Good Bad

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“The Lrod is naer to the broknehreated and svaes the crsuehd in siprit.” (Psalm 34:18)

If you copy the words above as written, your spell-checker will throw a hissy fit.

What’s interesting is that our brains have no problem making sense of them.  Researchers at Cambridge have confirmed that as long as the first letter is first and the last letter is last in a particular word, our minds know how to take the scrambled letters and make them say the right thing.

That’s an appropriate way to describe God’s relationship to the flow of history, and to our own personal histories.  God sees the beginning and God sees the ending of everything.  It doesn’t matter how seriously we have fractured everything in between.  God’s purposes will always stand.

This is important to know.  It transforms the way we interpret events.

Something horrible happens.  We lose a ton of money.  Or disease takes root in our body.  Or we miss an important meeting because traffic is backed up on the interstate for some dumb reason.

A child we weren’t expecting is born into the family.  Or the child we were expecting doesn’t arrive.  Or we wrestle, year after year, with the effects of sexual abuse.  Or addiction.  Or the meaningless devastation left behind by a drunk driver. 

But the God of heaven and earth assures us that nothing is meaningless.  Nothing takes God by surprise.  No one can foil his purposes.

The late Dr. John Gerstner routinely pointed out that there are four categories of activity in the world.  First, there is what we might call Good Good – good activities that arise from entirely good motives.  This is an appropriate description of every activity God undertakes.

The best that human beings can muster, however, is Bad Good – good works that, no matter how hard we try, are always tainted with impure motives.  Somewhere, in the back of my mind, I inevitably find myself wondering if you realize how humble I am today, or if that gift to the food bank is deductible on my taxes. 

It’s easy to understand Bad Bad – human activities that dishonor God from start to finish.  Robbing a bank is Bad Bad.  But then, so is deciding to gossip or taking somebody down a notch.

Then there’s the most mysterious category of all: Good Bad. 

God is able to take the raw material of bad events and create good outcomes.  What Judas and Pilate and the Religious Establishment did to Jesus was genuinely bad.  But God worked through those choices to bring about the greatest good the world has ever known.  Which is why that patently unfair trial and the humiliating lynching that followed happened on what we now call Good Friday.

How can everything be all right when everything seems all wrong?

God knows the beginning and the ending of every story, and is working toward outcomes we cannot presently imagine.

And along the way, he is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.