As we are in the start of a new year, I often hear people hoping and even praying that this new year would “be good to them”. It’s completely understandable. Who wouldn’t want to ask God for a good year? If you didn’t want that, I would probably be a bit concerned at your lack of optimism. But this brings an important question that I haven’t heard very many people discuss. What are we really asking God for when we pray for things to be good?
I’ll be honest with you, I used to pray these prayers almost daily, until about six to eight months ago when I had a lightbulb go off in my mind as I was going through my usual prayer routine. Around this time I was being awakened to the goodness of my Heavenly Father and His love for me. My eyes were beginning to open to the many ways He shows His love. I began questioning myself on why I would pray for my day to be good, when I knew in my heart that God is good and whether or not a day is “good” is solely contingent on how I choose to view the day and the day’s events.
When we ask God to bless us with a “good” day, week, month or even year, are we really asking for it to be good or are we asking for it to be easy? I know for me personally when I was praying those types of prayers, it wasn’t me praying to God that I would see His goodness around me, but that I wanted things to be easy for me. To me easy equaled good. But that isn’t the message we get from scripture about life here on earth. When diving deeper into this very topic I had three truths jump out at me…
1. God is Good
Let’s first look at what scripture says is “good”. In Genesis we see that after each day and thing God created He called it good. So God’s creation is good, or at least it was before sin took over. Even greater than creation being good, we see in scriptures time and time again that God is good. God the creator of all things is good.
Nahum 1:7 (ESV)
The Lord is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; he knows those who take refuge in him.
The Lord is good to all, and his mercy is over all that he has made.
The topic of God’s goodness is seen regularly throughout scripture, and is often followed up with a quality about Him that helps show His goodness. Sometimes the phrase is also followed up with a quality that believers should have to glorify our good God. Both of these qualities are seen in these verses.
2. Christians are Called to Suffering
We are also told in scripture that those who follow Christ will endure suffering. It’s inevitable that we will struggle and suffer because we live in a broken, sinful world. Whether or not we look back on our day, week, month or even year and the hardships we endure, and see it as good, is our own choice.
Jeremiah 29:11 (ESV)
For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.
I love this verse because it blatantly tells us that God’s plans are not evil or bad, but that His plans are good and full of hope. Evil things may happen in this world, but God’s plans are NOT evil or ill-willed for us. He can turn every “bad” or evil situation into good.
James 1:2-4 (ESV)
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
This passage always left me slightly confused. I had heard many people preach this passage, or share it with others who are going through something hard in life; however, I never fully understood what “steadfastness” meant. According to my study ESV Bible, steadfastness is “a life of faithful endurance amid troubles and afflictions”. The oxford dictionary definition of steadfastness is “The quality of being resolutely or dutifully firm and unwavering.” Thus, when we face trials, it may be hard, but it produces a faith in us that grows stronger and can’t be broken and that is good.
More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
This passage always shook me to my core. Rejoicing in our sufferings? Are they kidding? But then In a book I’ve been reading here and there over the past few months (yes I said months, don’t judge me for my ADD), the author, Lysa Terkeurst talks about this very subject of suffering and God’s goodness. In reference to John 9 in which Jesus heals the blind man who has been blind since birth, she writes:
“This man’s blindness-his own form of hardship and long-suffering – wasn’t because of choices he made or ones his parents made. This suffering was placed on him. But it was for a reason. He was handpicked to display the works of God. Through his story Jesus would shine the light of truth and hope for others lives to not be so dark. And then Jesus brought healing out of the man’s brokenness”(TerKeurst, 2018, pg. 133).
The reality is that we all suffer and struggle on this earth, and suffering sucks. But if we can get to a place in the midst of our suffering or even when we finally get out of our suffering, to see the goodness in it, that is glorious. Sometimes it might take us asking God why we are having to endure what we are enduring, and sometimes we may not get an answer for years. Please don’t grow hard or cold to the possibility of goodness coming from your pain though. This quote from TerKeurst left a profound impact in the way I view the hardships and challenges in my life, my day and my year. God can use anything in our lives for the goodness of His glory, to help others, and to shine His light in a dark world. I used to think God had left me to suffer on my own, when in reality my suffering could very well be the thing used to draw me closer to Him.
3. God is in Control
God created everything that is good. We learned that God is good. We know that life on this earth comes with suffering. And we also see over and over in scripture that God is in control. So If God is good, and God is in control, then the sufferings we endure can and will be used for good.
Romans 8:28 (ESV)
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.
“All things work together for good”, this implies that everything, even the hard and painful things are a part of something that is good. It may not be easy, but it is still good.
Romans 11:36 (ESV)
For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.
Again, this shows that God has His hand in all things, and He has a good plan.
So this all brings me back to my original question. When we are praying for our day, week, month, or year to be “good”, what is it that we are really asking for? We’ve seen in scripture that God is good and goodness comes from God. We see that we are called to suffering and it is inevitable. And we also see that God is in control. By praying for our day, week, month or year to be good, we are essentially missing out on the opportunity and responsibility as believers to look for God’s goodness around us.
For my own personal journey, I switched my prayers for things to be good to asking God to show me His goodness all around me. I began to pray for God to give me His eyes to see His love, beauty and goodness in all situations and people I come in contact with. Once I started praying those prayers instead, I began to see and feel the work of the Holy Spirit all around me in ways I never had before. I began to see God’s love for not only myself but everyone I came in contact with. By praying to have eyes like our Father’s, I am able to see the hard things around me in a new light, full of hope. This realization and hope helps me to look ahead to this new year with excitement for ALL that it will bring, the fun and exciting, and the scary and challenging. For I know that no matter what this year brings me, it will be used to glorify God who is good. I hope and pray that for all of you too.
I encourage you to reflect on your own prayer life. Let me know what you are praying for this new year! This is just something I have been realizing in my own personal journey, so I would love to hear your input.
Thank you for reading my rambles.
TerKeurst, Lysa. Its Not Supposed to Be This Way: Finding Unexpected Strength When Disappointments Leave You Shattered. Nelson Books, an Imprint of Thomas Nelson, 2018.