by Julie Zine Coleman
In the week following 9-11, at faculty devotions we heard several stories of friends or relatives who had miraculously escaped death on that terrible morning. A Pentagon employee someone knew was out of his office when the plane hit. Someone’s friend missed the morning bus, causing her to be late for work in the Twin Towers. Many teachers responded to what they’d heard by praising God for His goodness to those individuals. No one doubted one bit that God would somehow use the previous weeks’ events for His glory.
Yet after the meeting, I couldn’t help but think of how those grieving their loved ones that were killed in the tragedy were feeling about the goodness of God. Would God bring Himself glory at their expense?
We tend to equate the idea of God’s goodness with His acting in ways we feel is appropriate. The truth of the matter is that God is always good, whether He is doing what pleases us or not. He cannot be anything but good. Goodness is an essential and uncompromising piece of His character.
When the Israelites arrived in the wilderness, it didn’t take long for them to reveal their true colors. While Moses was up on the mountain receiving the Law, the people were in the valley below fashioning an idol out of gold. They had already rejected the One who had just brought them safely across the Red Sea.
God reacted in swift judgment: three thousand men fell that day. In desperation, Moses pleaded for God to forgive and not abandon them. God responded by promising His presence would remain with Moses and the people. Possibly needing further assurance, Moses then made a request of God: “I pray You, show me Your glory!”
God responded, “I Myself will make all My goodness pass before you and will proclaim the name of the Lord before you; and I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious and will show compassion on whom I will show compassion.” (Exodus 33:19 NASB) Note the change in nouns; Moses asked to see God’s glory. God told him he would be shown His goodness. You see, by showing His goodness to Moses, God would be revealing His glory. (The two words are used interchangeably throughout the rest of the account.)
Did you notice how God defined His goodness to Moses? Yes, God was good. But Moses needed to trust Him no matter how He might appear. The goodness of God did not stand in opposition to His justice, wisdom, and righteousness. All of these existed in perfect harmony together in God. No conflict at all.
When difficult circumstances come into our lives, they make us wonder if we must choose between believing in the goodness of God or in His ability to bring glory to Himself. Romans 8:28 promises us, “We know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God. . .” All things. Planes careening into the twin towers, a tsunami dragging thousands out to sea, and an earthquake trapping hundreds of students under a crushing pile of rubble will all be used to bring glory to God. “My glory I will not give to another,” God proclaims in Isaiah 48:11 (NASB). Yet He also promises to work only toward our good in the worst of times.
God’s concerns for our good and His glory are never at odds. They mutually exist in a God who loves us wholeheartedly yet works to demonstrate His glory to the world at the same time. One does not preclude the other. We can trust Him to do the right thing even in the small details of our lives and run the universe at the same time. His goodness is just another compatible dimension to the glory which is His.
“Tell of His glory among the nations, His wonderful deeds among all the peoples.” 1 Chronicles 16:24 NASB
About the author: Julie Coleman helps others to understand and know an unexpected God. A popular conference and retreat speaker, she holds an M.A. in biblical studies. Her award-winning book, Unexpected Love: God’s Heart Revealed through Jesus’ Conversations with Women, was published in 2013 by Thomas Nelson. Julie is the managing editor for Arise Daily. When she is not glaring at her computer, she spends time with her grandchildren, gardening, or walking her neurotic dog. More on Julie can be found at unexpectedgod.com and Facebook.
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Join the conversation: What difficulty has God used for your good? How did He reveal Himself through it?