Lately I have been pondering another aspect of the goodness of God, in an effort to better understand His perfect character. I cannot help but to think that God’s goodness is largely displayed by what He withholds from us. I realize that this may seem a difficult concept to accept, because we tend to consider the term withholding as a negative thing – the amount of money that the government takes from our income, for example. A friend or loved one may withhold their affections, their trust, or important information from us. An employer will often withhold a raise in pay or a significant promotion due to his own greed or insecurity.
But God’s Word assures us in Psalm 84:11 that “No good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly (live with integrity)”. There are two conditions here… first, the object of our desire has to be truly good – and second, we must be living in the light. I have often heard this scripture misquoted in a blatant attempt to bribe God into doing what someone wants… “Lord, your Word tells us that you will withhold nothing from those of us who love you!” or “God, you’ve said that you will withhold no good thing from me – so why didn’t you answer my prayer for ______” – I’ll let you fill in the blank here. The point is that our perception of what constitutes a “good thing” is obviously flawed, as well as our own judgement or concern as to whether or not we are walking uprightly. When it comes to blessings from God, it’s best to trust in the Lord and lean not on our own understanding (Prov. 3:5)! His vision encompasses the entire future as well as all of the many people who may be affected by the “good thing” in which we are interested.
Have you ever thought about what God might be withholding from you that is negative, though? I mean, what about the illnesses you didn’t get, or the financial collapse that affected your friends and neighbors that somehow passed you by, or the betrayal of a best friend that you’ve never had to suffer? How about losing a child or a spouse? Enduring public shame and ridicule? There is no limit to what God may be protecting us from – but we don’t generally think about those things. We’d rather focus on what we want that we didn’t get, or what someone else has that we lack.
Speaking of which, there’s one final thing that God withholds from us daily that we absolutely do not want – and most likely always take for granted its absence. That is the punishment that we deserve. That’s right, we are all sinners (Rom. 3:23) and we all deserve the wrath of God and His punishment for our disobedience. That’s what we’ve earned. However, His mercy dictates that we don’t get what we deserve – we get His undeserved favor instead, commonly known as His grace. How can this be? How can a God who is perfectly just avoid satisfying justice? There is one answer for this question and one answer only – CHRIST.
God’s mercy and grace are both perfectly embodied by our Lord and Savior. First, God chose to withhold the punishment for all the sin committed prior to the Messiah’s death (Rom. 3:25) and allow it to fall on the back of the perfectly innocent, crucified Christ (Isaiah 53:5). He thus extended an amount of mercy that is completely unfathomable to us. He would have been perfectly justified in allowing every human being to suffer permanent, spiritual demise and eternal damnation, “for the wages of sin is death… but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” The free gift of God is His grace toward us in Christ, saving us from eternal separation from Him. Consider this passage from the Apostle Paul…
But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished—he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.
Knowing this profound truth, can we not be THANKFUL for what God withholds? Can we not add to our gratitude list the absence of the punishment we deserve for our rebellion against our Creator and Savior? GOD IS SO GOOD that He doesn’t give us what we rightly deserve – His wrath, and does give us what we could never merit – His favor. It turns out that withholding can truly be a good thing.
Thank you for joining me as we grow together not just to know about God, but to know God…
Korie Carter is a Structural Engineer by trade, holding a Masters Degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Florida in Gainesville. For the past decade, however, she has been increasingly focused on writing and teaching about scripture, which is her passion. She has completed several topical Bible Studies being taught at her home church, many insightful articles for personal devotion, and is working on a Christian fiction novel. Korie lives on Florida’s Space Coast at a suburban farm which she shares with her husband and three daughters, and she enjoys the beach, animals, music, and gardening.
Latest posts by Korie Carter (see all)
- “Not to Know About God, to Know God” – Why God Withholds - September 15, 2015
- “Not to Know About God, to Know God” – God is Good, Always - September 15, 2015
- Sanctification Happens - August 4, 2014