The Circle of Providence
As much as I love learning new things, one thing I can’t stand is using big words just to sound smart. I hate textbooks, I hate academic writing, I hate ultra-spiritual theology, and I hate philosophy all for one reason: those involved in it feel the need to flaunt how sesquipedalian they can be without ever making a single point or worthwhile contribution to anything.
Before I go into an even longer rant about that (because I could write on that for days), I’ll get to my point: far too many Christian concepts have entered this realm to the point where our favorite churchy buzzwords carry no meaning or significance. We can hear the words all day long, but the vast majority of believers have no idea what they even mean.
One of these concepts I was never taught about was providence. It sounds nice, it sounds churchy, it sounds spiritual. And when it’s God’s providence, we know it’s a good thing.
The problem is that we stop there. Providence is a good thing. But what exactly is that thing supposed to be?
What is Providence?
Providence has a few definitions:
- God or nature as providing protective or spiritual care.
- Timely preparation for future eventualities.
- Derived from the Latin providere, ‘to foresee, attend to.”
In simplistic terms, providence is a fancy word for proper preparation. Alternatively, provision.
Considering I never had any idea what providence was until earlier this year (and I’m 26), I’m honestly a little frustrated that such a simple concept has been allowed to live as a “church-word” for so long without anyone ever explaining it.
This is why God’s providence is such a good thing: He knows everything that will happen, so according to Philippians 4:19, there’s no way God won’t have everything we need ready for us when we need it. He will provide (which, funnily enough, has the same Latin root as providence).
Providence in Action
When I think of providence, I always think back to when I was a small child (anywhere from three to six or seven, I don’t remember exactly). We were on a family vacation in another state, and I woke up in the middle of the night to my dad not being in the hotel room. Being the big, strong, brave boy I was, I’d go out and find him. So that’s what I did.
In the middle of the night two states away from home.
When I got out into the hall, there wasn’t a soul to be found. I looked around, trying to figure out my next move. However, it wasn’t long before everything started looking exactly the same, and I couldn’t get back into the room. I didn’t even know which room was the right one anymore.
So I did the only thing a child knows to do in that situation: I cried. Loud.
Before long, a man came out into the hallway, and until the day I die, I will never forget what he looked like. Long, gray, scraggly hair and a beard. He scooped me up and took me back to his room. The lamp beside his bed was on, and the blankets were thrown back. No one else was in there with us.
Then he sat on the bed, and he put me on his lap.
If your heart feels heavy at this point, good. It’s supposed to. Every time I think about that night, mine does too, and the terror is indescribable.
Yet, at the same time, I give God the most profound thank you I can muster because that man called the hotel lobby and reported me as a missing child while trying to calm me down.
Before long, I was returned to my mom by the police. I found out as I got older that they checked every room on that floor for families with young children and went door to door until they found where I belonged.
That’s what providence is: God knew what was going to happen that night, so he put that man there to hear me and get me back home safely. If it wasn’t for him, there’s no telling what would’ve happened or where I’d be now, and every time I remember it, I both shudder and praise God.
God may not always prevent bad things from happening. In fact, I believe He sometimes allows them to happen to show just how great He is. After all, how could we appreciate light without darkness? I’m not saying God desires for us to suffer; in fact, it’s the opposite.
But I have to ask: how can there be provision without a need?