Getting a Handle on God’s Love

The Lord is good to all;
he has compassion on all he has made” (Ps. 145:9). Thirty-six years ago, these words became a handle for me to grip—a truth to which I still cling. It has sustained me through decades of trials. Star Wars with Dolby Stereo had just hit the cinemas; Steve Jobs had just introduced the Apple II computer; but—more important to us—my wife, Barby, was in her seventh month of pregnancy. We were thrilled to be expecting our first child.

But eight weeks before she was due, she developed toxemic poisoning. On a Friday in February her condition deteriorated to the extent that it required an emergency Caesarian section that resulted in the arrival of our very premature son. Following delivery, he went into trauma and was whisked off to another hospital’s intensive care unit. Then the news got worse: his condition was declining.

After a difficult Saturday of crying out to God, I was scheduled to teach an adult class at my church. I had been walking my Sunday school class through the Psalms. When I entered the room that morning, I looked around and saw gifts stacked high from people who had no idea our son had been born. They were throwing us a surprise party, and there I was, alone, without my wife and baby. I wasn’t even sure my son would survive. And when we finished the festivities, I rose to teach Psalm 145.

This psalm of praise forms an acrostic in which each verse begins with one letter of the Hebrew alphabet (except for one). The work, attributed to David, is divided into two parts—a call to praise and the reason for praise. And the key reason given for praise is the character of God. When I reached verse 9, I read those words: “The Lord is good to all;
he has compassion on all he has made.” And I was stopped short in my tracks.

In the middle of that lecture, God used this truth to relieve the huge burden I’d been carrying for thirty-six hours, wondering about his fairness and character. I reread it and reasoned, “If God is good to all, he can do nothing else.” I reached out and grabbed that spiritual and emotional handle from the Word and clung to it, trusting the truth that God would be consistent with his character, no matter what the outcome.

I had cried all the way to church; I sang all the way to the hospital. By God’s grace my wife recovered, and our son went on to thrive, but through the years we have had many more opportunities to trust. And we have not always had happy endings. But through the illnesses and deaths of family members, through walking the unseen territories of war and loss, and through shouldering many traumas of people we love, we’ve had numerous opportunities to wonder about the character of God. Yet because of his promise, we believe in the divine mystery we don’t fully understand: God’s character and kingdom are glorious and gracious. Indeed, “The Lord is good to all; he has compassion on all he has made”—including me and including you. We may not understand his ways, but we can trust his heart. And that is cause for praise.

About the Contributors

Mark L. Bailey

Dr. Bailey assumed the role of DTS Chancellor after serving for 19 years as the Seminary’s fifth President, and continues his role as Sr. Professor in the Bible Exposition department. In addition to his years at Dallas Theological Seminary, he has pastored various churches in Arizona and Texas. He was a seminar instructor for Walk Thru the Bible Ministries for twenty years and is in demand for Bible conferences and other preaching engagements all over the country and world. His overseas ministries have included Venezuela, Argentina, Hungary, and China. He is also a regular tour leader in Israel, Jordan, Egypt, Turkey, Greece, and Rome. His board service includes Bible Study Fellowship, Walk Thru the Bible Ministries, and Word of Life.