education · Faith · Grace

Terrible Good


Twenty years ago, when I was a twenty-year-old girl, I took a class called Oxford Christian Writers. Taught by my favorite professor, filled with some of my favorite friends, this class would impact me more than any other one class. Still, after all this time, I regularly have flashes of memories from that classroom. Snippets of truth I learned by studying The Inklings.

Not as famous (nor as talented, most would argue) as Lewis and Tolkien, Charles Williams nevertheless wrote on a theme that has settled its way into my soul. Terrible Good. The notion that something can be both terrible and good. Terrible Good. Awful  and Awe-full. This idea has hummed along in my conscious and subconscious mind for all these twenty years. A sort of background music or backdrop to which and on which the scenes of my life have played out. Terrible Good.

This morning I read in Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts,

I awaken to the strange truth that . . . All new life labors out of the very bowels of darkness. . . . It is dark suffering’s umbilical cord that alone can untether new life. It is suffering that has the realest possibility to bear down and deliver grace. And grace that chooses to bear the cross of suffering overcomes that suffering.

The terrible suffering in darkness gives way to the good, to life. This is grace.

I have seen it. I have lived it. I live it now. I will, no doubt, live it again and again. That which seems so dark, so black, so terror-full, so terrible actually gives birth to goodness and light and life and something so much better. That which seems so awful, when seen in eternity’s perspective, is truly awe-full, awe-inspiring, good.

In ancient times, suffering Job asked, “Shall we accept good from God and not trouble?” But I have seen on the pages of the Book and on the pages of my life story, I have seen that over and over and over that which seems trouble often blossoms into good in the hand of my God.

God does this thing. I’ve seen Him do it again and again. He takes something that seems so terrible, so dark, so much like The End. And He transforms it into good, into life, into a beginning. I love that about Him. I love that no Terrible is beyond His Goodness.

As I sat in a classroom filled with friends listening to my favorite professor introduce this obscure author, a self-educated Charles Williams, who would drink ale and discuss theology and writing with Lewis and Tolkien, I had no idea that this strange man with his dark fiction would so greatly impact my life with Truth.

I had no idea that one class would continue to challenge me for twenty years (and counting) to find the awe in the awful, to find His goodness in the terrible, to trust that out of the darkness will break forth Light.

4 thoughts on “Terrible Good

  1. Whenever I wrestle with the concept of Terrible Good in my own life- and as a literary theme- I always recount James 1:2-4. Not in the annoying church lady voice telling me what I want to hear by giving me Sunday school answers to The Awful- but God whispering- “Watch how I grow you up through this. You can not have true joy without trial.” Thanks again for the reminder.


  2. Encouraging words today. I find myself saying this over and over again, but you explained it very well and sometimes…its more powerful when someone else says it. 🙂 Have a great day!


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