Photo Credit: “”it’s all good”…best Pete the Cat quote ever”, © 2014 Kate Ter Haar, Flickr | CC-BY | via Wylio
There are only four chapters in the Bible where everything is good: the first two chapter of Genesis, and the last two chapters of Revelation. This is particularly telling, for we inhabit the space in between those four chapters. Where all is not good, all is not as it once was, nor as it will one day be. From our limited, time bound perspective, it seems that we are perpetually in the third act of a four act play. If this were Narnia, this is that time when “it is always winter, but never Christmas.”
This is the in-between. A time supposed to be defined by the declaration of Christ upon the cross: “It is finished.” Yet paradoxically we are also told “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” In short, it’s a time where we are told that God is good; where we see the majesty of mountains, the relentlessness of powerful tides, the sonorous rumblings of thunderstorms, the vast expanse of stars in the night sky, and simultaneously the depths of depravity, evil, loss, privation. There is cancer, famine, pestilence, war, children are abused, Christians lie, people are sold into sexual slavery, babies are ripped living from their mother’s womb, and dissected into their component parts for experimentation and sale.
The world as we see and experience it provides ample prima facie evidence that flies right in the face of the assertion that “God is good.” Despite the beauty we see around us in creation, there is evil. The beauty is marred. Yet how do we know it as evil, lest there is an opposing standard of good? In the words of C.S. Lewis, “If the universe was without meaning we should not know it was without meaning.” Somehow, innately we know that there is good, that things are not right. That some things are objectively right, that others are objectively wrong.
It is why we fight against injustice, hunger, abuse, slavery, racism, abortion. Yet the fight is daunting. It seems that when fire is extinguished, more–hotter and fiercer–spring up in its place. For every Mother Theresa there’s a Pol Pot, a Mao. For every Billy Graham there’s a Joel Osteen. Evil seems overwheming. Because we live in a world at war, in that in-between time. That period in history between Eden and the consolation of all things in Revelation. There is no going back; we can only, as all the heroes of the hall of faith recounted in Hebrews chapter eleven did, press on. Not receiving the promise, yet looking forward to that city with foundations.
Whose Builder and Maker is God.
Like Frodo and Sam on the path to Mt. Doom, or Christ on the way to the cross, there is only one way forwards:
Through the pain.
It seems all we want are happy, pain-free lives–think that because we’re Americans, or denizens of the enlightened West, that we are entitled to such. We forget that we neither live in Eden, nor in Heaven. That there will be pain, hardship, tears, evil. That good plans will sometimes come to naught. That this world is not as God would have it to be.
That we have a responsibility to partner with Him in setting things to rights….
It’s not all good.
But someday it will be.
Lord, haste the day.