This article was written by Ed Stetzer and Gabriella Siefert. Gabriella Siefert formerly worked at the Wheaton College Billy Graham Center.
Over the Christmas holiday, many of us will likely spend the holiday with friends and family celebrating around gifts, festive trees, and a feast. We’ll be reminded of the joys of being surrounded by loved ones and hopefully we’ll pause to reflect on all the many blessings in our midst—blessings coming not only on material, but also spiritual terms.
Christ-followers know that the toys and trinkets around our Christmas trees, however delightful to unwrap, pale in comparison to the gift offered to us in that tiny manger scene: the gift of God himself.
The Incarnation means so much in terms of our understanding of God’s reckless love and forgiveness. For some of us on a day like today, it’s easy to taste and see that God is good.
For others of us, believing in God’s goodness is a struggle this time of year. Like Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, the cry of our hearts echo: “For hate is strong, and mocks the song of peace on earth, good-will to men.”
The question is a fair one.
After all, where is God’s good will to men in a world as terrible as ours can often be? Where is God in times of famine and drought? Where is he in places of extreme need where poverty isn’t the exception, but the socio-economic norm? Where is he in the dark and quiet spaces of our minds when we feel lonely, fearful, and riddled with anxiety?
What Longfellow expressed over a century ago still rings true for many of us as we gather around gifts and stuffed stockings this year. We can’t seem to wrap our heads around a God that made us, loves us, came to live amongst us, and yet allows the evils we see around us to persist.
Doubting God’s Goodness
This disbelief in God’s goodness is more common to the human condition than many realize. Many of us Christians go our entire lives believing that God is there but struggle to accept that he is who he says he is.
In the scriptures, we read promises of God’s faithfulness: he withholds no good thing from those who walk in his ways; that the plans he has for us are better than anything we could ask or imagine; that his love is steadfast and endures forever. All these things we know in our heads, but rarely do we allow them to sink deep down where such truths matter most.
Many of us find ourselves living in this half-truth existence for the majority of our Christian lives. We kind of ‘buy’ the reality of God’s goodness, but with great hesitancy. We’ve got one foot in and one foot out of Scripture’s promises for our lives; so, when it comes down to it, worry, fear, and anxiety tend to take over more often than not.