The symptoms had started slowly enough: headaches, muscle aches, and fatigue that seemed insurmountable. When their impact on my life became undeniable, I began the quest for answers. But it was only the beginning. In the months that followed, an entire cacophony of symptoms would replace the music of my life. My muscles grew fatigued after standing or walking. I had trouble swallowing, difficulty sleeping. I had tremors and numbness and tingling. Blurred vision made it difficult to work, and brain fog kept me in a confused haze many days.
A progression of life changes followed. I relied on a cane daily. For longer distances, I often needed a wheelchair. A chair lift was installed in our house so that I could reach our bedroom on bad days. I went from full-time work to part-time to not working at all. During flare-ups, I managed only two or three hours of mild activity and was confined to the couch or bed for what was left of the day. I missed out on bike rides, hikes, and basketball games with my kids in the driveway. Many nights I was too exhausted to leave the couch. I frequently cancelled plans with friends because I was too ill to participate. Conversations with my husband sounded more like medical team discussions than those of a married couple. And I grieved. I grieved deeply all the things that I’d lost.
There were no answers for all the tests and studies and doctor’s visits. No answers for nearly three years.
Inevitably, the waiting rooms became the spaces that shaped my faith. In those quiet, long moments, I was alone with God and the questions. There were so many questions. The waiting rooms were my desert, my place of wandering and testing and learning what it meant to believe that God was good.
I’d heard all my life about His goodness. “Taste and see that the Lord is good” (Psalm 34:8 NIV). I’d heard all my life that His plans for me, His purposes for me, were good. “I know the plans I have for you, they are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11 NLT). I’d believed in His goodness, trusted in it, even encouraged others to remember it.
But in the waiting rooms, my God felt anything but good. I was angry and heartbroken and grieving. I felt deceived — after all, the plans unfolding in my life were anything but good. How could He promise goodness?
He could — if goodness didn’t mean simply good things.
I thought of my children, of my role as their mother. I knew that in order to be a good parent, I would have to let my children stumble and fall so they could learn. I would need to push them, to encourage them to grow. I would have to let them go through hard things — to avoid it would ruin them. I would need to walk with them, support them, teach them, and comfort them through difficult things. I would need to correct them at times. A child without discipline, without boundaries, without the opportunity to learn from mistakes is a child who is not thriving. There’s more to parenting than filling our kids’ lives with good things. This is the making of a good mother.
I thought of teachers. A teacher who fails to correct mistakes in math is not doing his students any favors. Neither is a teacher who never pushes the child, never teaches new things, never encourages the student to move beyond what is comfortable and easy into what allows them to grow and learn. This is the making of a good teacher.
So, what, I found myself asking, is the making of a good God? A God who spares me hardship and heartache? A God who only allows my life to be filled with good things, comfortable things? Why do I think a good God would be any different from a good teacher or a good mother? Where had I come up with the idea that God was only good if I was protected and sheltered and spared heartache?
That’s not the goodness of God at all.
Rather, God’s goodness is something much greater, much more beautiful. The goodness of God is a God who is unchanging, who never wearies (no matter how weary I am), who never slumbers. It’s a God who walks with me through the fire and water, never leaves my side, and wakes me each morning with the promise of new mercies. It’s a God who gently corrects me and guides me and who refuses to leave me in the messiness of my own wrong ideas and actions. It’s a God who has my wholeness in mind and not just my happiness. And wholeness requires growth — sometimes uncomfortable growth.
His goodness isn’t some kind of deceit. It’s not disappointed hope or misplaced trust. His goodness, instead, is a heart that has my very best — my very fullness — in mind. His goodness isn’t absent just because I am hurting. Actually, it’s more present than ever.
Our lives are full of waiting rooms: those solitary, heartbreaking places full of questions. We question God’s goodness. We question His heart. We question whether He can be trusted in our circumstance. But the God who is good in the easy times is the God who is also good in the waiting rooms of life, in the broken spaces. His goodness is so much more than just good things.