon wrote that God is good -- not because he causes things that seem or feel "good" to happen in our lives, but because in the midst of the storm, God comes closer to us than the storm could ever be.
And THIS is why we can say with absolute confidence that God is good.
This is why we can say, no matter how bad the storm is, no matter how much pain we experience, no matter how different the outcome is from what we've prayed for, that God is good. In the hardest moments of life, God comes close to us and he doesn't change, he doesn't falter, he doesn't quit, he doesn't leave and he doesn't let go.
God is just as good to the 150 people who went down on the Germanwings plane as he is to the soccer team who switched flights at the last minute.
God is just as good to the people who died in the car accident as he is to the people who avoided it.
God is just as good to the parents of obedient children as he is to parents of children who have rebelled.
God is just as good to infertile women as he is to women who have as many biological children as they want.
God is just as good to the family who loses their home in a fire as he is to the family whose house doesn't burn down.
God is just as good to the single person as he is to the person who gets married.
God is just as good to the people who lose their jobs in corporate downsizing as he is to the people who earn a promotion.
God is just as good to the people who drown in a tsunami as he is to the people who are rescued.
God is just as good to the young women who died of breast cancer as he was to me when I survived it.
Isn't God good?
YES! The answer is always a resounding YES. GOD IS GOOD!
But we have GOT to stop only talking about his goodness when an unexpectedly pleasant thing happens. Because God's goodness is not dependent on an outcome or an emotion or a barely-missed-doom story.
God is not good because we avoid danger.
God is good because when the storms of life hit, he comes closer to us than the storm ever could.
He holds us in his loving arms.
He doesn't change.
He doesn't falter.
He doesn't quit.
He doesn't leave.
And no matter what, he never lets go.