I’ve been told my whole life all good things must come to an end, and for the most part, I’ve allowed myself to believe it.
My first recollection of this phenomenon was in elementary school when a close friend moved to Seattle. A group of parents took us to see the fantastic Disney movie “Hawmps” and then had a going away party for him. The next day his family left and I never saw or heard from him again. His was as good a friendship as you can have at the age of six, and it came to an end.
Another instance of this was at the end of my high school years. We were on a school-sponsored trip for the seniors and it was the last night we would be together before graduation. There were many tears, much laughter, and long hugs knowing that, for the most part, we would not see each other again. Since graduation, I’ve probably only seen 15 or 20 people from my class. It was a good time of life, but it too came to an end.
My college years offered no reprieve from this inevitability. Close friendships were made only to terminate on that final day of graduation. Now I realize it is not a difficult thing to stay in touch, even in the “pre-social media days” in which I grew up, but time and distance still eventually ended the best of things.
I remember the last time I saw my dad before he died. I remember the last time my mother spoke a coherent word. I remember her last breath. I remember their funerals. I remember funerals of friends, former students, and former teachers. I remember the deaths of many people, more than I thought I would remember at this age. All of them, no matter how close or distant I was to them, breathed their last and ended their story. Someday I will too. Life is a good thing, and yet, it comes to an end.
All good things; all coming to an end. In fact, for the most part, I can think of no good thing that doesn’t end…for the most part. But somewhere deep down inside of me, every time I hear someone say all good things must come to and end I know they are wrong. I know it’s a catchy phrase but when you fully realize what it is really saying I think you will agree with me that it is far too pessimistic.
Good things, and I mean really good things, not just those things we like such as ice creme, sunsets, and the Cleveland Browns (well, two out of three ain’t bad…) but those things rooted in transcendent goodness, will never end. What this doesn’t mean, however, is that good things don’t come with pain, it just means the good thing will always prevail over the pain: even over death.
Though the modern English phrase, all good things must come to an end, was not around at the time, I believe David’s praise of God in Psalm 30 deliberately argued the counterpoint: good will prevail; good will always prevail. When we stand in the shadow of death and the grave, God promises life. When we fall into the pit of sin, God promises redemption. When the circumstances around us seem insurmountable, God promises a way of escape and to bring good from evil.
It is for this, and many other reasons, I think a central message of the Bible is resurrection. I don’t mean just the resurrection of Christ, though that certainly is important, but I mean resurrection in general: life from death, good from evil, incorruption from corruption. In fact, I would venture to say resurrection is the central theme of scripture: resurrection is what God is all about.
I realize this thinking runs counter to the message of the cliche, but I also know it is true. At least I hope it is, otherwise nothing in this life makes sense. Without the persistence and eventual triumph of good, there is no promise of justice and no hope of redemption: life is filled with anger, but not favor; life holds only weeping, but no rejoicing. Wailing is not turned into dancing and sackcloth is not replaced by joy. But when I read Psalm 30 I know this life makes sense and I know all good things do not come to an end.
Take for instance Jesus’ response to the death of Lazarus. Although he knew Lazarus would rise again in this life and again in the next, and although he had the power to heal him, Jesus wept. I don’t think he wept because a good thing was coming to an end, I think he wept for the pain Lazarus had to experience before the good thing, the truly good thing was able to begin.