Posted on April 25th, 2012
So much in this broken world is not good. It is not good that the woman has sorrow in conception and pain in childbearing. It is not good that only by the sweat of his brow can man obtain bread. It is not good that the ground brings forth thorns and thistles. It is not good that woman seeks to manipulate man. It is not good that men abuse the women in their lives.
It is not good that the seas rage and the earth quakes. It is not good that nation rises against nation. It is not good that tyrants oppress their people.
And with you? This broken world produces many things not good that cause you grief, anxiety, anger or despair. It is not good that your knee is ailing, and your eyesight failing. It is not good that your wife left, your child made poor choices.
But that which is not good is by no means limited to what you have had to suffer and endure. You are no mere victim of circumstance. In Adam’s fall, we sinned all. Meaning not only are you born into a world that is not good, your nature which is not good has produced in you all manner of things that fall short of the glory of God: a host of evil thoughts, malicious words, selfish deeds.
Who you are and what you have become is not good. Your boasting is not good. Your failure to respect your husband, to love sacrificially your wife, is not good. It is not good that you devour entertainment but starve yourself of God’s Word. You make excuses for your own harsh words but give no grace to others – and it is not good. You expect to be forgiven, but are slow to forgive – and it is not good.
Who you are and what you have become is not good.
And this all culminates in the last enemy. Everything that you suffer, everything that you are, everything that you do that is not good, all ends in dust and ashes. The man dies, and it is not good. You will die, and it is not good. It is not the way God made the world. For the world God made was good, and making the man and the woman, He declared it very good.
That which is not good is yours, and you must own it, you must confess it. You are the guilty man, yours is the fault, you are not good.
Into that world which had become not good, the Good Shepherd stepped. Our human nature the Good Shepherd assumed. Our flesh, fallen and sick, the Good Shepherd took to Himself. Jesus the Good Shepherd took all that is not good and made it His own, and offers you in exchange a goodness you could never achieve on your own.
Into that world which had become not good, the Good Shepherd stepped.
When Jesus says, “I am the Good Shepherd,” remember that word good. He is good. How then are we to explain everything that is “not good” in your life and in the world? One theologian puts it this way:
[Calling all suffering evil] God must be absolved from all blame. Thus, the theologian of glory [“theologian of glory” is a technical term for “religious bad guy”; there’s a little theologian of glory in all of us, always looking for a god of teddy bears and carnival prizes] adds to the perfidy of false speech by trying to assure us that God, of course, has nothing to do with suffering and evil. God is “good,” the rewarder of all our “good” works, the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow of merit. But is this prettified God the God of the Bible? Is it not quite probable that just these attempts to whitewash God are the cause of unbelief? Meanwhile, suffering goes on unabated. If God has nothing to do with suffering, what is he involved with? [Forde, On Being a Theologian of the Cross]
If God has nothing to do with suffering, what is he involved with? This is the great mystery, that God allows suffering, in fact is even involved with it, for the purpose of breaking down, destroying, killing in us everything that is “not good.” And first and foremost, what is “not good” in us is our pride, especially our religious pride, that we can, by our own reason and strength, achieve, accomplish, become good.
If God has nothing to do with suffering, what is he involved with?
God is good, but rarely in the way we expect. The great day of victory, the crucifixion of Jesus, appears at the time to be the greatest failure, the greatest loss, the greatest disaster. But this is the one day of the year we now call “good,” Good Friday.
Thus when you see wickedness and do not understand, when you experience pain and do not know why it does not end, when you see the final breath depart from one whom you love and feel you cannot bear the agony, when you prepare to exhale that final breath yourself, remember what Jesus says: “I am the good shepherd.” Where He is, though everything seems not good, He makes it good. Where He is, though everything be lost, He has won. Where He is, though death seem to prevail, He is alive. Where He is, though everything is fallen, He is risen.
The Good Shepherd has power to lay down His life, and power to take it up again. When your life is lost, He has power to raise it up again. And He promises He will. Your sin, pardoned. Your tears, wiped away. Your sorrow, turned to joy. Your mourning, become dancing.
Jesus is the good shepherd, and He makes all things—all things—“work together for good” (Rom. 8.28). For He died, and your sins are pardoned, He is risen, and in Him we see the end He has prepared for us, even our own resurrection from the dead and the life of the world to come. And on that day we shall repeat the words of our Good Shepherd, that all creation is once again “very good.” +INJ+ ∗