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Nobody wonders how God brings good out of bad during good times. This is a question reserved for dark days – for seasons of grief, failure, and disappointment. And yet, it’s a cautiously hopeful question. Can God bring good out of bad? Can He redeem what’s been lost? Heal what’s been broken? If so, how? 

Romans 11:22 urges us to “consider the kindness and sternness of God.” These two attributes are core tenets of God’s character, and together they help us understand how He brings good out of bad. 

Typically, we imagine kindness and sternness to be mutually exclusive, to look something like this:  

I bet you could close your eyes right now and picture one person who epitomizes either end of the spectrum. An adoring grandma. A terrifying boss. Where does God land? 

Harsh Tyrant or Gentle Santa? 

Some of us view God primarily as stern – the Punisher of anyone who steps out of line. Remember Job’s friends? In the darkest season of his life, they sat silently with him for seven days and had a beautiful ministry of presence. Then they opened their mouths and everything went downhill. In a nutshell, they concluded that Job must have disobeyed God because God is only stern with people who are bad.

But that’s just not true. Actually, Job was dealt with harshly because he was righteous (Job 1:1-12). You know who else was godly and upright? Joseph. David. Peter. John the Baptist. You know what they faced? Slavery. Imprisonment. Family trauma. Estrangement. Crucifixion. And a beheading. 

Just because you’re facing a dark night of the soul doesn’t mean God hates you or is punishing you. To live by such moralism is to forget the kindness of God. 

But what happens on the other end of the spectrum if we cast God as gentle Santa, a jolly agent of goodwill without any sternness at all? The problem with focusing solely on God’s kindness is that it disables us from understanding suffering. How do we reconcile a God who’s always kind with circumstances that are terrible? People who fall into this mindset tend to give evil way too much power. They say things like, “God would never let that happen, so it must be Satan.” 

But God does allow stern things to happen and is stern Himself. That’s not ungodly. It’s actually really godly.  

Understanding the Kindness and Sternness of God

If we could curve that spectrum into a circle, we’d see that kindness and sternness aren’t contradictory. They’re actually side by side, and in His supremacy, God fully embodies both. He doesn’t vacillate between attributes, but manifests both simultaneously. As He disciplines, He is driven by love (Hebrews 12:6). When He relents and shows compassion, He does not cede His power. 

This is why we love and fear God at the same time. His sternness sobers us to recognize that “the fear of the Lord is a fountain of life, turning a person from the snares of death” (Proverbs 14:27). It does not exist in opposition to His kindness but in harmony with it. 

How Does God Bring Good Out of Bad?

Are you facing a trial? Stern circumstances produce steadfast character. This is one of the ways God works good out of bad – He uses suffering to bring us to a place of wholeness, “mature and complete, lacking nothing” (James 1:2-4). 

Are you reaping the consequences of sin? Don’t lose heart – stern discipline produces peace. Though painful, it’s actually a form of divine rescue. The author of Hebrews writes, “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it” (Hebrews 12:11).

Are you in a prolonged season of suffering? God has not forgotten you. One day – whether in this life or the one to come – you’ll see that all along God was working beauty out of ashes, goodness out of sorrow. 

He is not faithful in spite of His sternness. He is faithful because of it. 

To learn more about Rescue in the book of Romans, visit Grace Church either online or at a live campus in Central Florida.

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