We often say that God is good all the time, but is He? Do you ever fall in a shallow trap by praying phrases that are often vague? For example, “Lord, be with (fill in person) today.”. What does “be with” actually mean? Are we insinuating that God actually leaves us? Is there ever a time that The LORD, the Omnipresent God of the universe, isn’t actually “with us”? If so there is much of the Bible that we must throw out. (Matthew 28:20, Hebrews 13:5, Psalm 139:7-8).
I have been guilty of praying the “be with” prayer. When I pray the “be with” prayer I am hoping that something “bad” doesn’t happen. I am hoping for that persons “good.” However, have you noticed that when we pray that “bad” things still happen? If something “bad” happens does that mean the Lord didn’t answer the “be with” prayer? Has he forsaken us? Many are prone to believe that the “be with” prayer only means that something “good” will happen. I’m sure that during a rough day someone has quoted to you Romans 8:28. It is an often misunderstood verse. Too much is at stake to continue to let it be misunderstood. The character and goodness of God is at stake.
People often quote this verse when “bad’ things happen. For example:
“Oh you lost your job? Don’t worry…God works all things out for good.”
“Oh your lost your house in foreclosure?…Don’t worry…God works all things out for good.”
“Oh you have cancer?…Don’t worry..God works all things out for good.”
Believing that bad things happen because God wasn’t “with” a person implies the failure of God’s “goodness”. What some are really saying is, “Don’t worry, God was not good to you today. He will be good later on down the road. He was just a little late on this one.” Is this true? Do “bad” things only happen to people because God wasn’t “with” them? I think this is what some really believe. Did God go on vacation? Did God oversleep? Did he not hear a prayer?
Please consider the life of Joseph. (see Genesis 37-50) Was God only with “with” or “good” to Joseph when he was given success and loved by people? Did God happen to abandon Joseph during the hate, slavery, imprisonment, accusation and rejections? This phrase “The Lord was with Joseph” is repeated throughout the account of his life. This means that God was with him during the so called “good” and “bad” days. God didn’t stop being “good” or “with” Joseph when the “bad” things happened.
This means that sometimes the Lord being “with you” means getting thrown into a pit and being sold as a slave. It means being falsely imprisoned for something you didn’t do. Sometimes, it means that you get the bad news from the doctor that you didn’t want to hear. What if God’s definition of “good” or being “with” is different from ours?
The problem is not in God’s goodness; it is in our definition of what we perceive to be “good”. We mistakenly define “good” by what brings us the most pleasure, comfort and success. We need to stop defining what is “good” and “bad” by our circumstances. This is a slippery slope that leads to a very confusing life. I once heard my friend, Pastor Tom Ascol, say, “God does not do things because they are good. Things are good because God does them.” This radically changed my definition of what is ultimately “good”. I discovered that my definition of “good” was not good. God is always working for my good and this brings him maximum glory. Sometimes the working for my good is the allowance of things I consider to not be good.
Many fail to see this because we think that God is our number one fan. Popular Christianity is filled with the lies of striving to have your “Best Life Now”. Let’s be clear that God is never after “Your Best Life Now”…he is after the good (which does include what we consider “bad”) that shapes us and molds into the image of Jesus Christ. Our God is always “with us” and his name is Jesus.