When “Isn’t God Good?” Isn’t Rhetorical

It was not a pleasant scene.

I was chatting with two wonderful friends, Parker and Meg at their house when we were joined by two surprise guests—Mark and Abigail—who showed up to announce big news.

They were pregnant.

Pregnant with their first. Just had the ultrasound—healthy as a horse. And, wouldn’t you know, his employer was giving them a house so that there’d be enough room for Junior to run around, and their parents were just thrilled and oh, isn’t God good?

That question got asked a lot. Isn’t God good? It got asked until Meg politely excused herself.

It’s not Mark and Abby’s fault—they didn’t know that Parker and Meg have been trying to get pregnant for years now. With only miscarriages to show for it.

They’ve talked about how hard it is to see other couples have kids—and that’s to be expected. Anytime someone else gets something that we want, it’s difficult. But the pain here went deeper than just jealousy.

“Isn’t God good?” Yes, I suppose so. But that’s meant to be a rhetorical question—one we only ask when our circumstances are also good.

They accepted the offer! Isn’t God good?

Mike got a raise! Isn’t God good?

The doctor called and the tests came back negative! Isn’t God GOOD?

But what then are we to do with the rest of life? The times when the offer is refused, Mike is fired, and the tests come back worse than the doctor thought? Or, if you will, the times when the answer to the question “Isn’t God good?” isn’t quite so rhetorical?

In those moments, we turn to Job. I heard a woman once say “I don’t understand a word of Job. Not a damn word.” and that has stuck with me ever since. It is the book where the question of God’s goodness is an open one, and it finds no answer. It’s the book of the downtrodden, the brokenhearted, the disappointed and, I would think, barren. There are no sermon illustrations. No jee-whiz parting Red Seas or Lazaruses strutting out of the grave.

Merely the question: “Isn’t God good?

And the unsettling answer: “Who are you, oh man?”

This is why the “Isn’t God good?” line is of little use to us—or, at least, it will be until we have a better working knowledge of who God is and what we mean by “good.”

In Job, we see a man who was confused by God, distraught, and desperate for some answers. But he “did not sin by blaming God” (1:22) because he had a different mantra than “isn’t God good?”

It’s the same mantra Parker and Meg have held to through their heartache.

It’s Job 13:15:

“God might kill me, but I have no other hope.”


Leave a comment


  1. It was only after I was diagnosed with cancer, that I really found out the answer. Yes. Isn’t God good? Yes.

  2. Love this. This is very much my heart.

    And Job is my new favourite book of the Bible.

  3. scblair

     /  August 2, 2013

    As a hospice chaplain I’ve seen more than once how that phrase can cut like a knife.

  4. This is really good. Thank you for sharing this experience and challenging the question we all ask. I’ve been observing our generation, watching many confront he concepts and notions that our lives have been cushioned by, and things like this have challenged me also in my walk and how I interact with those “christianese’ phrases.

  5. I have always tended to avoid the book of Job–precisely because of it’s open-endedness, but I connect with what Job goes on to say after v.15. He says, “Just wait, this is going to work out for the best–my salvation!” Jesus–a man of sorrows, familiar with suffering–could put up with anything along the way because he never lost sight of where he was headed. (Heb.12, the MSG) Job somehow managed to do this as well, through it all. I struggle to follow that example–I want life on my terms and question God when the good desires of my heart go unfulfilled or when God takes something good out of my life–but, I have no doubt that God is good. He is who he is and my circumstances don’t change that, so the question I have started asking myself is not “Isn’t God good?” but rather, “Isn’t God good enough?”

  6. Well said, Tyler. “Isn’t God good?” shouldn’t mean “Isn’t it great that he did what we wanted him to?” You’re absolutely right that we need a different definition of “good.” BTW, every time I get to read something wonderful that you’ve written, I still secretly take just a tiny bit of credit for “discovering” you in College Writing. Is that bad?

    • Kelli, you may not even remember, but you handed the first college paper I ever wrote back to me and suggested I major in Communications. It was a turning point, and if you don’t take credit for where I’m at, then I don’t know who ought to!

  7. Nicholas Acord

     /  August 12, 2013

    I think you addressed that lingering question of evil in the best way I have ever heard it said–at least for me.

  8. Having gone through miscarriages and the heartache of trying to get pregnant for over five years, this post resonates. Well said Tyler.

  9. Yes. (New reader here. Relevant FAN). Any tips on “how” to engage this conversation sometimes – with younger aged believers? Let it go? I find myself wanting to gently engage this (also with Jer 29:11) … but too timid, and who wants to be the buzz kill?

    • I think you sort of answered your own question, Dawn. The answer is simply to engage young believers in it. Instead of telling them the old line about how God is always good, ask them what they observe in the world around them, and how they believe God’s goodness works into that. If we start from two key points—1. God is Good and 2. Things On Earth Are Not Always Good-then we end up with an important conversation, but one that will end in meaningful conclusions.

  10. Nick Acord

     /  September 29, 2013

    I shared this with my high school students in our Bible class last week. I have a good deal of young people in my room who are struggling to answer this one, and I believe your post helped a good many of them work through their thoughts. The real question now is, when will Tyler Huckabee himself come and grace our classroom?

  11. There’s a lot of Christian Buzz words like this that are overused, but we should just all have some Grace…. The young Christian couple had no idea of the situation and should be allowed to celebrate God’s goodness in their pregnancy. The couple sadly wanting to be pregnant are in a place that is hard, but, they should Bless that couple, not leave the room… That is selfish and too much drama. I’ve been in that situation, so yes, I do know it’s hard. Looking back, I wished I had been a Blesser not a Joy stealer… So yes, isn’t God good enough? Can you Bless others when you feel un-Blessed? These are the Valleys, not the Mountain Tops, and where we find humility and servitude. Not an easy path.. but, the Lord is our Shepherd..


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