Monday, October 12, 2009

Seeing Providence in the Good and the Bad

I love God's providence.

Providence is God's controlling all things that occur for His glory and for our good. Providence is, quite simply, God's loving sovereignty in action. The verse that may best sum up providence is the well-known Romans 8:28, which tells us, "And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose." (ESV)

I will admit, however, that in my flesh I see providence very selectively. On a moment-by-moment basis, I see the good things that happen to me as providential, but the bad things as, well, non-providential. Of course, I'm mistakenly relying on my own rationality to tell me what I think is "good" and what is "bad." For example, if I drive through Savannah with no traffic problems, no accidents, no flat tires, no speeding tickets, and no breakdowns, I freely and thankfully admit that this is God's providence in action. However, if my car breaks down, I get a ticket, or I end up stuck in traffic, I rarely see this as God's providence. When "bad" things happen, I too often temporarily morph into some sort of functional atheist.

The bible tells us to view all of life as being part of God's providence. In particular, the scriptures exhort us to view our sufferings as being causes of joy. The reason for this is that suffering draws us closer to Christ and matures us in Christ. For a couple of examples:

Romans 5:3-5, "More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us."

James 1:2-4, "Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing."

If bad things happening to us - some of which is real suffering and some of which probably is not - brings us closer to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, then we should correctly view these things as acts of providence on the part of God.

Since God is completely sovereign and completely good, this means that He providentially controls all of our activities. We should, therefore, consider all things that happen to us (good or bad) to be gifts of the providential hand of our Lord.

No comments: