Providence in the Rear

Providence is a hard-to-perceive, hard-to-grasp type of thing. By its definition, we understand that God is actively governing all things and fashioning them in such a way that is good for his children and great for his glory. Yet in the midst of these “all things” (that is, where we are now) we are oftentimes inclined, as it were, to miss the forest for the trees.

Our forestry problem is that we’re speculative by nature, and Providence is a thing best seen in the rear-view mirror. In the present, we consider our circumstances or “possibilities” and try to force them in the jigsaw puzzle of Our Good, thinking that we know our good and forgetting that Adam dropped the box-top of the puzzle beside the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil a long time ago.

The problem with our speculations is that Providence is just as much a matter of faith as faith in God is a matter of faith. Providence does not exist apart from God, for Providence is the handiwork of God in this world and time. Yet for some reason, we sometimes think that we are able to grasp particular workings of Providence, as if Providence were less lofty and complex than the God from whom it proceeds. We looks for signs along the way, wait for stars to align, and hoist our spit-laden fingers to the wind–all in hopes of getting a supernaturally assisted peek into the unknown.

“An adulterous generation seeks a sign,” because sign-seeking does not proceed from faith. This is not to say that God cannot or does not give signs, but the heart that looks for them is the heart that mistrusts God and his Providence. Even “stumbling” across signs can come from an unconscious sign-seeking, evidenced especially when those signs don’t pan out the way they’re supposed to.

Rather than looking down the road and squinting to see the letters on the next sign, we should rather look in the rear-view mirror and remember how God has brought us to this point (Don’t worry it’s safe. You’re not the one who’s driving anyway). Each one of us should be able to recall countless things working together in ways that we never would have expected and never saw signs for that ended up working out for a good that was far better than any other “good” we could have contrived. Even those things which we can’t recall or didn’t know about worked out to our present and ultimate good, which should drive us to remember how grandiose God is and how trite and puny we are.

Believe God, and don’t let the trees eclipse your view of the forest. As the worn-out bumper sticker says, “God is [your] pilot”; enjoy the scenery.

Categories: Theology

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