There was a strange moon over our house last week.
I mean, the dark side and light side got mixed up. There was a weird shadow on right side. The dark side, to my non-astronomical mind, was the wrong side. I’m sure there was a perfectly sensible reason for that odd lunar light. Something about the northern regions and Third Quarter.
I don’t understand it, but it helped me to think more clearly about dark and light and good.
Our Dark Sides
They are corrupt, they have committed abominable deeds; There is no one who does good.
We’re all shadowy, all “Two Faced.” As much as we wish it weren’t so, we resemble Jerry Seinfeld’s ugly/pretty date. We might look lovely sometimes, but we don’t look good in some light.
We are all a unique blend of good and bad. Depending on the lighting, the context and the temptation, we all look ugly. We have our dark sides. Lots of times they’re thee flip sides of our good sides.
Take, for example, those lavish, generous souls. The ones who never come empty-handed and always give those above-and-beyond sort of gifts? Even those dear souls cast shadows. On the other side you might find self-indulgence or insecurity or gross disorganization. Shadows of the good.
Or take those faithful, self-disciplined types. You know the type-A’s who never forget your birthday and seldom drop the ball? I know some. They’ve got shadow issues too. Those kind can tend toward impatience and harshness and the self-pity form of pride. Ugly sides.
We all have both sides.I certainly do. Even the kindest and most compassionate among us cast shadows.
The Sum Total
You are good and you do good; teach me your decrees. Psalm 119:68
For years, our family has prayed an old prayer by one Dr. Watts. It begins this way:
ALMIGHTY God the Maker of every thing in Heaven and Earth; the Darkness goes away, and the Day light comes at your Command. You are good and do good always.
You are good and do good always. God’s goodness might even be seen as the sum total of all God’s attributes. God’s goodness is all of his righteousness and glory and holiness and love is called goodness. God has no dark side. God is always, always, always good.
He is good and he does good and he gives what is good to his children: No good thing, wrote the Psalmist, does He withhold from those who walk uprightly (84:11).
But it doesn’t always seem that way.
Not Your Indulgent Grandpa
We get confused about God’s goodness and love.
By the goodness of God we mean nowadays almost exclusively His lovingness; and in this we may be right. And by Love, in this context, most of us mean kindness—the desire to see others than the self happy… What would really satisfy us would be a God who said of anything we happened to like doing, ‘What does it matter so long as they are contented?’ We want, in fact, not so much a Father in Heaven as a grandfather in heaven—a senile benevolence who, as they say, ‘liked to see young people enjoying themselves’ and whose plan for the universe was simply that it might be truly said at the end of each day, ‘a good time was had by all’. (C.S. Lewis. The Problem of Pain)
Is that what we really want? An indulgent grandfather who lets us do as we please? Is that good?
Or do we need to need to redefine good?
Good To Be Near God
But as for me, it is good to be near God; I have made the Lord God my refuge, that I may tell of all your works.
If you need to calibrate to real, biblical good, Psalm 73 is worth a study, (This one is terrific.) In short, Asaph the Psalmist walks us through his seismic reorientation of what is truly good. He helps us redefine “good.”
Pastor Bob Deffinbaugh explains,
In verse 1, “good” really meant the absence of pain, difficulty, trouble, sorrow, ill health, or poverty. In verse 28, “good” means something far better than physical prosperity: But as for me, the nearness of God is my good…
Nearness to God—intimate fellowship with God—is our highest good. We may say then that whatever interferes with our nearness to God, our fellowship with Him, is actually evil. And whatever draws us into a deeper fellowship with God is actually “good.” When God brings suffering and adversity into our lives, our confidence in His goodness should not be undermined. Instead, we should be reassured of His goodness to us.
Which means, as Deffinbaugh says, we can’t separate God from good. We can’t have good without God (Psalm 16:2). Or have God without good.
No Shifting Shadows
Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers. Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.
We’ve come full circle. Back to the weird moon shadows that reminded me of this verse. James had just finished a discourse on being steadfast under trial and not letting temptation lead us astray. Including, I think, the temptation to doubt God’s goodness when we face trials of various kinds.
Then verse 16 where he bursts in with “Don’t be deceived.” That’s a transition. James is saying, Don’t allow yourself to wallow in rebellious self-pity: understand that God is good. When you feel abandoned and crushed, do not forget God’s goodness.
In so much of life, there is a dark side. In a message on James 1, D.A. Carson notes,
We see that when the light is brightest. It comes in on one side, but that means there is a shadow on the other side. So we look at people’s strengths. We say, “He is such an extrovert. He has such good people skills. He can relate to others so well. Of course on the other side, he can be a bit bossy.” There’s a dark side to the light side.
Not so with God.
Eyes To See
Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever! Psalm 107:1
There is no dark side to God. God is all good. There is no shadow. That is what the text says. Or, like we sing, There is no shadow of turning with Thee.
We are Seinfeld’s Two Faced girlfriend, shifting shadows on the moon. God is not. He is good. As Carson said, He is good-good. He’s good, good, good, good.
God’s goodness is a rock-solid foundation for our shifty-shadow, two face lives. It should shape our view of God and His dealings with us in this life. It is a lens through which to view every moment and event of our lives. Oh for grace to see God’s goodness.
Will you let Sarah Groves sing this blessed truth home?
May God give us eyes to see all that is good.