17 Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls:
18 Yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation.
19 The LORD God is my strength, and he will make my feet like hinds’ feet, and he will make me to walk upon mine high places (Hab 3:17-19).
God’s people were suffering under tremendous injustice. The kings were wicked. The princes were wicked. The judges were wicked. But God is still good.
God is about to punish the wickedness of the nation with the invasion of Chaldeans. It would be brutal, harsh, deadly. Most would not live. But God is still good.
Some times fig trees don’t blossom. But God is still good.
Some times the grapes don’t grow. But God is still good.
Sometimes the wheat fields fail. Sometimes the flocks die. Sometimes plague takes away the cattle. But God is still good.
God is sovereign over sickness, cattle, fig trees, olive trees. If they don’t blossom, it is by God’s decree. If they die in the field, it is by God’s decree. When children get sick, it is by God’s decree. A God who has no power over sickness and health is not a God to worship at all.
God is beyond easy answers, mindless platitudes, memes with pretty pictures, and viral sloganeering. He doesn’t fit into your boxes. But he is still good.
We only see part of the tapestry. He sees the “end from the beginning”. And he is still good.
We see only a little bit of the tapestry and we are inside of it. We are a part of created order, creatures of time and space and limits. But he is outside seeing the whole – and it fits into his perfect decree. Not one fallen hair out of place. And he is still good.
His goodness is seen in the beauty of the fig tree, the joy of the olives, the delights of good wine. In the perfectly cooked roast and the wondrously spicy curried lamb.
His goodness is in the children around the table like shoots of an olive tree. In full larders and green meadows and the sound of surf on a spring morning in Oregon.
But he is beyond easy answers. Because sometimes the fig tree fails. Sometimes the olives don’t blossom. And he is still good. He prepares a table for me, but I am still in the presence of enemies. God’s goodness is seen even in suffering, if we have the eyes to see.
I suppose that certain theological persuasions are trying to be helpful when they tell me that it is not God’s will for people to be sick. But it really isn’t helpful because it isn’t true, and lies are never comforting. Sometimes the truth is hard, but it is always better than a lie.
Who’s will is it, then, that there is sickness? Is there something outside of God’s decree? Is there something outside of God’s control? Is there someone or something that is in charge of illness that isn’t good? Of course not. There is only one God, only one Lord, only one Creator. Only one sovereign.
But the hard truth is this:
Crops fail, and God is still good.
Children suffer, and God is still good.
Death still happens, and God is still good.
He isn’t ignoring suffering. He isn’t delighting in the suffering of his people. But he isn’t out of control either.
Not one hair falls, not one sparrow falls, apart from God’s decree. But hairs and sparrows still fall.
And God is still good. And I can’t sort all of that out, but I can cry out to him. I can’t sort it out because I am in the tapestry of creation and I don’t see everything. But I know he does.
And here is what I know. He hears me when I cry to him. He loves me and receives me as his child in Christ. He has washed away my sin.
I will walk on high places and my feet will one day leap and dance like an antelope.
And until that day, even in suffering, I know I can trust him.
Because he is still good.