Providence, God’s Forgotten Hand
I was born into circumstances that would have the effect of 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 degree at a university, or become a rockstar. Still, I was also born into circumstances that would open a lot of doors that were shut to most of the rest of the world. There was a lot of opportunity, for example, simply because I was born in America. I was raised by two parents who loved me, and who managed, perhaps 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 has also opened and shut doors for you. We can say this with confidence because it’s a universal truth for every human being who ever lived. 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 God’s destiny for us? How you answer that question will depend on whether you, in your heart, serve a large or small God. Is God big, all-powerful, and able to protect us from bad things but chooses, for whatever reason, 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 that will determine your outlook on life as well as your response to the circumstances, good or bad, that you will ever find yourself in.
If all that is is the result of happenstance, then not only are all things ultimately meaningless, but we can also safely claim that nothing is fair no matter how we define fairness. Some people just so happened to be born with a lot and most others just so happened to be born with not much of anything. Some of us end up somewhere in between with plenty to complain about as we ever compare ourselves to those who are better off. 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 an impossible task: to make the world fair. Please know, dear children, that such is a fool’s errand, and only fools endeavor to undertake it.
But then we consider a sovereign God in light of eternity, who, scripture teaches us, knit us together in our mother’s womb. There were no mistakes. Nothing ever “just happens.” 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, and we were equipped exactly as we were supposed to be equipped. And with this, we navigate life, part of which will be horrible, and part to our liking. But everything changes for us when we consider God’s sovereignty because everything, good or bad, is ultimately God’s providence.
But that word, providence, seems to have morphed in more recent times. It now means that God is providing for us affluence, peace, and health. If God did not provide for us what we define as good things, then, by that definition of providence, He didn’t provide. And in even more recent years the word providence has seemed to almost disappear from our vocabulary altogether as our culture and church increasingly sees the world through the Secular Humanist lens they were trained to see them through by the state schoolhouse. I would that you be aware that this kind of thinking has not always been the way for Christians. In days of old, the farmer would plant his field and then pray for rain. If rain came, it was the providence of God and God was praised. If the rain didn’t come, it was the providence of God, and He was praised all the same. God either brought the rain, or He didn’t. 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 then suffered. By providence, God did not send rain into Canaan and a famine ensued. 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’s how the entirety of scripture reads.
I, of course, am not talking about a false dilemma here. God’s providence does not relieve us of the responsibility to love our neighbor no matter what the conditions are that God’s providence brings our way. It’s not as if we are to believe our human existence is a battle between two beliefs, one being that powerful governments can bring about “fairness” based on a vague notion of that word, and the other being that we suppress fairness because it might disrupt our “white-privilege” advantages. That would be a myopic and Godless view. It is by God’s providence that men of all races have become slaves to governments and masters alike in all ages, and it is by His providence that they cast off the restraints of slavery and have enjoyed liberty. Such is the lesson of Man’s History. Without an understanding of that history, there can be no meaningful grasp of God’s providence. Wickedness and righteousness have ever been in bloody conflict in this world, and to take the Marxist course of conflating “fairness” with material equality, is to purposely ignore that very history, even the histories of Israel brought to us in the scriptures. The vast bloodletting of last century is a testament to this willing ignorance. May Man once again understand God’s providence in the context of eternity.
It’s my hope, therefore, that providence would 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, and knowing that, along with God’s grace, you’ll endure the hardships, you’ll be thankful for every good thing, and praise will flow from you through it all.
Again, dear children, we must never forget who we are and were. We are “Man,” and Man is corrupt; we are now redeemed and our sins are hidden. 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 ever was a thing more unfair than anything else in the history of Man, it is that God’s wrath was poured out on His innocent Son rather than us, which was also 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.”
Now, dear children, I know that the things I’m saying 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 His sacrifice. You’re not a victim. Good things do happen to bad people. Life is not fair, and we would do well to praise our God through Jesus that it’s not. That is, after all, Providence.