by Julia Sterne
October 17, 2017
5 min read
It is a commonly held view that there are good things on this planet. We can list them and express our thankfulness on stat holidays. They can be people, places or things, actions or inactions, thoughts or experiences; all varied expressions of good. It is the current tagline for Starbucks, “Good feels good.” It’s plastered all over the city. Seems a pretty blah statement, thanks Captain Obvious.
However, have you ever been looking forward to a Peanut M&M (or an Almond M&M—yum!) and after delighting in its colourful candy-coated shell, bitten through the chocolate to find nothing else? Have you ever picked a fresh crisp apple, chomped into the sweet flesh, only to find half a worm wriggling (realizing suddenly the other half is in your mouth)?
What about reading a new book, so thrilling and enjoyable until the last page where it remains unresolved forever!? Or buying a killer pair of new kicks and then seeing headlines that the company used child labour? Or finding a new way of addressing life’s problems, self-help or yoga, for it to feel a bit empty at the end of the day?
There are good things on this planet. But boy, can they be a let-down.
Let’s talk about kids.
I have the most amazing gift in my life. Two adorable children. They are precious, fascinating, hilarious, loving, filled with potential, and genuinely good gifts. But being a mom is hard; the good doesn’t always feel good (talking to you, Starbucks). Sometimes they cry, all day, for no reason I can comprehend. Sometimes they throw up on me, literally. Today’s vomit award goes to raspberries. Ansley’s response? “It’s my favourite colour, pink!” Sometimes, they stand up at Thanksgiving dinner, screaming because there are no hot dogs and then leave the table in a huff. Not always good.
We say this life is full of good. But is it really? More and more I hear of people pursuing good things only to be unsatisfied, to come up empty-handed, or to feel guilty in some way after an indulgence. And if one good thing comes to an end, then they have to find the next thing, the next person, the next goal.
Presumably, there are good things all around. Some have roles as our vices in excess: money, food, relaxing, shopping, sex. Some would probably never be seen as “bad” but still aren’t fulfilling: relationships, marriage, kids, even church life and bible study. That good should feel good often feels like a farce.
I do it every day. Pursue the good stuff. Try and find a good life. Follow the good path. Support the good places. Because “good feels good.” But lately, it hasn’t always been feeling good. Even the best good stuff can seem gutted in some way, hollowed out.
I do it every day. Pursue the good stuff. But lately, it hasn’t always been feeling good. Even the best good stuff can seem gutted in some way.
There is a story in the book of Luke where a young man runs up to Jesus and calls him “Good teacher.” And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone.” Such a strange response. I mean, we are all good people, right? (Even when we sometimes make bad choices). That is a Pacific Northwest standard accepted truth. And Jesus—he is super good, right? And, despite the disappointments and the tragedies, the earth is still full of good stuff. Right?
That is not what Jesus is saying. He is saying no one, nothing is good but God. Do you think it’s possible we got this wrong? Is it possible the earth is not full of good people and good things? But before we get into some existential crisis and start worshipping at the feet of Nietzsche, hear me out. God is good. God is good! He is good. It is his nature, his very being. It is a reality interwoven through his every particle. (Assuming particles are even a factor). He is good, everywhere, across time and space, accessible and available to all. He is good.
Just read Luke 18. Jesus teaches us that God gives justice, he exalts a humbled sinner, he embraces little snot-nosed kids who scream all day, he promises that those who have lost for his sake will be given more and more abundance in return, he restores the sight of blind man who has been abandoned by everyone. He makes him whole. He is good. We are wired to want good things, goodness in our life. We seek it out daily, moment by moment. And Starbucks, who I imagine pays their advertising and marketing researchers a lot of money, has come to decide this is true as well. Good feels good.
But unfortunately, it is not about their coffee (… burnt!). It is about God. In Luke 18, Jesus says to ask God for justice, to ask God for mercy. Run to him, let him embrace you, ask him for healing. If you want something, go to him; throw everything you have away. All your earthly possessions are nothing in comparison to him and his goodness. We are wired for good, but not the Starbucks version, not the Pacific Northwest version. Not the “good enough” stuff or relationships. We are wired for God, his real and weighty and lasting goodness, his nature. He is good and he wants to bring goodness into your life – through himself!
So next time you crave that good feeling, where will you be heading?