God Done Good

A few weeks ago, I was standing high in the Great Smoky Mountains, looking down at a vista of mountains upon mountains, valleys after valleys, all tinted with many shades of springtime green. In the distance, a slight haze merged mountain into sky. Other people were looking, too, gazing in silence or snapping pictures with their phones. A man in an orange shirt paused next to me. “Isn’t it amazing?” he asked. And I answered, “yes, it is.” Then he walked on, adding emphatically, “God done good!” And I, surprised and delighted, responded, “Yes, God did!”

That evening, snuggly enjoying our mountain cabin, my husband Larry and I received a phone call from our sister-in-law Carla. With her voice breaking, she told us that Larry’s brother Dale had been killed when his airplane was blown into power lines, exploded, and burned. We listened, stunned with horror and disbelief. It couldn’t be true! Dale was healthy and a very experienced pilot who was taking off or landing his plane in clear weather. What had happened? No one knew.

When sudden tragedy comes close, we humans, in the midst of our pain and grief, want to understand it. How did this dreadful accident happen? Although an official agency will eventually report on causation, wind shear perhaps, only Dale was there, and we will never know exactly what happened.

We wrestle with the really big questions, too, the “why now? why Dale?” questions, and they, too, remain unanswered. Through my fog of pain and confusion, I continued to hear the voice of the man in the orange shirt: God done good. No way! There is nothing good and never will be about this accident!

Now I am at home again. I remember the Smokies, the greening trees and the proliferation of fern and wildflowers that had given so much joy while we were there. The Biblical story of creation (Genesis 1) repeats no fewer than six times that “God saw that it was good.” Verse 31 even states that “God saw everything that he had made, and indeed it was very good.” Yes, God done good, but this accident of Dale’s death was not created or purposed by God. This accident was more like a malfunction in the universe that God created.

Myron Miller, another brother-in-law, wrote that “God is not the author of tragedy but the master redeemer.” To redeem something is to bring something good into all that is wrong. Someone said to Carla, “I cannot make it right for you, but I can mow your lawn. And here is a flower, too.” He brought something good to assuage the overwhelming wrong.

I believe that God was present in the offer to mow the lawn, in the gifts of casseroles, and the notes expressing sympathy and love. Jesus’ disciple John wrote in a letter to early Christians, “Friends, let us love one another, for love is of God.” Love is the very essence of God, a very powerful force. When we reach out in loving compassion toward each other in our suffering, we are evidence of God’s presence in the most painful of times.

As we embrace those who grieve and embrace each other in shared grief, we are on holy ground. God is within the loving tenderness we show. We humans can grow calloused and immured to others’ pain when overwhelmed by cruelty and tragedy. I don’t believe, however, that the inner God-force that draws us to compassion is ever completely extinguished in us.

During this time of great pain in the world, of pandemic-caused illness and death, of cultural wars and political wars, of wars of words and of weapons, we have grown exhausted. But an extraordinary part of this extraordinary time is the huge number of people who have found the energy to give extra caring to others, even though it could seem easier to harden themselves and turn away. Their continued compassion and care is living evidence of the strength of the Love-force we carry within us.

In the giving and receiving of such loving care, whether the acts be large or small, we draw closer to each other in a kind of sacred communion. My family is scattered across the country and sees each other infrequently. But when 25 of us met on Zoom a week after Dale’s death, we were on holy ground. We wept and laughed, shared stories and discussed plans. In the midst of all that was wrong, this was good. We were grateful.

May we be channels of loving care for each other in times of grief and pain, and may the God of love draw us close.

8 thoughts on “God Done Good”

  1. Nancy, I’m so sorry about Dale, such a tragic death and such a loss to you and Larry. It’s hard for anyone to fully know the shock and grief you are all going thru. But you have my very deepest sympathy. Your words in this essay are inspiring and thought provoking. Someone once said to me that god doesn’t cause painful things to happen to us but he allows them. And then gets us thru them. That has made sense to me. When I read your first comments about the awe inspiring mountains I thought of my first sight of the Grand Tetons. I had only ever seen mountains like we have here. I’ve never been able to find words other than awe, majesty, god to really describe what I felt when they came into my view, it was a feeling like I’d never had before. Those mountains were so vast, huge, almost other worldly. I guess God is the relevant word here, seeing God in those mountains. Thanks for your comments, Nancy, they inspired me again. Peggy Frailey

    1. Thank you for writing, Peggy! Mountains are amazing, aren’t they?—Somehow speaking to us of God’s presence always with us. And thank you also for your sympathy in this painful time my family is experiencing. Such expressions of caring do carry one through . Nancy

  2. Nancy,
    Thank you for sharing this personal story and finding good amidst such heartache. Your writing and sharing your experiences creates such ripples of good for so many people; thank you.

    1. Thank you, Peggy. I appreciate your understanding, and how the message can “ripple out”and others can find comfort for hard times. This brings comfort to me, too. many

  3. Dear Nancy and Larry,

    I’m so sorry for the loss of your loved one, Dale.

    Nancy, I agree with your wise words that the God/force within us is never extinguished. From it, flows compassion and love.

    Thank you for always looking for the beauty even in difficult times.


    1. Dear Laurie, I am so glad that you found the beauty in this painful story. And that you agree with me that God’s pull within us to be love to others is never completely extinguished. Nancy

  4. Dear Nancy.
    Just reading “God Done Good,” and not knowing of your and Larry’s losing Larry’s brother, ohhh. I am so sorry for your losses and pain.

    1. Thank you for writing, Faith. Yes, it has been a hard time, and, as you know, journeying through grief takes time. When I wrote about Dale’s death last month, it was hard to find the redeeming in it. But now, I have experienced more of the love and healing that comes with pain. Nancy

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