But What Does It Mean? (written by Beth Ann Smith)

Sometimes, I get so used to a word that I forget the meaning of it, and just recently, I realized that has happened to me with the word providence. My husband and I have been a part of Providence Church since her birth 6 years ago, and so in hearing the word, it makes me think only of this body of people that I worship with and love so dearly. But while recently reading through Warren W. Wiersbe’s commentary on the book of Philippians in my discipleship group, my eyes were reopened to providence in a refreshing way. Wiersbe wrote:

God’s providence simply means that God sees to it before hand. It does not mean that God simply knows beforehand, because providence involves much more. It is the working of God in advance to arrange circumstances and situations for the fulfilling of His purposes.

Wiersbe then went on to give the example of the life of Joseph in Genesis. God didn’t just know that Joseph’s jealous and angry brothers would sell him into slavery; He arranged it so that Joseph’s tragic circumstances would be used to save many people (including his traitorous brothers) from the famine that would come to Egypt many years later. Even when confronting his brothers, Joseph acknowledged that God had used their evil to bring about good. He recognized that God was not an innocent bystander but instead the author of a story far bigger than anything he could have ever realized, that God’s providence superseded the malice of their actions.

As Tony recently preached on Judas’s betrayal from the book of Matthew, the providence of God is evident. This man who walked and talked with Jesus plotted against Him. God allowed Judas to betray the King of Kings so that the salvation of mankind could be accomplished. Through the crucifixion, our lives were delivered from the eternal punishment of separation from our holy creator!

As I pondered over the word providence over the course of a few days, the Lord drew my mind back to so many instances in which He proved Himself divinely and directly in my life. For example, more than once in our 14 years of marriage, Matt and I have abruptly had our living circumstances changed in ways that seemed hard or unfair, but God aligned things in amazing ways in order for our need for housing to be met in wonderful ways that exceeded our expectations.

Twelve years or so ago during a long road trip, I made a wrong turn and was angry with the inconvenience of having to turn around at a dead end. Yet no more than 5 minutes later, I came upon a fatal car accident that had just happened and was sobered by the realization that my wrong turn could have kept me from being involved in that accident.

Yes, there have been occasions in which my pain and suffering have been spared because of God’s providence. Yet other times, God has providentially allowed my pain and discomfort to fulfill His purpose. And for all of those times when my hindsight is 20/20 and I clearly see how God was working out His providence, I know that there are many more that I may never know of this side of heaven. I’m just so wonderfully encouraged to know that in the absolute highest of highs and the terrible lowest of lows, no earthly circumstances can prevent God’s work in the hearts and lives of His children!

As you think through the events of the past, the decisions and influences that have shaped who you are, how can you see God’s sovereign hand? Are you able to trust in the plans of the maker of the universe, the keeper of the stars, the true light of the world? In spite of the odds stacked against us by Satan, we have been invited into fellowship with THE one true God.

What a blessing, what a privilege, what amazingly beautiful providence.