Saturday, November 03, 2007

"He has appointed all of this to befall me"

The doctrine of Providence is more than an academic armchair topic, or a matter for hair-splitters. Rather, Providence is a very real element of Christian life. Indeed, if God is truly reigning over heaven and earth, and if he truly does enjoy all authority in those places, which were not created apart from him, then the doctrine of Divine Providence is one of the most practical of all Christian teachings.

The doctrine of Providence teaches that "God the good Creator of all things, in his infinite power and wisdom doth uphold, direct, dispose, and govern all creatures and things, from the greatest even to the least, by his most wise and holy providence, to the end for the which they were created, according unto his infallible foreknowledge, and the free and immutable counsel of his own will; to the praise of the glory of his wisdom, power, justice, infinite goodness, and mercy." LBCF 1689 5.1

Providence is a great comfort to Christians in times of affliction. Facing pursecution, flat tires, or family troubles, Providence assures and reminds us that God is in control and works all things for good and his glory and gives meaning to the sufferings that overcome the Christian.

A "providential mindset" is absent among too many Christians. I think that this is due, in part, to the lack of proper understanding of suffering in the Christian life. Some wrongly believe, as Job's friends did, that suffering only comes on those who are in sin, or that when it does happen, it was not what God had in mind for that person. In such an instance, God is either simply warning or punishing sin, or he is made to be caught by surprise and forced to dance to the tune called by the calamity.

When reflecting on Robinson Crusoe's revelation that God "has appointed all of this to befall me," it calls to mind not the things that I have sought and desired and not obtained (a job, meaningful relationships, graduate school, etc), but rather, the blessings that I have received in spite of my sin, or those that have come about through my trials.

While it was often a source of stress, working in leadership with campus ministry served a purpose that I do not think I yet fully understand. However, I believe that my presence there was for a reason, and so when I contemplated resigning my position in the middle of the school year, the words of Mordaci dissolved those thoughts: "Perhaps you have been placed this position for such a time as this."

Providence works in mysterious ways. It is not, as Mark Bertrand says, the same thing as divine intervention. God does not sit back, observing his clockwork-creation, intervening here and there, making minor adjustments as needed. No, Providence is more like the banks, rapids and cataracts of a river. They shape, define and steer the course of the water. From a human perspective, Augustine, in Confessions, wrote that time and Providence could be compared to standing in a river, facing upstream. Reality comes roaring toward the individual, imposing, passing over and through. It moves and directs and is not moved or directed. In short, Providence, like the flow of a river, is inevitable in the face of human opposition. Providence works more than major events of history, such as the position of the fog that covered Washington's retreat, or the sudden and mysterious death of Atilla the Hun. It is seen in these things, but also in smaller, more subtle ways.

One such subtle way is how the intersecting of lives, even for a short time, can have a profound impact on one's life. I strongly disliked him at the time but my sister's first boyfriend, indirectly, had a profound impact on my life. From his family, we were introduced to Worldview Academy. At Worldview, I not only experienced a dramatic shift in my thinking and a greater and more intense devotion to Christian truth, but I also met people whose example of servant leadership inspires me to this day. Through Worldview Academy, I heard about Hillsdale College, and through the friends I made and professors I learned from at Hillsdale, I have been pushed toward a more mature understanding of God and man. Through Worldview Academy, I met people who have given me opportunities I would not have otherwise had. Through God's plan, one organization brought together, directly and indirectly, people whose thoughts and lives have dramatically changed mine. Indeed, my intersection with these people was brought about as a result of circumstances less than pleasant.

I nearly went to a different college. I almost did not work with Worldview this summer. I wanted to be in graduate school right now. I smashed my toe a few weeks ago. I have an upset stomach tonight. God has appointed all this to befall me. I do not know the reason for all that has transpired in my life. I do not know the full impact that I have, had, or will have, on other people. All I know is that God has promised to work all things for good; that he adopted me before the foundations of the earth, and that he has chosen to bring himself glory in my life.

"He has appointed all this to befall me." What have I to fear or dread? The Providence of God comforts us in times of trouble. It comforts us when we are weary and broken. It breaks us and remakes us. Life is not in vain, nor is death. "To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven"


Anonymous said...

I believe in the providence of me stumbling across your blog! was like you were writing to me and exactly what I needed to hear. I don't know you but hit it right on. Amen. and Amen. Your writing was a blessing...encouraging and truthful. God works in mysterious ways :)

Jacob Douvier said...

Thanks for your kind words. I'm glad you found it edifying. Knowing that God is in control and has it all figured out is one of the greatest comforts I have found.
Thanks for stopping by!

Anonymous said...

Was glad to stop by! :) I've been studying what it means to fully trust the Lord with everything...grasping it in the heart rather then just the head can be such a challenge!! I read Perfect Trust by Charles Swindoll and its been such an encouragement to me!

Jacob Douvier said...

I have not read any Swindoll, but I have read a number of long-dead Christian authors on God being in charge. Augustine, Luther and Calvin, among others.
It is very refreshing to know that we don't have to have life figured out.