“Goodness gracious” is an expression I heard frequently as a child. I have no idea where it came from, but I suppose it was a less offensive way, for religious folks, of saying, “Oh, my God!”
In everyday English, God is frequently used as a punctuation mark—specifically an exclamation point. If I am having a little trouble with someone or something, I can get an extra punch in if God will do some damning. When I add “Oh, my God!” to my reaction, I help other people realize just how surprised I am.
For Mom to say to me as a child: “Mike, you made a mess!” does not have the same impact as when she said, “Goodness gracious Mike, you made a mess!” I find it interesting that God is thoughtlessly used in our culture for emphasis even by people who aren't interested in Him. Something about using God's name (or some association with Him) just adds extra oomph to a situation.
It's time for us to leave behind those thoughtless expressions. It's time for us to be intentional in understanding God's goodness, so we can say, “Oh, my God!” as an emphasis to His goodness, and not as an emphasis to our surprise over something far less significant.
If you were ever into rock‐and‐roll you have surely heard a recording of Jerry Lee Lewis singing “Great Balls of Fire”:
You shake my nerves and you rattle my brain
Too much love drives a man insane
You broke my will
But what a thrill
Goodness gracious great balls of fire!
You may think it a little crude, but take just these lyrics from the song and direct them toward the Lord. His goodness does shake my nerves and rattle my brain. His love has certainly driven me insane to the kind of thinking I used to have—when He wasn't my lover. He has broken my will for anybody or anything else. Being with Him is a thrill like no other. Goodness gracious, great balls of fire!
We can however, have a twisted sense of what it means to be good:
- “Oh, he drinks a little too much, but he's good to me.”
- “She's a bit on the controlling side, but she's good to me.”
- “She's difficult to get along with, but she's good to me.”
- “They are a very demanding to work for, but they're good to me.”
- “He hits me every once in a while, but he's good to me.”
I've heard all these definitions, and then some, in one form or another—as you probably have.
But then there's also our twisted sense of what it means to “not be good.” For instance, if I called the cops on the guy that was good to his wife except when he beat her, the wife would call me every name but “good.” I am working, along with other people around the country, to take the care of the poor out of the hands of government and back into the hands of the church, where it belongs. Consequently, I am not holding my breath for any government agency to nominate me for “Good Person of the Year.”
We apparently define good as “what seems good to us.” If a woman is used to being beaten in a dumpy boarding house by a smelly drunk, it will seem good to her to be beaten in a nice home by a hot‐headed but otherwise clean and successful businessman. If a woman's first marriage was a loveless arrangement with a loser who expected her to bring home the money, it will seem good to her to dump the first guy and move in with the next guy, who may not cherish her but at least has money.
I could go on for hours with illustrations of good, defined as “better than it was.” But this is not “good.” Good is completely defined by one word: God.
God is goodness defined. God is entirely good—all of the time.
Oh, taste and see that the LORD [is] good; Blessed [is] the man [who] trusts in Him! (Psalm 34:8 NKJV)
It is important to know what was going on in David's life when he challenged us to taste and see that the Lord is good. David had already been anointed King over Israel, but Saul was still in power. David was running from Saul because Saul was trying to kill him. David lied to Ahimelech the priest on several accounts, and was able to con Ahimelech out of the hallowed bread, because there was no common bread available. (This would be the modern‐day equivalent of showing up hungry at a church and instead of eating something from their food pantry, eating their communion elements.) David then pretended to be mentally deranged in front of the king of Gath so he could escape the territory. (See 1 Samuel chapter 21.) After all this, David called God “good.”
Most of us either know of or have known a battered wife. Some of us have probably encouraged one or more of these battered women to leave their abusive husbands. I have probably encouraged at least six women to seek safety from an abusive man, but I can only think of one who actually did.
Why do women stay with abusive men? As I have asked that question to the women themselves, I've heard, more often than not, something that goes like: “He's not always bad; most of the time he's good to me.”
I think the world must look at those of us who say “God is good” as battered wives. The world sees all the bad stuff going on and asks, “Why do you stay with Him?” And sadly, we can't really make a case for staying with God other than just to say He is good. But we're not any more convincing to the world than the battered wife is to us.
Can you see how the world looks at our failures and wonders why we would ever call God good? We can't make a believable case for God's goodness, because we rationalize away the bad things in life as if He is somehow responsible—in a good sort of way.
Can you see how confused we are about the goodness of God? When we believe God allows bad things to happen to us for some reason unknown to us, we are treating God as if He was some kind of an abusive husband—in a good sort of way. I understand this comparison seems a little out there, but think about it—as we sort through this confusion over the next few days.
This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. (1 John 1:5 KJV)
God is not like man. God is all or nothing. And God is all good; He is all light with no darkness at all. He is entirely good.
Have a good day,