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The good, the bad and the medicine


Alice Harrison examines the concept of goodness and what it has to do with God

Just the threat of a spoonful could bring about a miraculous recovery

 AS a child, I dreaded the bottle of kaolin and morphine. Even as I’m writing this, I can still taste the medicine in the back of my mouth.

Back then, just the threat of a spoonful of the cream-coloured liquid could bring about a miraculous recovery from any complaint that I had! It was horrible stuff. But I was assured by my loving parents that taking it was good for me.

My experiences of nasty-tasting medi­cine taught me at an early age that good things are not always very pleasant to experience.

The concepts of ‘good’ and ‘goodness’ are often discussed in relation to God. For example, if God is good, why does he let things happen that we would rather not hap­pen? Or, if God is good, why is he often portrayed as a killjoy authoritarian?

I do believe that God is good. I also think that understanding this truth is the key to contented, peaceful living. But I realise that it’s not always easy to see the quality of goodness.

One Bible writer says that we can see it in nature around us. ‘Since the creation of the world,’ he writes, ‘God’s invisible qualities – his eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen’ (Romans 1:20 New International Version).

But if you have watched a natural his­tory programme, you can see that beauty and cruelty exist side by side. The tension between what we consider to be good and bad is somehow clarified as we watch the lion kill its prey for food, or the killer whale snatch a baby seal. It’s not pleasant to watch these things, but we know that they are nec­essary in nature – rather as the kaolin and morphine medicine was necessary to help me recover from my ailments.

God’s goodness does not shield us from the unpleasant aspects of life. But, if we believe in it, he can help us through the bad times and give us hope for a better future.

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