In Christian circles, and occasionally even non-Christian, I will read or hear someone say, "God is so good...He answered my prayer." I'm sure I've been guilty of this at some point. But, lately every time I hear or read that phrase, I want to ask: What if God didn't answer your prayer?...is He still good? What if God allowed someone close to you to unexpectedly die?...is He still good? What if your child is diagnosed with cancer?...is He still good? What if your spouse cheats on you and leaves you?...is God still good?
Of course, the answer is yes, yes, yes over and over again! But, when people repeat the quote above, I ALWAYS wonder if those people would still say God is good if He hadn't answered their prayers. I wonder that because there was a time when I thought I had God wrapped neatly in my little box. (FYI...God won't fit in a box!!) And, when my prayers weren't answered the way I wanted, I quit believing that God was good. I became angry with Him. I even went so far as to question whether He really exists at all. My anger towards Him led to a hardened heart, which led to numerous bad decisions that left me with scars. Have no doubt...I was a Christian at the time, but I was sifted! And, what was left was not a pretty picture.
It took a long time before I realized what the root of the problem was: I had a wrong concept of God. My pastor says frequently, "The most important thing about you is your concept of God." If you believe God loves you based on performance, that's a wrong concept. If you believe God never gets angry, that's a wrong concept. If you believe you've done something so horrible that God won't forgive you, that's a wrong concept. If you believe God would never send someone to hell, that's a wrong concept. If you believe God is only good when He answers your prayers the way you want them answered, that's a wrong concept.
Here are just a few things I know about God that fall into the category of a right concept (I won't even pretend that I know very much...my mind can't even conceive or comprehend how big He is). He is:
Holy and Righteous
To take any one of those and label God with that one characteristic is to have a wrong concept. To take all of those and add no more is also a wrong concept. God is infinitely so much more than my small list.
What is your concept of God? Is it wrong or right? And, yes, there is a definite wrong or right concept. God is not left up to our interpretation of Him. To quote Beth Moore, "God is Who He says He is. God can do what He says He can do." We have to find out Who He says He is, and what He says He can do. Just a hint: those answers are found in The Bible.
Back to my original point...is God good when He doesn't answer our prayers the way we want them answered? I have a friend who is undergoing a very strong medication to treat a very aggressive form of cancer. All who know him are praying for His complete healing and recovery. We want our prayers answered!! But, if our prayers are not answered the way we want them, will God still be good? With heavy hearts, we will answer, "Absolutely yes!"