Divine providence is sometimes thought to mean that God directs all things in the universe. God is in complete control of all things. God plans our lives in advance and all the experiences of our lives have divine purpose behind them. All things happen for a reason. While that may be a comforting thought at times, I don’t buy it.
I met a young woman a few weeks ago who told me the story of her painful divorce. She spoke of how difficult it is to raise a child alone. While she would like to marry again she said she fears that she’ll never find someone to love. She concluded her story with, “But I just have to accept that this is all part of God’s plan for me.”
Really? Would the God revealed in Jesus Christ intentionally lead a woman through a painful divorce, shattering her hopes and dreams? I don’t think so. That would be a God unworthy of our worship, our love and our lives.
But what if we thought about divine providence differently? The root of the word providence means “foresight”. What if, rather than thinking about providence as God controlling all things and all things happening for a reason, we thought about it as God’s promise to provide for us no matter what the future may hold for us? Oddly enough the words providence and provide share the same origin.
Imagine that from the moment of their birth I began to put a few dollars every week into a saving account for each of my children. I have no idea what direction my children’s lives will take. I have no clue what choices they will make and what decisions will lead them forward, but because I love them I want to provide for them no matter what their circumstances might be. That savings account is a gift. It’s a promise and a pledge of my love for them.
What if divine providence is like that? What if, rather than scripting our lives, for the sake of love God has the foresight to meet us at our point of need with presence, grace, love and forgiveness no matter where life and our choices take us? That’s the kind of divine providence I can put my faith in. That’s a God worthy of our worship, our love and our lives.
What’s your idea of divine providence? Do all things happen for a reason? What does that mean?
Jeff Marian is lead pastor at Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in Burnsville, MN