One morning while getting ready for work, I was reflecting on some difficult circumstances we have been going through and recalled how God had positively answered our prayers. Without hesitation I said “Thank you, Lord, for the good that you caused.” Upon uttering this praise I realized it was rather theologically thin because I had not also thanked God for the difficulty behind the positive outcome. It occurred to me, if I believe in the meticulous providence of God, then should I not also thank him for the difficulty that he permits as well as the good that he performs?
Seems to me Job’s theology was thicker than mine. After learning that his children had unexpectedly lost their lives he declares:
Naked I came from my mother’s womb,
and naked I will depart.
The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away;
may the name of the LORD be praised.”
Not long after, his wife urged him to give in to the complete devastation of his life and just curse God, to which Job responds:
“You are talking like a foolish woman. Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?”
I don’t know about you, but I’ve spent a lot of cycles not embracing the things that I know to be true about God’s providence. For example, I know in my head that:
The history of the universe, from beginning to end, is governed, planned, guided, and directed toward the loving ends of the all-wise and all-powerful Creator. Nothing eventuates which has not already been intended, either permissively or purposefully, by the Almighty God (Pr. 16:33; 1 Cor. 15:27; Eph. 1:11). Not only is God directly involved with creation by way of miracles, but he is indirectly involved through mediatorial means such as the natural laws of the universe, angels, individual human agency (good and evil), families, nations, and prayer.
God’s providential control is seen in governing the affairs of nations. He is the chief architect and ruler over the nations (Job 12:23; Ezra 1:1; 6:22; Ps. 22:28; 33:14-15; Pr. 21:1; 16:9; Dan. 4:34-35; Acts 17:26). Even in the midst of evil God redirects the results of wrong human choices toward his ultimate purposes, whether his purposes are for blessing, discipline, or judgment (Gen. 37:28; 45:5; 50:20; 2 Kgs. 19:25; Is. 10:5, 12; 13:17; Jer. 25:9, 12; Ez. 14:9; Hab. 1:5-12; Rom. 8:28-29; Eph. 1:11).
Not only does God redirect evil human activity toward his purposes, he also restrains evil. Abimilech was kept from having relations with Sarah, because God promised to fulfill his redemptive plan via Abraham’s offspring (Gen. 17:16-21; 20:1-7). The wicked plan of Haman to destroy the Jewish population was overruled by God’s providential plan to promote Esther in the Persian empire (Esther 4:14; 9:1-4). God contained the evil of the Ninevites by providing Jonah as a prophet to preach a message of repentance (Jonah 1:2; 3:10). Moreover, God provides government as a means of bridling the evil choices of humanity as well as allowing religious freedom (2 Thess. 2:6-7; Rom. 13:3-4; Acts 18:12-17).
In short, nothing that occurs in the universe can make the plans and provisions of God contingent. Nothing!
So what are the implications for me (and for us)? Embracing God’s providence in my heart gives:
- Confidence that all His purposes will succeed (Job 42:2; Pr. 16:4; Dan. 4:35; Acts 4:28; 5:38-39; Eph. 1:11)
- Certainty that all his promises will be fulfilled (Num. 23:19; Josh. 23:14; Rom. 4:20-21; Heb. 6:13-15; 10:23; 1 Pt. 1:5)
- Courage that He guides our service to Him and dispels our fears of others (Ezra 7:28; Mt. 14:27; Acts 1:8; 23:11)
- Comfort that all His enemies will be defeated (Ps. 66:3; Rev. 11:17-18; 20:11-15)
- Cause to continue developing Christian character (2 Pt. 1:3-8; Phil. 2:13)
- Capacity to engage and disarm the power of evil in our lives because He is ruler over all (Lk. 10:19-20; Eph. 6:10-13)
Oh that I (we) would imitate Job’s thick theology and move beyond knowing about God’s control to embracing it!
Baruch hashem Adonai (Blessed be the name of the Lord)