Remembering God's Goodness

I used to be completely bewildered by people who proclaimed God’s goodness with steadiness -- even enthusiasm! -- in the midst of difficult, even dire times. Where is the “goodness” of God in this mess? I’d think. What kind of good God creates a world where *this* (whatever “this” trial is) would be possible, even likely? It was a problem that consumed most of my faith and many of my thoughts throughout my early 20s. I didn’t understand, then, the assurance of so many that the world is often not “good,” natural forces like viruses and famines are not good, people are often not “good,” but God? God is Good.

Now I see it all differently. I have become one of those previously strange people who stand assured that whatever is happening with this global pandemic (and it is assuredly Not Good), God is with us as we face it and respond to it, and God is, indeed, Good. But like any human in these times, I wonder what will happen. I am seduced by fear, or goaded into denial by the part of me that does not want to face these changing times head-on. 

But then, sitting down to the daily office / morning prayer on my cell phone on March 17, I was reminded of this age-old call to active remembrance of God’s goodness in times when we are most likely to forget:

Psalm 78:

Hear my teaching, O my people

Incline your ears to the words of my mouth

I will open my mouth in a parable

I will declare the mysteries of ancient times

That which we have heard and known,

And what our forebears have told us, 

We will not hide from their children.

We will recount to generations to come 

the praiseworthy deeds and the power of the Lord

And the wonderful works he has done … 

So that they might put their trust in God,
and not forget the deeds of God

But keep his commandments.

I’m going to be honest, it’s not my favorite psalm. As it goes on, it talks about the sad back and forth dynamic of forgetting and punishment and remembrance, but it ends with this image of God remembering, with love and forgiveness, who WE are, too: “For he remembered that they were but flesh, a breath that goes forth and does not return.”

God knows we are prone to forget the reality of this Goodness that calls us to be Good -- to be loving and honest and courageous -- even in the most trying times. And so our sacred texts are FULL of the call to Remembrance. Remember! Remember! Remember!

I will talk more about HOW we can practice this is the days to come. But for now, I’ll say this: it can be as simple as 5 minutes a day, turning your gaze from the bewildering news of each day and turning your attention toward the God is with you, as close as your breath. What goodness did you see today? For what do you give thanks? If there is nothing from today, can you meditate on a time or place when God’s goodness was much closer than it feels now? Can you remember? If your fragmentation is so deep that there is nothing you can pull together from your memory, can you turn toward God in silence with a simple cry for help? Carve out space for this work, individually and with others. It can make the difference between desperate wandering and (relatively) steady walking in the wilderness.