I once overheard a conversation between two moms in a church parking lot. One asked the other about her son who had been seriously ill. The mother of the boy replied exuberantly, “God is good!” She went on to explain how he had recovered.
Now I was sincerely thrilled for this family, but what if the boy had not recovered? Would God still be good? Would this mom still be able to say those words so exuberantly?
This incident happened years ago when my grief was still very fresh. My heart was so broken and raw. I wanted to shout, “Well my daughter DIED! Is God still good!? Would he still be good if your son had not recovered so well? Or is He just good to you and not me?”
I’ve grown a lot since that day, but it didn’t happen over night. God has proven His goodness to me. He has proven that His goodness has nothing to do with my circumstances. His goodness goes far beyond what we experience in this life. He has shown me that my story is mine, and that mom’s story is hers. I can’t have her story, and no one else can have mine. I am thankful that I can rest in the assurance that my daughter is safe in His hands. God has graciously given me a glimpse of the bigger picture, and the tiny part that I play in it.
I hadn’t thought about that day in the church parking lot for quite a while, but I was reminded of it as I read Acts 12 this morning. I had to wonder how John, the brother of James, felt when his brother was “killed with a sword.” It says it just like that. No fanfare, no dramatic speeches, no time to pray James out of his precarious situation. He was simply killed with a sword.
These two brothers were nicknamed “Sons of Thunder” by Jesus. They were a package deal. They were together when Jesus called them, and together, they left their father in his fishing boat with the hired men. Together, they boldly asked Jesus to let them sit on either side of him in glory. And together, they asked Him to let them call down fire from heaven onto the people who didn’t welcome Jesus to their town. They were obviously a little rough around the edges, but their love for Jesus and each other was very evident.
So how must John have felt when his brother was simply killed with a sword while Peter’s story unfolded much more dramatically and victoriously? There was no time to pray for James, but the church was able to pray earnestly for Peter when he was imprisoned right after James’ death. God heard those prayers and miraculously delivered Peter from prison.
Might John have cried out to the Lord (like I did), “I didn’t get that! I didn’t get a chance to pray for my brother! And now he is dead, and Peter gets to go on preaching the Gospel.”
John obviously came to the realization, like I did, that his story and his brother’s story were different from Peter’s. God had a different plan for Peter than for James. I’m sure that realization didn’t happen over night for John any more than it did for me. I would venture to guess that John spent many a long night, missing his dear brother, asking the Lord why Peter had been spared and miraculously delivered while his brother and best friend was simply killed with a sword.
The Lord did a great healing work in and through John, because his grief did not consume him. He went on to write five books of the New Testament (John, 1, 2, 3 John, and Revelation.)
God may have miraculously delivered Peter from prison that night, but He just as miraculously delivered John (and me!) from a prison of grief, envy and jealousy.
So, yes, God is indeed good. Praise His Name.