Is God Good?: The Challenge of Faith in a World at War

What man among you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask Him! (Matthew 7:9-11)

With these words, Jesus brings up against our deepest false beliefs and the places we are wrong about God.

For the last six weeks we’ve looked at Jesus’ call to ask, seek, and knock in our relationship to God and to life generally.

But the thing about asking, seeking, and knocking is, it takes faith. Hebrews says it too: “He who comes to God must believe that he is, and that is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.”

It takes a special kind of verve, a hope and courage, to keep coming when the answers aren’t readily available, or when we meet resistance.

Which we WILL, always. The nature of this broken world is that it resists our attempts to break through to goodness and to truth.

But most of assume it’s not the broken world, nor the enemy, resisting us, but God himself. Jesus is telling us we are wrong.

Dismantling the Culture of Shame

The belief that God himself is resistant, stingy, and cruel leads to a culture of shame within the church. We in fact shame and oppress one another for daring to seek the Father.

Ask God for the gift of financial prosperity, be public about it, and wait to see how quickly other believers come out of the woodwork to shame you for it.

Ask for success, for influence, for empowerment, and wait to see how quickly someone will tell you that instead of these things, God will give you suffering and hardship, because it is “good for you,” because it will “make you holy,” because God, actually, isn’t interested in your happiness, he’s interested in your holiness.

I’m calling foul on all that.

It’s just another way of saying we don’t believe God is good.

We think if you ask God for a fish, he’ll give you a snake, to make you holier.

We think if you ask God for bread, he’ll give you a rock, to teach you dependence on him.

We think if you ask God to be a father to you, he’ll turn out to be an abusive, neglectful, emotionally distant, and pathologically controlling one.


But is it true?

“Stop Calling Me a Thief”

A few years ago I was undergoing one of the most difficult and painful seasons of my life. I was hurting so badly I couldn’t see straight, but I kept trying to “submit” to God in this process, as though he was the cause of it.

For me the turnaround began when I heard him clearly say something into my spirit—this in a time when I had not been able to hear him say anything for months, though I begged him to speak.

Here is what I heard:

“Stop calling Me a thief.”

Before that moment, I couldn’t really draw close to God, because I believed he was the One inflicting this pain. I tried and tried to humble myself and surrender “to him,” when all the time he was trying to draw near to me and fortify me against the attacks of the enemy.

It wasn’t God hurting me. It was people, and it was spiritual powers in high places.

The thief comes to steal, to kill, and to destroy, but I am come that they may have life, and have it more abundantly. (John 10:10)

We live in a world of free agents. They can act, and they do. To blame everything they do on the master planning of God himself is to accuse God of heinous things.

Checking Our Belief System

Think about the implications of Jesus’ words in this passage! Human beings are “evil,” corrupt, and yet EVEN THEY would not treat their children the way we think God treats his.

I didn’t say this. Jesus did.

If we believe these things about God, it’s no wonder if we don’t seek him. It’s no wonder we find it hard to run to him, to ask him for help, to dream big dreams with him.

I’m Looking at You, Theology

Instead of believing that God is good, we have spent centuries trying to redefine “good” so that it will fit the evil we actually believe God does and brings into our lives.

I’m not going to name theological streams or leaders that have propagated this thinking. They’re everywhere; it’s not one group that’s guilty. It’s our humanity. It’s our bitterness, disappointment, pain, and suffering trying to make sense out of itself and revise God’s promises to fit our experience.

Because that’s easier than saying God doesn’t keep his promises.

Here’s the thing, beloved: God DOES keep his promises. He IS good. He gives out bread and fish and the Holy Spirit to those who ask him.

Yes, he does discipline his children, in the way that good fathers do, with patience and restraint and kindness and companionship. And yes, he does use the works of the enemy to glorify us and turn the enemy’s own work back on him.

But that isn’t the same as saying he causes all of the evil that comes into our lives and that he resists and shames us for wanting and needing things from him.

The Central Challenge of Faith

The New Testament tells us that we are at war. We have a real enemy who hates us and is waging real warfare in an attempt to steal, kill, and destroy.

As people who live on the battlefield and in fact have a role to play in the outcome, we should not be surprised when we face hardship (1 Peter 4:12, Ephesians 6:11-13, Revelation 12:9-17). Moreover, in the battle we have the promise that God will be with us, suffer alongside us, cause us to shine with his glory, and work everything that happens to an ultimate good.

What the enemy brings into our lives to crush us, God will use to make us into gold.

Here’s the central challenge of faith, then: to hang onto the conviction that God is good, that he is our loving Father, and that he has not lost control even when the battle is fiery. To hang onto his love, his goodness, and his everlasting mercy in times when we’ve got smoke in our eyes.

In the midst of the battle, the goodness of God is our hope and our salvation. After the battle, it’s our victory cry.

If we forget that God is good, if we conflate him with the enemy and give up on expecting the best from him, we will lose something precious in this fight. We will lose intimacy with our Father and the childlike trust that sets us free and gives us full access to him.

But if we can believe, with Jesus, that God is a good Father with hands full of bread and fish and good gifts and the Holy Spirit, then we can keep coming, even when the fight is at its most intense.


(This is Part 89 in a series on the Gospel of Matthew, which you can access here. Unless otherwise marked, quotes are from the Holman Christian Standard Bible.)

I would love to hear from you. Scroll down to leave a comment below!


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3 responses to “Is God Good?: The Challenge of Faith in a World at War”

  1. Karen Lucille Gross Avatar

    I grew up with a father who was always angry when I would ask for something (at least it seemed like always). The words, “There. Are you happy now?” reverberate in my memories. I still feel guilty when I get what I want.
    To think of God as a father who gives good gifts took me a long time. I catch myself often framing my prayers with the expectation that I am asking too much, giving God an ‘out’ in case what I want is not within His will for my life. I get what you are saying about revising our beliefs to fit our experience, rather than accepting a God who doesn’t keep His promises.
    I have lived a life of defining contentment through lowered expectations. While that isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it does probably limit the blessings God could be holding back because I won’t receive them..

  2. Laura Campbell Avatar
    Laura Campbell

    Thank you, Rachel, for the reminder of God’s complete goodness. I do need to change my way of thinking. I partially cut off a few fingers recently and have been vacillating with the mindset that, yes, God is good but also that He’s slapping me around to get my attention and also holding healing just out of reach maybe to teach me something or for “the better good”. I know His ways are higher than ours. I also know that God didn’t do it, but sometimes I forget that He is all good. This article reminds me of the truth. Thank you.

    1. Rachel Thomson Avatar
      Rachel Thomson

      Thank you so much for this comment, Laura! I so appreciate your vulnerability and honesty. God fights against His enemies, not His children. Isaiah 62:9: “In all their suffering He suffered, and the Angel of His Presence saved them.” Blessings to you!

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