Some movies make us stop and think. Take for example Bruce Almighty. Life just doesn't seem to go right for the main character Bruce Nolan. When he has his worst day ever he ridicules and blames God for it. So God shows up and challenges Bruce to take on the job and see if he can do any better. When Bruce, acting as God, gives himself everything he wants and tries to give everybody else what they want the result is disaster. In the end, Bruce and the viewer realize that only God can be God.
Not having things go the way we want when we want is one of the toughest things in life we have to deal with. Prayers aren't answered right away, loved ones pass away, and bad things happen to good people. And things like that comprise the reasons given by most nonbelievers as to why they refuse to trust God.
More disturbing, it also ranks among the top reasons with Christians who are bitter or nominal in their faith. Like Bruce Nolan, things don't go the way we would like and so we blame God—“How can God be good if He let this happen?” Although we gather for worship and sing, “God is good all the time” it rings hollow. We sing it, all the while hoping that life doesn't go sideways and we have to put our belief in God's unchanging goodness to the test.
Our misgivings about the goodness of God are inherent. We have a sin nature, which is fiercely resistant to trusting God and a mind tainted by sin so our conceptions of God's goodness are twisted. Thankfully, in Christ these are being renewed.
We also have an enemy who doesn't want us to trust in our good God and obey Him. One of Satan's strategies from the beginning has been to cause us to question and doubt God's Word (“Indeed, has God said...?” Genesis 3:1 NASB) and God's goodness (“You surely will not die! For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” v.4-5). Satan led Eve to believe God wasn't good and He was holding out on her.
Some have the idea that God is a kind of celestial Santa Claus. If my conception of God is that He is good, and if I'm measuring that by my own yardstick—I get what I want when I want it—then I can only conclude God is not good all the time because nobody gets what he wants when he wants it all the time.
But since God's Word is true when it says “The LORD is good to all” (Psalm 145:9) and “I, the LORD, do not change” (Malachi 3:6) then I have to measure God's goodness by some other standard than that of me getting what I want when I want it.
The Word says “The Lord is not slow...as some count slowness” (2 Peter 3:9). Similarly it is accurate to say, “God is not good as some men measure goodness.” In other words our conceptions of God's goodness must not be determined by sinfully flawed minds but by Scripture and balanced with His other attributes. Some of these are:
- God is good, but He is also all-knowing, meaning that He knows the future and the impact and consequences of actions, not only for us, but everyone.
- God is good, but He is also wise, meaning He knows what is best not only for us but everyone.
- God is good, but He is also just, meaning that He must give to people what is due them.
- God is good, but He is also severe (Romans 11:22), meaning He will discipline us in love as necessary.
- God is good, but He also operates within the principles of His Word that He has established—the law of reaping what you sow, give and you shall receive, and the testing of faith produces character.
Truth out of balance becomes error, and so we err if we do not balance our understanding of God's goodness with His other characteristics.
I guess the Rolling Stones have it right when they sing, “You can't always get what you want.” Bruce Nolan learned that, and we should too.