Is God Really Good?

When I was at school, and Queen Victoria sat upon the throne, I had a very grumpy English teacher called Mrs Hume. I felt sorry for Mr. Hume if she was as grumpy at home. Mrs Hume was a well balanced woman. She had a chip on both shoulders. Life had dealt her a poor hand and, instead of writing bursary winning poetry at Harvard, she was stuck in a freezing cold portacabin in rural Northern Ireland.

All the other English teachers had spacious, warm classrooms in the main school building. Not so, Mrs. Hume. Her portacabin was drafty and cramped. In the winter months it resembled a Siberian concentration camp, only less friendly. Mrs. Hume never took her coat off and sat huddled in it at the front of the classroom, rolling her eyes at our excruciatingly bad analysis and interpretation of Shakespeare, Chaucer and D.H. Lawrence.

After two years of her acerbic feedback and pithy asides, a miracle occurred; or rather, two miracles. Firstly I obtained an ‘A’ grade in my ‘A’ level English Literature; and secondly I survived two winters in that portacabin without losing any of my extremities to frostbite. Armed with my certificate and a fully functioning set of digits I set off to university where I, of course, chose to study….er….Modern History.

I often wonder how my life would have turned out had I decided to pursue an English degree. Perhaps, nothing materially would have changed. Or we could all be speaking Russian or have grown tails or something. What is certain though is that, beneath her barely contained contempt for the human race, Mrs Hume was doing something right. For, otherwise how could I have achieved the grade that I did. The woman could teach.

The one lesson she consistently hammered home was to avoid using lazy language. Words like ‘nice’, ‘fine’ and ‘good.’ Including them in one of your essays would awaken a dark, primal rage within her which ensured you never did it again. She, in her own cantankerous style, encouraged us to embrace and explore the English language. She demanded passion, vitality and expressive thinking. Describing Tennessee Williams as ‘good’ didn’t quite cut the mustard with her.

God is Good.

If you hang around Christians for any length of time, you will hear that stock phrase rolled out. It’s up there with ‘I’ll pray for you’ and other such cliches. God is Good. Is that the best we can manage? To describe the Creator of the Universe, the omnipotent, omniscient power behind everything we know. Who sent his son to the Cross to wipe clean the slate of sin for all eternity. Oh that was nice. That was lovely. That was good.

Saying God is Good isn’t good enough. Which is why he told Moses to call him ‘I AM.’ We can do waaaaaaaay better than good, but at the end of the day our tiny brains are utterly incapable of putting into words who or what God is. We don’t even understand a fraction of what is going on in our universe, planet, let alone our own bodies. We are stumbling about in the dark, half the time. I respect those who hold agnostic or atheist views. But do they know for certain? Are they 100% sure? Really?

Christians can be so lazy and I’m the worst offender. We are saved and think the hard work is done when, the reality is, it’s only just begun. It’s not fluffy and comfortable; it’s a bloody, brutal unforgiving war against a cunning, determined enemy. We need to work harder, think smarter, do better. Good is not enough. God isn’t good, God is God. Recognising that is an important, hard earned lesson. Thank you Mrs. Hume for teaching me about it.

What are your views on lazy language?

What was your English teacher like?

Care to share your experiences of Christian cliches?

What words would you use to describe God?

50 thoughts on “Is God Really Good?

Add yours

  1. What are your views on lazy language? I don’t like it – BUT I’m not sure that “good” is such a lazy word in this case. Nice – definitely is a no-no. I won’t even let my ESL students use “nice”. Somehow though “good” does – for me at least – help to encapsulate God…But it’s not as an opposite to “bad”, but rather as a way of trying to shorthand what he is: just, loving, incomprehensible, indescribable…

    What was your English teacher like? Mrs Newman had the most beautiful, flowing handwriting and gave me a love of words. She introduced us to “Commonplace Books” and the lessons when we could write in our Commonplace book were my favourites. Miss Floyd was scary but she and another teacher whose name I can’t remember led me into a deeper understanding of literature. Through them I learned to love John Donne, and (some) Shakespeare.

    Care to share your experiences of Christian cliches? I think the worst of the clichés are those that suggest that God gives you trials to “make you stronger” And the idea of “prosperity gospel” just makes me want to vomit.

    What words would you use to describe God? Good. Confusing. Just. Loving. Father. Annoying. Tenacious. Faithful. Overwhelming. Indescribable…but every one of these words is too small to really do anything other than try to cram Gods into a box into which he will not fit!

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  2. True..I know my language is very lazy most of the time. I have to say though, people use the phrase “God is good” a lot because that is one of the most important things we need to remember about Him. In all His “Omni this and thats”, He does some pretty hard to understand and accept things. The biggest comfort we can offer ourselves in the middle of this suffering and questioning is to say that everything He does has a purpose, a reason…and it is good because HE is good. I don’t know if that is lazy language or just a very comforting summary of all that He is. =)

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  3. You’re a hundred percent right about the phrase “God is good”. When it comes to applying that word to God, it’s like trying to apply the word “Infinite” to the measure of the universe. It’s such a big deal, the word doesn’t mean a thing.

