I’m a sucker for the great outdoors. The first chance I get, and as often as I can throughout the day, I go outside. Early mornings are especially sacred to me. Most of my days begin with a pretty standard routine of throwing on a sweatshirt and baseball cap, brewing a bit of coffee, and heading out to the porch, usually under the cover of darkness, just before dawn breaks. Sitting there in the cool quietness of the morning with warm coffee in hand has a way of centering me in the goodness of God. Whatever chaos is raging around me, whatever personal agony I am experiencing, whatever frustration or confusion I find myself in—somehow I always find comfort and solace when I’m with God in his good creation.
It is tempting to begin a study on discerning God’s presence in our pain by looking at, well, pain itself. That would be a mistake. The Bible writers were well aware of the reality of evil. War, plague, and pestilence. Racism and classicism and sexism. Broken minds and bodies and spirits. Personal, social, and institutional evil. They knew about it all. But the reality of evil was not their starting point for making sense of the world. Something else was. Someone else was.
The writers of Scripture begin with God. “In the beginning,” so the writer of Genesis opens his epic creation poem, “God…” (Gen 1:1). We’ll never know anything about the world we live in—a world marked by beauty and horror alike—until we know God. Scripture declares on every page that God is good. And what he does is good. His acts reveal his nature. Notice how often the word “good” appears in Genesis 1. Go ahead, count. How many did you come up with?
Seven. Seven times the Lord who is good looks out over his creation and sees that it is good. Seven is an important number in the biblical imagination. It signifies completion or perfection. No wonder then that by the end, when the finishing touches have been put on the masterpiece, God declares it “very good.” Goodness is the signature of God, written into our world.
This is crucial, friend. Goodness is built into the fabric of the created order. Goodness—God’s very own goodness—has the first word. And goodness has the last word. While sin has marred our world with evil, evil is not the most fundamental thing. Goodness is. Because God is. And what God starts, he carries through to completion (Phil 1:6). Every good intention of his will triumph.
It is easy to lose sight of this when times are tough. One surefire way we can steady our hearts during such times is by giving thanks. Give it a try. If you’re able to, head outdoors, or maybe just crack a window. Take in deep draughts of fresh air, slowly, deliberately, and return each breath back to God as adoration for his goodness, for his faithful love. Take some time to remember what is good and right about your life and bless God for it. Gratitude will help you recover your true north.