If the devil can use a little goodness to play his game - to make you forfeit your hope and question your faith - then how are you ever supposed to know what is truly goodness from God? How do you know which goodness to hang your hat on and which to hold with more cautious hands?
Because the truth is that the goodness of the devil is still goodness. Those good days you're having, those good moments, those good times are not an illusion; they really are good. Those moments when you believe that your life has finally turned a corner and that your burden is lifting are actually moments when your burden is lighter and you can see a light at the end of the tunnel. It's not an illusion; it really is happening.
But if the devil is taking these moments that actually are good and telling you that if you love God, you'll trust Him for them, and if the devil is taking these actually good moments and using them to question your faith and forfeit your hope, then how do you ever believe in a thing like goodness at all? How do you know when the goodness is from God or when it's just part of the devil's game?
There are two fairly simple answers to this question, and goodness must meet both criteria in order to be the goodness of God.
First, the goodness of God is not fragile. You never feel like you have to carry it gingerly, like it's going to break if you lean on it too hard. The goodness of God is hardy and it can withstand the pressure of your life pressing in on it. If you're afraid to move, afraid to breathe, afraid to really fully step into a goodness because something just doesn't seem quite right about it, it's not goodness from God. The goodness of God is not fragile; it won't break.
That's because the goodness of God comes from something outside of yourself. It's not dependent upon you to keep it going. The devil's goodness whispers to you that it's something you did that made it happen, some decision you made, something you deprived yourself of. Your own hard work is finally paying off, and as long as you keep all of your plates spinning just like they are right now, you can hold onto your goodness. That's the devil's goodness. It's so fragile that you blink and you mess the whole thing up. But the goodness of God is no such thing because it doesn't depend upon you. You can tell instinctively from your heart, if you're paying honest attention, which kind of goodness is which.
Second, the goodness of God will never take your eyes off of hope. That's the entire reason the devil uses goodness - to distract you from any real opportunity to step toward healing. But God will never give you something good to convince you that you don't need something else that's good. God will not give you goodness to take your mind off your infirmity. He will not give you goodness to take your focus off your brokenness. The goodness of God is not a distraction; it's a gift.
That means that if things in your life are so good right now that you don't even think you have to ask questions any more, it's probably not the goodness of God. If your life is full of satisfaction and not thankfulness, it's probably not the goodness of God. If you're convinced that your life has finally turned a corner so much so that you no longer need to seek goodness because you already have it, it is probably not the goodness of God. The goodness of God compounds upon itself; it will always lead you to seek more goodness, not to back away from it. The goodness of God will never - can never - take your eyes off of hope.
Yes, our own human frailty plays into this a little bit. Some of us are just not good at accepting goodness, even the goodness of God, but we know our hearts better than we pretend that we do. We know when we're just so relieved to have a little bit of goodness that we're biting off more than we can chew and we know when goodness is real. We just have to be willing to be honest with ourselves about it. The above two considerations are a great place to start.
Does this goodness feel fragile? God is not fragile.
Does this goodness so satisfy my soul that I no longer seek good things? God does not distract us from seeking good things - ever.
So if the answer to either of these question is 'yes,' then what you've got is the devil's game. Play accordingly.
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