I remember the day as a sunny, summer Brazilian one. My wife, Denalyn, and I were spending the afteron with our friends Paul and Debbie. Their house was a welcome relief. We lived close to downtown Rio de Janeiro in a high-rise apartment. Paul and Debbie lived an hour away from the city center in a nice house where the air was cooler, the streets were cleaner, and life was calmer. Besides, they had a swimming pool. Our two-year-old daughter, Jenna, loved to play with their kids. And that is exactly what she was doing when she fell. We didn't intend to leave the children unattended. We had stepped into the house for just a moment to fill our plates. We were chatting and chewing when Paul and Debbie's four-year-old walked into the room and casually told her mom, Jenna fell in the pool. We exploded out the door. Jenna was flopping in the water, wearing neither floaties r a life jacket. Paul reached her first. He jumped in and lifted her up to Denalyn. Jenna coughed and cried for a minute, and just like that she was fine. Tragedy averted. Daughter safe. Imagine our gratitude! We immediately circled up the kids, offered a prayer, and sang a song of thanks. For the remainder of the day, our feet didn't touch the ground, and Jenna didn't leave our arms. Even driving home, I was thanking God. In the rearview mirror I could see Jenna sound asleep in her car seat, and I offered yet ather prayer: God, you are so good. Then a question surfaced in my thoughts. From God? Or from the part of me that struggles to make sense out of God? I can't say. But what the voice asked, I still remember: If Jenna hadn't survived, would God still be good? I had spent the better part of the afteron broadcasting God's goodness. Yet had we lost Jenna, would I have reached a different verdict? Is God good only when the outcome is? When the cancer is in remission, we say God is good. When the pay raise comes, we anunce God is good. When the university admits us or the final score favors our team, God is good. Would and do we say the same under different circumstances? In the cemetery as well as the nursery? In the unemployment line as well as the grocery line? In days of recession as much as in days of provision? Is God always good? Most, if t all of us, have a contractual agreement with God. The fact that he hasn't signed it doesn't keep us from believing it. I pledge to be a good, decent person, and in return God will...save my child...heal my spouse...protect my job...(fill in the blank.) Only fair, right? Yet when God fails to meet our bottom-line expectations, we are left spinning in a tornado of questions. Is he good at all? Is God angry at me? Stumped? Overworked? Is his power limited? His authority restricted? Did the devil outwit him? When life isn't good, what are we to think about God? Where is he in all this? God at times permits tragedies. He permits the ground to grow dry and stalks to grow bare. He allows Satan to unleash mayhem. But he doesn't allow Satan to triumph. Isn't this the promise of the Bible in Romans 8:28: We kw that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose ? God promises to render beauty out of all things, t each thing. The isolated events may be evil, but the ultimate culmination is good. We see small examples of this in our own lives. When you sip on a cup of coffee and say, This is good, what are you saying? The plastic bag that contains the beans is good? The beans themselves are good? Hot water is good? A coffee filter is good? No, ne of these. Good happens when the ingredients work together: the bag opened, the beans ground into powder, the water heated to the right temperature. It is the collective cooperation of the elements that creates good. Nothing in the Bible would cause us to call a famine good or a heart attack good or a terrorist attack good. These are terrible calamities, born out of a fallen earth
Max Lucado (MA, Abilene Christian University) serves as the minister of preaching at Oak Hills Church in San Antonio, Texas, and is a best-selling author and speaker. His award-winning books have been translated into more than fifty-four languages and he has been named one of the most influential leaders in social media by The New York Times. Max lives in San Antonio, Texas, with his wife, Denalyn, and has three daughters and one granddaughter.