    I like your comment about agnostic and atheist views. I respect their views, but as one guy told me about my views on the afterlife is that I was sure going to be surprised to find out when I died there was nothing. I smiled and told him, well if there is nothing, then I’ll never know it. But if there is, you certainly will.

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  4. I’m lazy… but not always… English teachers—eh… I had a great creative writing teacher in college in 2013. She is the one who encouraged me to write.
    As for God… I’m not sure you want my take. The God I was raised to believe in, I now consider God to be sadistic.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. So many questions! It’s like an English exam!

    1. What are your views on lazy language? I agree.

    2. What was your English teacher like? Which one?

    3. Care to share your experiences of Christian cliches? Sure.

    4. What words would you use to describe God? Big.

    Did I pass? I’ve a sneaking suspicion I missed the main, obvious point of the exercise.

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      1. I keep telling you that you can’t please everyone. I quite liked your post, from the English perspective AND the religious one.

        I suppose I ought to have answered honestly and not poked fun at Doubting Stephen.

        1. I enjoy simplistic and advanced descriptions, including new terms found in other languages. Our role as artists is to successfully communicate a feeling or experience in another person.
        Language is terribly limited and the challenge is real.

        2. I’ve had many English teachers and could write a blog post about each. My college teachers were two of my favorites: one is currently a night club comedian and the other can never be adequately described by words. He is Jimi Hendrix, Shel Silverstein, and Stephen Fry in one person.

        3. I hear Christian clichés quite often. I usually react in the opposite way I ought to.

        4. God is a personal creator to each person, in that each sees Him as he can and desires to. He is described as perfect yet many do not understand that term to mean ‘ever changing to betterment.’ His love is available to all, though distributed most often through intermediary sources.

        I still need to write my post on all this…

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  6. I hated English and it wasn’t until grade 11 that I had a teacher that made it sort of make sense for me. I can not spell which is very annoying. I never cared what was an adjitive, adverb, predicate. Just typing those words brings back horror. Give me math and science any day of the week!!

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  7. I think we would exhaust our repertoire of adjectives in trying to describe God. As you pointed out, our teeny, tiny brains could never fully understand who and what God is. How could we, limited to our humanity as we are? Still, God IS good, and so much more!

    I quite enjoyed your description of your English teacher and the lessons you learned as her student. Lazy language is a phrase that will stick with me. You seem to have mastered the art of writing very well indeed.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. It is interesting how you equate the word good with a lazy use of language. I do agree that using cliches to describe an amazing and awesome God misses how big God is but, I feel the use of the word good is to understand a fundamental characteristic of who God is. He is good to all in his creation, his mercy and love covers us all. is there moments that we doubt his goodness? Are there moments when we don’t understand his goodness or why the word is even used? absolutely!
    But it comforts me to know that even when i use the word good, somehow that encompasses all that God is and has done for me. It is such a simple word but has such an incredible depth, one that I don’t and can’t fully comprehend.
    My english teacher inspired to use language in a way that expresses myself and the world around me and I am eternally grateful to her. When I look in the bible, the word good and goodness is used again and again. It is a word that can be overlooked, turned into a cliche but somehow there is still power in a word that only has four letters when we use it in sincerity.
    (It is a bit silly, but in my child like brain, you add one ‘o’ you have got good, take one a way you have God. It is a silly thing to notice but reminds me that his goodness is innate.)

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  9. I enjoyed the description of your long-suffering, frozen teacher. Not everyone is as good at using words as you. I don’t mind hearing “God is good ” because it’s true and in our increasingly anti-God world, it’s comforting to know I am in the company of, at least, a possible friend. What is a sufficient word to describe the creator and controller and savior of the world? Awesome is a good word if you mean it in the original sense, not the ’80s sense.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I have often said to my kids to be exact in their word choices! Lazy language reveals a lackluster effort – in writing, anyway. And I hope that someday, when the time is right, you will revisit your book. You mentioned in a previous comment that lack of confidence is why you shelved it…And while there are many good reasons to set such a project aside, your writing ability should not be one of them. You are talented, far more than the majority of those I read on WordPress, and I know many would agree with me. Just my two cents.

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  11. I don’t recall ever having anyone lecture me against lazy language. Not because I didn’t use it, but because I think our English teachers (of which I had mostly great ones) were more concerned about spelling and punctuation than our choice of words. I read so much as a kid (and still do) that there always seemed to be alternative words in my vocabulary. Plus my dad is a writer, so I think it just kind of passed itself down.

