You are good and do good. (Psalm 119:68)
When George Mueller lost the wife of his youth, to whom he had been married for 39 years, and of whom he once said, "With every year our happiness increased more and more," he took up the heavy task of preaching her funeral sermon. And what text did this husband, now stricken with great love lost, choose for such an occasion? A text of six simple words: "You are good and do good" (Psalm 119:68).
You are good and do good. Mueller had prayed (oh how he prayed) that God would be pleased to display his goodness by healing his ailing wife. But when she closed her eyes for the last time, he knew that God had not ceased to be good and to do good — and that somehow, he would work this sorrow for good.
In other words, the goodness of God was not a question for Mueller in the midst of his suffering. The goodness of God was the soft and certain pillow on which he laid his head.
You Are Good
"The Lord is good, and doeth good," Mueller began his funeral sermon. "All will be according to his own blessed character."
How do we know that God is good? Many of us try to answer that question mainly by considering what God does. The problem, however, is that we typically judge what God does by our own standards of what good is. And so, as soon as God gives suffering of one sort or another, we struggle to grasp how the giver could still be good.
Not so for Mueller. He did not infer the goodness of God first from his circumstances or the world around him but from the word of God. He knew that his own standards of goodness were limited, fallible, unreliable and that only Scripture can tell us the truth about God’s character. And what does God's word say?
"Good and upright is the Lord" (Psalm 25:8).
"Oh, how abundant is your goodness!" (Psalm 31:18).
"Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good!" (Psalm 106:1).
"The Lord is good to all, and his mercy is over all that he has made" (Psalm 145:9).
Or, in the beautiful brevity of Psalm 119:68, "You are good." No matter what we may feel in the moment, God is good: always-and-forever good, abundant-and-overflowing good, merciful-and-gracious good.
You Do Good
If God has taught us to say, from the deepest parts of us, "You are good," then he will also teach us to say, even from the deepest suffering, "You do good." Because God is good, God only does good - even when he takes away our dearest earthly joys.
Not that our hearts won't be broken. They will be, as Mueller himself felt when he heard his wife's diagnosis: "My heart was nigh to be broken on account of the depth of my affection." But still, as he held his broken heart in his hands, Mueller went on to say,
Nothing but that, which is good, like himself, can proceed from him. If he pleases to take my dearest wife, it will be good, like himself. What I have to do, as his child, is to be satisfied with what my Father does, that I may glorify him.
Of course, Mueller would not say that death itself is good. Nor is any of our suffering - a truth sealed by the promise that God will one day take it all away (Revelation 21:4). But God’s purposes in suffering are always good. So even when the devil, the world, or another person does us bad, God always and forever does us good.
Do you believe it? As you look back over the years and decades gone by, and especially over the graveyards of broken hearts and buried dreams, do you believe that God has only ever been good to you and that he can work even the worst parts of the past for your good? Can you say with Mueller, "You are good and do good"?
If you struggle, come back to the moment when goodness finally appeared among us.
When Goodness Appeared
In his letter to Titus, the apostle Paul writes of the day "when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared" (Titus 3:4). Goodness appeared. And what did goodness look like?
It looked like a man born of the virgin Mary. It looked like hands stretched out to heal. It looked like a mouth filled with truth. It looked like a lamb led to the slaughter. It looked like our sins laid on his shoulders. It looked like a tomb cold and silent. It looked like a stone rolled away. It looked like a Son raised to glory.
When George Mueller looked at the face of Jesus Christ, he couldn’t help but say with the psalmist, "You are good and do good." "And so my heart was at rest," he went on to say. "I was satisfied with God." Satisfied in life or in death, in love restored or love removed. May God give us grace to say the same.