God is good, all the time. All the time, God is good.
That’s a saying that I’ve been hearing a lot of lately. My friends from Tanzania were the first to introduce that phrase to me. We stood in front of their congregation and the exchange went like this:
Pastor: “God is Good!”
Congregation: “All the time! All the Time”
Pastor: “God is Good!”
It sounds so wonderful when you hear an entire audience declare God’s goodness. But what about when there’s not a crowd around? What are we declaring then?
When the chips are down and the enemy is hot on our heels, that’s when what we really believe comes out. In the middle of the night when your child is sick with a fever or when you have more bills than money at the end of the month, it may be more difficult to recall God’s goodness. In those times we have to reach down into what we know, not what we feel, and on purpose declare that no matter what, GOD IS GOOD.
There is a source of light in being able to declare the goodness of God in the pit of despair. To be able to say this as punctuation on a glorious day is to create the muscle memory that we will need for the days that feel like h. e. double hockey sticks. It reminds me of 5th Century monastic Christians called the Desert Father’s and Desert Mothers who prayed ceaselessly with the words of the Jesus Prayer. “Jesus Christ, son of God, have mercy on me.” This ceaseless prayer would be a constant companion day and night that at some point the one who prayed would merge with the words of the prayer and understand themselves as being completely loved, fully in grace, and one with Christ. They became the prayer.
I see a growing desire in many of you to develop this muscle memory. Worship is a wonderful place to do this with intentionality. Allow yourself time to center yourself before worship and during communion. Try the words of the Jesus prayer or the declaration of God’s goodness. Use these prayers in quiet moments when you are alone like when you are driving in your car or doing house chores. Perhaps you want to intentionally focus on the Jesus prayer when you notice negative thoughts or feelings creeping into your consciousness.
These prayers are the cognitive tools that we use to remind our very complex brain something that we know deep down in the recesses. You are deeply loved by God and there is nothing that can separate you from that love. This does not mean that you will not have hardship and pain in this life. But it does mean that none of those things can separate you from God’s love.