    To me, God can’t be described by an adjective. There simply aren’t words that any human can come up with to adequately describe the Lord. Like you said, God is God. He is I AM. But, completely contradicting what I just said, to me, God is Everything. There is a song by the Christian vocal group Avalon called “Everything to Me” that was a hit when I was in high school, I think. (So it’s very early 2000s power-song.) The chorus goes:
    “You’re everything to me
    You’re more than a story
    More than words on a page of history
    You’re the air that I breathe
    The water I thirst for
    And the ground beneath my feet
    You’re everything, everything to me.”

    So…my thoughts, whatever they’re worth.

    Liked by 2 people

  12. I was an angry, rebellious, self-destructive and reckless youth. After totaling two cars and nearly killing myself, I wanted to turn my life around, and there was my senior English teacher to meet me at the cross road to a new path. She was the kind of teacher students hoped they wouldn’t get. She challenged me to think, and to write and to seek truth, and it set the on the course to the rest of my life. I will be forever grateful.

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  13. The ego can sneak in when we don’t have even realize it. Before we realize it we can start looking down at others. Sometimes Good is just .. good. We don’t always have to get carried away with …Someetimes some of us are just simple..I think Jesus might say Amen. Balance…The one who get through Don’t Push..they keep it real and relate to All❤️

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  14. I am guilty of using a lot of lazy words. And yes I love to say “God is good” because He is indeed good. I don’t know how else to describe Him because He is so good to me. If I try to use any other fancy adjectives I will sound false and pretentious. God is good!

    Liked by 2 people

  15. christian cliche’s and my thoughts on god

    my english teacher was diane jones she told me to do most of my homework in my head so that when it came time to write most of it was finished

    a christian cliche to me is a church it’s a non profit organization that provides in my opinion high school drop outs with a place to get the basic lecture on how to live since they didn’t pay attention in school. in m opinion if you work your way up through college or university you don’t need church.

    god is god god to me is a word in a book that you can do clever things with like instill fear in the hearts of people that think a book is a mystery

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  16. When I taught English my pet peeve was the use of “like” as a verbal pause. When a student was trying to express his point of view, the moment he said “like,” (not as a verb or preposition) he was finished and had to sit down. We had fun with it, though. If I wasn’t having fun teaching, I knew the kids weren’t either, and if nobody was enjoying it, I’d just as soon go home. 😉

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  17. PS Another pet peeve of mine is calling God “a friend of mine.” I won’t name the song that has that phrase in it, since the songwriter is way more famous than I am, but I always wonder, if he were out with his wife and ran into one of her old acquaintances, and she introduced him as “a friend of mine,” would he be happy? Yes, God is good, but He’s also the Love of my life! ❤

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  18. What are your views on lazy language?

    I consider curse words to be a kind of lazy language. They’re overused as an easy way to express strong emotion indirectly, instead of communicating (or thinking) in a more complex fashion.

    What was your English teacher like?

    Among my numerous English teachers, my favorite English teacher had waist-length ash-brown hair that she wore in a bun every day except the last day of school, when she wore it down. The only other things I know about her personally were that she played the violin and lived in a trailer park. From my perspective, she was sensitive and deeply-felt, sometimes appearing judgmental.

    Care to share your experiences of Christian cliches?

    The praying hands icon left as a comment to a Facebook post intended to elicit others’ sympathy.

    What words would you use to describe God?

    I believe in many gods. I would use the words: lake, trees, sun, moon, butterflies.

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  19. I think the word “good” is helpful because many people know what it means. We don’t necessarily have to be elaborate when it comes to God and describing Him. He created the world and said it was “good”. If that was okay for Him, then I think it is okay to use when describing Him as well as many other scriptures that share how God is good. But I do see what you mean. People can be very surfacey. Blessing talk. God is good. But people do not go deeper, and that’s a problem. I think that’s what you are driving at, and I agree. Why is God good? We can say He is good all we want. But if we can’t explain it and show others why it is just a phrase.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. Great post! Lazy English doesn’t bother me so much. It’s like profanity to me, often misused, but there for a purpose. If the goal is to communicate, one must make allowances for the audience. I have tried using good English on my uneducated family and friends, and all too often I have to switch to using lazy English because they understand it better.

    I maintain agnostic views on God, which to me simply means becoming comfortable with mystery. I don’t know much about god that I can trust. Maybe I really don’t need to. If he exists, he seems pretty fickle and not particularly interested in the earth or our lives upon it. I am ok with this. I don’t hate him, he just operates on rules I don’t think I’m capable of understanding. This means he is like the elephant being described by the proverbial five blind men, and given enough blind men and time, he may turn out to be something else entirely. All I really need to live a good life is to be honest, have integrity, sacrifice self for others, but not so much that I lose the essence of who I am, and understand that all growth is change, though the reverse is not true. There are beautiful and wise things in all the holy books, and I can appreciate them for being wise and beautiful without relying on a source of divinity. I wonder if this path will one day lead back to God, but if it does or does not, at least I will live a good life in the mean time.

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