Only God, Only Good

What Is Synecdoche?

Driving through Birmingham, I saw this billboard for a church. It said, “God is ONLY good.”

But when something bad happens, we can think God is mean. Or indifferent. Or at the very least, concerned but powerless to act.

I learned a new word last month: synecdoche (/səˈnekdəkē/). It is when we refer to a part of something as the whole.

For example:

  • Down south, we say we want a “Coke” when we mean ANY carbonated drink.
  • Or we say Atlanta won last night, meaning the Atlanta Braves’ baseball team won their game.
  • Or we might say the world is out to get us because one person cut us off in traffic this morning.

When we ascribe too much to the whole, when it’s just a part, it can ruin our day.

And our faith.

All Good

Synecdoche also happens in our spiritual lives. If we expect Christians to be perfect, we can lose faith when a pastor has an affair. Or we can quit praying altogether if a sick child dies. Or we can lose hope when a tornado hits another poor neighborhood.

Maybe that’s why the billboard caught my eye again yesterday on my drive home from Morgan’s house: “God is ONLY good.”

I think God may be an exception to synecdoche. It is safe to credit complete goodness to him.

God is the only being that is consistent, whole, all.

It’s impossible to ascribe TOO much goodness to God.

If I get poison ivy, God is still good. If the trip I’d planned gets cancelled, God is still good. If someone that I love disappoints me, God is still good.

Circumstances change. My emotions change. People change. I can’t trust these parts to be a whole.

But God doesn’t change.

God is good consistently, not just occasionally. Completely good, not partially.

Only God is always good, and never bad.

It's impossible to ascribe TOO much goodness to God

* * *

Seth Godin taught me the meaning of synecdoche on his podcast, Akimbo.

In this year of practicing Hope for 2019, I find great hope in trusting God to always be good. What gives you hope about God? Please share your own thoughts in the comments.

13 thoughts on “Only God, Only Good

  1. Laurie

    Thank you for teaching me the word “Synecdoche”, Lisa. I never heard that before and I love to learn new things! 🙂

    I love your message today – God is only good. He is never mean or indifferent, He is the exception to synecdoche.

  2. Michele Morin

    I think I bumped into synecdoche in Eugene Peterson’s writing? Maybe?
    We do have a tendency to be reductionist in just as many ways as we can manage, I think. If I can boil every single thing in my life down to a “That’s just…” phrase, I gain the advantage of thinking I really understand things.
    But I’ll sure miss a lot.

  3. Ashley

    I was just talking about this with one of my friends. That even in the middle of difficult circumstances and in our suffering, God is still good. That brings tremendous peace. I also love that He is always faithful. Always.

  4. Barbara Harper

    I just encountered that word for the first time not too long ago, but I haven’t encountered it enough to remember what it is. So thanks for the refresher. 🙂

    I don’t know if you are familiar with Ron Hamilton, Majesty Music, or Chris Anderson, but Chris wrote a song called You Are Always Good, You Are Only Good to a tune written by Ron’s son, Jonathan, who died as a young man: One of the commenters shared the lyrics. Love this song.

  5. Theresa Boedeker

    Reminds me of the saying. “God is good all the time. All the time God is good.” We as humans often attribute to God things that are not his to claim, or his doing.

    Some words are just darn fun to say. And synecdoche is one of them. I think I’ll be trying to work this into some conversations today.

  6. Stacey Pardoe

    Thanks for teaching me a new word this week, Lisa! It’s certainly tempting to fall to this kind of thinking when life falls apart all around us. Thanks for bringing us such a strong word of truth today. Yes! God is ALL good ALL the time! May we hold this truth in our hearts!

  7. Crystal Twaddell

    Love the way your brain works, Lisa. And I now have a new word for the week also. In a world where nothing is certain, I’m so grateful to know without a doubt that God doesn’t change and is always good.

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