Friday, November 07, 2008

It's All Good

Long, long ago, on a PC far, far away ('cause I didn't have my Mac yet), I wanted to date a guy who had among his life goals the desire to eliminate the phrase "It's all good" from the English language. We didn't end up dating, although that's not why. At least, not to my knowledge. Now I hang out with the Milk Guy, who says, "It's all good," at the end of almost all of our arguments. ('Cause, um, sometimes we have them.) Occasionally I find that mildy frustrating. It almost sounds dismissive or something, even though I don't think that's how he means it.

A week before my surgery, I was having dinner with him. We weren't arguing this time, but he started getting philosophical and asking me how it was that since I believe in God, I am not mad at Him for, if not giving me cancer, at least not preventing it.

The short answer, as we have already discussed here, was, "I have no idea." Getting mad at God has been my modus operandi for a very long time. The long answer was a little harder to get out and was, evidently, completely unintelligible to him anyway, but it did start a train of thought that I'm still riding toward the station: It occurs to me that the Christian understanding of God gives a unique ability to assert, "It's all good."

Of course, it's not all good. The Christian understanding of things also argues sin, which by definition is not good. But there's also redemption, which is. And I'm beginning to think that the whole "God works everything together for good" thing could actually be another way of saying, "It's all good."

I have cancer. (Or . . . I did, until they took it out--yay! they took it out!--but there's still treatment to come.) I could be angry and ask God why He didn't prevent it or outright heal me or something like that. I could be upset about the purely financial aspect of it. Or I could open my mind to the idea that He might have allowed it so I could learn something new about Him, or about me, or about His people. I could open my mind to the idea that furthermore, my concept of "good" might not be exactly the same as His anyway, and that while there may be reasons beyond my own understanding of the need to suffer, He knows what I need and what He needs to do about it. The Bible uses birthing analogies a lot when talking about suffering that results in something wonderful and alive. I really believe that that's what this cancer is about.

I confess I have a little bit harder time reconciling myself to something's being "good" when it involves human mistakes or selfishness or evil. I still get all bent out of shape when my friendships get slightly off-kilter, never mind when something really horrendous or horrific happens. I don't know that I could look a child-abuse victim in the eye and tell him or her that the abuse itself was "good." I have friends who fall into this category, and I know I couldn't say that to them. But I really do believe that God works everything together for good for those who love Him, even if they don't know how it's going to work together, or what the "good" is going to look like. And I guess, verbal crusades aside, I do believe that in the end, "It's all good."


Barry Pike said...

Good point, and a very thoughtful post. You're right, I think, Christians should own that phrase. In fact, we're the only ones with the context in which it makes good literal sense.

Jeff said...

In these conversations, I always come back to Joseph telling his brothers "What you intended as evil God used for good."
This is very different than Joseph saying "The world is so good that you can't do evil in the first place."
When somebody looks an abuse survivor in the eye and says that the abuse was good, they are making that second claim. It's not only insensitive, it's also bad theology, in my opinion.
I think it'd be much more biblical to look an abuse survivor in the eye and say "Someone intended that as evil. And it was. But God is bigger than them, and God is bigger than evil, and God is bigger than abuse. God will use the abuse, and the abuser, and even evil itself, for the greater good."
Thanks for your thoughts elsewhere. I'm currently digesting them and will respond tomorrow-ish.

Mark said...

Jenn - I'm not sure why I came to your blog when I did, but I have greatly appreciated the depth of your writing these past couple months. Just want you to know that every time I read a post, I post a prayer on your behalf. Thanks for your transparency. Mark Pierce

jasdye said...

i haven't had much chances to blog or read others' blogs recently (partly b/c i'm enjoying the more social aspects of facebooking now), but i'm enjoying your journaling of the last few months and really, really excited that the cancer's gone - even if for just now.

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