Pioneer magazine

The Providence of God

september 2011coverWe are told to believe in this - to trust in God who is totally looking after us. All our cares are being dealt with by him – our food, drink and clothing. JAMES KELLY SJ expands on the theme of relying on God to provide us with our daily bread.

‘Do not be anxious about your life, what you shall eat or what you shall drink, nor about your body, what you shall put on’ (Mt 6.25).We need to be content and hopeful each day. It appears that what we have to do is to place our trust in the Almighty, and then all our concerns will be somehow solved!

The Bible reminds us that such care and direction is a reality on a larger scale. The Lord is behind all that happens: ‘Who has commanded and it came to pass, unless the Lord has ordained it? (Lam 3. 37).There is nothing upright or wicked that is outside his sphere of activity: ‘Is it not from the mouth of the Most Highthat good and evil come? (Lam 3. 38). Any dire calamity that befalls a city points to him: ‘Does evil befall a city, unless the Lord has done it?’ (Amos 3.6). The sway of the Almighty is enormous. ‘The Lord brings the council of the nations to naught; / He frustrates the plans of the peoples' (Ps 33.10).What he wants cannot be shaken: ‘The counsel of the Lord stands for ever, the thoughts of his heart to all generations` (Ps 33.11). Still, we are not happy with this.

True or Naive
An immediate reaction to the fact that God looks after us should be to feel very comfortable. But reality seems to pose serious questions for us. Misfortunes of all kinds, failures, misunderstanding and pressures and destruction from the external make individual lives insecure, and often apparently haphazard. The same happens in wider worldly events, since massive disasters are not uncommon. Corrupt regimes gain control in parts of the world, and even remain in power for a long time. Sometimes we wonder where God is or why he has allowed certain things to happen. We have to say at times that we don`t understand.

What Providence Means
It is the claim that the Almighty is behind all that takes place in the world and in individual lives — however baffling or mysterious it all may seem. This outlook can be looked at in another way: His controlling eye is watching and directing all. But we are in no way fully up to the complications and intricacies of this. His guidance can be viewed very personally too. He sees me too and is concerned with what is good for me. No matter what happens to me, he is directing me to my final destiny. ‘Not a hair of your head shall fall’. All is noticed and assessed with a view to my welfare.

In the wider sphere it implies that all that happens in the world has significance, and that someone stronger than events is behind them. The Providence of God implies that the world, with its natural realities and laws, is not enclosed in itself, but is governed by the hands of a loving Creator, Everything that exists has its own nature and reality, but in addition serves a supreme purpose or is directed by a mind outside this world.

The guiding force of God is behind all that happens on earth. Each of us has to realize that whatever comes our way is from a loving God. It calls us and challenges us. All events help us to become the sort of persons the Almighty us to be.

Viewed Another Way
God created everything and all that occurs, be it bad or good, is somehow in accordance with his will. If the world seems to contradict this outlook, we are being reminded that life and its events are often too complicated for us to understand. What appears to be meaningless destruction may be serving an ultimate purpose. We cannot grasp to any degree adequately how the Creator`s immense love, shown in Christ’s redemptive work, reacts at any moment in the face of a very sinful world. He clearly reminds us now and again that he is supreme.

When a disaster strikes us, it is fitting for us to look to God for help to make sense out of it. In such times, he is bearing down heavily on our lives and testing how we will respond. This, however; can unite us, perhaps greatly, with him, and even make us more open to him.

There are many disasters that occur, and we are puzzled by them. But they place us before the mystery of the living God. He is experienced in a new manner by us, in so far as we are open to him, through accepting what has happened and co-operating with him. The Lord is drawing us into the web of his providential network. As a living person, each of us has to adjust to this, however painful it may be. We all need to live in agreement with the Creation Providence calls us to do this, even when we don’t really understand.