Providence, God’s Forgotten Hand
I was born into circumstances that would wind up shutting some doors for me for the rest of my life. There was no way, for example, that I was ever going to become the CEO of a large corporation. Nor was I ever going to get a doctorate’s degree at a university, or become a rockstar. Still, I was also born into circumstances that would open many doors that were shut to the rest of the world. There was opportunity for one thing, simply because I was born in America. I was raised by two parents who loved me, and who managed, probably because of the rural setting of my childhood, to keep the ugliness of this world at bay until I was older. I was blessed.
You likewise were born into a set of circumstances that ultimately opened and shut doors for you, as was every other human being… ever. The question we must all consider as we contemplate all of this is, did these things happen by mere chance; or were all of the large and small particulars surrounding our lives set forth in advance by God’s invisible hand? How you answer that question will depend on whether you serve a large or small God. Is God big, all powerful, and able to protect us from bad things but chooses not to? Or does He desire for us a wonderful trouble-free life but just can’t seem to pull it off? The answers you give to questions like these will determine your outlook on life, and your response to circumstances, in many ways.
If all that is is the result of happenstance, then not only are all things ultimately meaningless, but we can also safely claim that all is not fair. Some just so happen to be born with everything, and others with not much of anything. And the rest of us end up somewhere in between with plenty to complain about as we ever compare ourselves to those who are better off. It just seems all wrong. Life just isn’t fair. With this mentality we are ready to assume our status as victims and join the hordes of Hell who are attempting to turn this fallen world into paradise by accomplishing the impossible; to make all things fair. Please know that such is a fool’s errand.
But then we consider a sovereign God in light of eternity, Who, scriptures teaches us, knit us together in our mother’s womb. There were no mistakes. Nothing just “happened“. Everything is according to God’s sovereign plan. God gave us our strengths, and He gave us our weaknesses. We were born into exactly the circumstances that He planned for us to be born into, equipped exactly as we were supposed to be equipped. And with this we navigate life’s circumstances, some of which will be horrible. But when we consider God’s sovereignty, everything changes because everything, good or bad, is providence.
But that word, providence, seems to have morphed into God providing affluence, peace and health, in more recent times. If God did not provide what we consider good things, then He did not provide. And in even more recent years the word has seemed to almost disappear from our vocabulary completely as our culture and church increasingly sees the world through the lens of random chance.
But the thinking of Christians has not always been this way. In the days of old, the farmer would plant his field and then he would pray for rain. If rain came, it was the providence of God and God was praised. If the rain did not come, it was the providence of God, and He was praised. God either brought the rain, or He did not. But He was praised either way. We might also consider Joseph. By God’s providence he was sold into slavery by his own brothers, and he suffered. By providence God did not send rain into Canaan which resulted in a famine. By God’s providence Joseph was in Egypt to give the family refuge from the famine. None of this was by random chance. God had a plan, and he provided for it. It is how the entirety of scripture reads.
Therefore, providence should be the lens through which you interpret your life, with the light of scripture shining on it. I can promise you that really bad things are going to happen to you during your short life in this land east of Eden. But I can also promise that not one small bad thing will happen by mere random chance. No, all will be by God’s providence.
Again, dear children, we must never forget who we were. We were “man”. And man is corrupt. Our only hope is in Jesus Christ, to be clothed in His righteousness, and for Him to dwell in us. Nothing bad ever happened to a good man. So all good things that we receive as “man” are ultimately unfair because we instead deserve God’s wrath. But if there was one thing not fair that is above everything else, it is that God’s wrath was poured out on His son and not on us, for that also was the providence of God. That I am not as smart, handsome, wealthy, personable, talented and good as I would like to be is nothing compared to the great love that was poured out for me on the cross. I am in no position to make claims of victimhood, come what may. I was redeemed in eternity before a holy and righteous God through His providence. When bad things happen I get to accept them therefore with praise. I am redeemed! Whatever my lot, He has taught me to say, it is well with my soul. (From the Hymn “It Is Well”)
Now I know that these things that I say conflict with our experience in these vessels of clay. From our early years this flesh pounds its fists and shouts, “THAT’S NOT FAIR!” But as your mind is renewed your salvation ought to become a great thing in your thinking. And for it to become great, you must realize what you were saved from, and that Jesus did not die for anyone who was worthy of dying for. You are not a victim. Good things do happen to bad people. Life is not fair, and we may praise our God through Jesus that it is not. That is providence.