Open Your Bible
Exodus 33:12-19, Psalm 31:19, Jeremiah 31:12-14, Ephesians 5:6-14, Philippians 4:8
On my first date with my husband, we sat in his bright blue Honda hatchback in the church parking lot and he asked me a question.
“What’s your favorite book of the Bible?”
His question was jarring since I’d been solely fixated on making sure the white eyelet babydoll-cut tunic top I’d worn for our date was hanging in the most flattering way possible. I hadn’t rehearsed a “favorite book of the Bible” speech, but I’d been a Christian-school-Baptist-church kid long enough to have an answer.
“James,” I said.
“Because it’s really clear and it tells me what to do.”
Somehow I found comfort in the clarity of James because I was still young enough to think I could be perfect, what with the book’s directives to consider suffering to be amazing, or the whole if you can’t control your tongue, your faith is false (James 1). I mean, I knew I’d messed up in the past, but with the start of a new day, I could start over at trying to be perfect, right? Or maybe even starting now—well, maybe not right-this-second now, but NOW, as in starting tomorrow. God would surely accept my goodness if it were fully and perfectly good starting tomorrow, right?
The words of James are holy and beautiful and true, but I was misunderstanding them because I was completely fixated on my goodness. I thought James was telling me to strive for joy in suffering and a perfectly controlled tongue and actions that perfectly lined up with every command in the Bible. I didn’t yet understand that having a relationship with Jesus would naturally produce the goodness James spoke about. I didn’t understand that the goodness I was to be pursuing was the goodness of God, fruit of the Holy Spirit, not the “goodness” of Scarlet.
Psalm 31 declares, “How great is your goodness”—meaning God’s goodness (Psalm 31:19). If we’re aiming to bear fruit and striving to be thought of as good for the sake of our own identity, not only are we doing it wrong, but we will never get it right. God is good. We are broken. Pursuing goodness in our own strength also means pursuing heartbreak, failure, hopelessness, and even idolatry.
But if we pursue joy in the Lord, if we look at His goodness and remember the ways He is good to us—His power over death and ability to forgive us, and His promise to love us unfailingly—we can be people marked by His fruit. Not fruit that says, “Come see how good I look in my white eyelet shirt and with my awesome knowledge of the book of James!” But fruit that whispers that I am “radiant with joy because of the LORD’S goodness” (Jeremiah 31:12).
Beauty, goodness, and joy pour out of us when, and only when, we are enraptured by and grateful for the goodness of the Lord. And in my limited experience, the more time I spend seeing and enjoying Him in the pages of the Bible, the more clearly I see that He is, just as our hearts hope, so very good.