The Attributes of God in Biblical Counseling: Goodness

attributesMost doubts about God attack either His sovereignty or His goodness. When it comes to evil, heartbreak, sorrow, and suffering in our lives we are tempted to question these attributes. Either God can’t do something, or He won’t do something. Either He isn’t powerful enough to intervene, or He doesn’t care enough to stop these events. Jasmine vacillated back and forth between both concerns. It wasn’t that her life was all that awful, it was actually a good life, relatively speaking. Yet, there had been disappointments and hurts, and over time that had turned into bitterness and discontentment in her heart. “Maybe God,” she thought,”isn’t who I though He was. Maybe He doesn’t even exist.” And when those doubts would scare her she would change them. “He does exist, but maybe He just doesn’t care about my pain.” She’s not alone in those concerns and thoughts. Many believers struggle with these same doubts. The attribute of God’s goodness, however, can be an invitation to look at a disappointing life differently.

Having already explored the attribute of God’s sovereignty, it is worthwhile now to consider the attribute of goodness. In and of itself God’s sovereignty would not be that encouraging. God’s supreme control and power would not be inviting apart from the knowledge of His goodness.¬†Power without goodness is terror. It’s important than to consider how God’s goodness makes all His other attributes a blessing to us, and not a terror.

“Goodness” refers to moral excellence. When we speak of God being good we are saying that He is meets His own ethical standard of moral perfection, completeness, and excellence. God is the standard of what is good, and He is consistent within Himself. He displays His goodness throughout the Scriptures, and throughout our lives, by means of blessing. He gives good gifts (Matt. 7:11; James 1:17). His goodness, particularly in the Psalms is often paired with His mercy (see Ps. 100:5; 106:1; 107:1; 109:21; 118:1; 136:1). He demonstrates goodness by extending mercy to those who are not good.

God’s goodness means that He not only knows what’s best for us (wisdom), can accomplish what is best for us (sovereignty), but He delights to do what is best for us (goodness). His goodness is, then, an invitation to come to Him with thankfulness, trust, and awe. We come overwhelmed by the sheer wonder that God loves us. We may wonder, with the Psalmist:

what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him? (Psalm 8:4)

Yet, the Bible repeatedly reveals that this omnipotent, supreme ruler, perfectly just being does think about us. He loves us, welcomes us, does good to us. Jack Cottrell has beautifully defined that goodness as:

His self-giving affection for his image-bearing creatures and his unselfish concern for their well-being, that leads him to act on their behalf and for their happiness and welfare. (What the Bible Says about God the Redeemer, 336)

God seeks what’s best for us.

This does not meant that we always experience “good” from God, as we define it (Job 2:10). Sometimes what God gives us does not feel good, but rather painful and hard (Heb. 12:11). Yet, in His wisdom God may be using painful things for our good (Rom. 8:28). It is this reality that allows us again to process our sorrows, sufferings, challenges, and trials. It is not just God’s sovereignty that gives us hope, but His goodness that invites trust. God does good because He is good. We can trust Him, love Him, thank Him, even in sorrow, because in His goodness He is always doing what is best for us.

We might think about it in relation to good parenting. I discipline my kids because I love them. They don’t, of course, always see it that way. They get angry at me, buck my authority, challenge my decisions, and bemoan their submission. But they know that daddy loves them and so the hope is that overtime they come to see that even the decisions they disagreed with, even the heartache they felt from being told “no” will be seen in a different light. I look back now, after these many years, and see how my own parents were wise and good in the decisions they made. If this is true at the level of imperfect human parenting (where indeed not all our decisions are wise and good), how much more true is it at the level of God’s relationship to us. God is good. His “no” is good for us too. Trials, disappointments, discouragements, and sorrows are tools for our sanctification in the hands of our good God. God’s goodness can change every difficult experience.

The problem for many of us, like Jasmine, is that we only see the disappointment in our life. We don’t see any bigger picture. We are like children who miss the grand design of maturation and instead focus only on what we want but don’t get. Life can surely be disappointing, but discontentment views life from as mall lens and argues that happiness can only come if we get what we want. God’s goodness helps to break open that lens and give us a grander vision of reality, purpose, happiness, and life. God’s goodness invites us to see how even our disappointments might be God’s handiwork in helping us to find better peace and joy.

Jasmine has struggled to see God’s goodness rightly, but she gets closer each day. As she remembers who He has revealed Himself to be, as she replays the kindness of God in her own life, as she reads of His mercy in Scripture she gets closer to grasping this truth. Discontentment can be an ugly sin that consumes and zaps all our strength. The goodness of God becomes a challenge to that way of thinking, it becomes a corrective to our disappointment, and a ray of hope in clouds of sorrow. Counselors, use the attribute of God’s goodness to invite a counselee to a different perspective on their life.

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