Saturday, January 26, 2008

The Providence of God

I'm in a ladies bible study going though Jerry Bridges book Trusting God Even When Life Hurts. We are not too far into the book yet, this week is chapters two and three.
I was amazed at a startling identification of wrong thinking that he brings to the surface. He states: "The implicit assumption in the minds of many is: If God is both powerful and good, why is there so much suffering, so much pain, so much heartache in the world? God is either good and not all powerful, or He is powerful and not all good. You can't have it both ways."

I was struck by this because it reminds me of one of the main questions I get from unbelievers. "If God is so great, why are people starving in Ethiopia?" I remember that one since I was a child. I think even kids grapple with it.

Yet Jerry goes on to point out that the bible teaches us that "God is sovereign (all-powerful) and He is good." We refer to this as the Providence of God. Yet, two things go wrong he points out with the way in which e refer to the providence of God. "For one, we almost always use the expression 'the providence of God' in connection with apparently 'good' events."

How true that is! I have done that myself. Even though going through my dad's death was the most grueling and yet faith building experience of my life, you would never have heard me state in any conversation or testimony that "In God's providence by dad died of stomach cancer at 54". It makes it sound like I wanted it. Eeeek, does that mean that God wanted it!? Well, we use the word wanted, where He uses the word willed. This does not come easy to our nature to accept. Bridges states that "we are reluctant to attribute 'bad' things to the intervening hand of God".

The second problem was not one I related to as closely but that I have experienced from others. "The second problem with our popular use of the expression 'the providence of God' is that we either unconsciously or deliberately imply that God intervenes at specific points in our lives but is largely only an interested spectator most of the time. When we think this way, even unconsciously, we reduce God's control over our lives to a stop-and-go, in-and-out proposition. Our unconscious attitude is that the rest of the time we are the 'master of our fates' or conversely the victims of unhappy circumstances or uncaring people that cross our paths."
Bridges then defines the providence of God: "God's providence is His constant care for and His absolute rule over all His creation for His own glory and the good of His people."

At this point, one, like myself, could become scared or depressed by the fact that God is not only not going to spare me pain, he may will that I suffer! How can he do that if he loves me?! I think I use to think that sin was the reason for all the bad things happen and God made it for good. Well, that is still true, but the fact is that God allows it to touch me just as he allowed Satan to have his way with Job. There is some fear that arises here. Then, Bridges says the most soothing balm to my soul, that God has a two-fold objective, His glory and our good. "God never pursues His glory at the expense of the good of His people, nor does He ever seek our good at the expense of His glory. He has designed His eternal purpose so that His glory and our good are inextricably bound together." My heart sighs a deep sigh. The byproduct of that sigh is an overwhelming wave of trust. Do I expect to understand the pain while I still live? No, not always, but He is totally focused on my good and His glory in a perfect balance that I cannot understand, that is a spiritual treasure that cannot be contained!

Note, however, that the definition of 'my good' is not my earthy happiness or provisions, it is my eternal good. What state will my heart be in regard to him when I step into heaven? That is what He is working on. What effect will I make on those around me for His glory? That is what He is working on. What part do I get the privilege of partaking in for his ultimate glory? That is what He is working on. Oh, and so I race forward in my mind to that wonderful day at the beama seat when every knee will bow and every tongue will confess He is Lord, and all glory of God will finally be seen by those who chose to be reconciled and even those who did not before the final judgement. That amazing moment, is when my good will be realized and I will experience it for all it's worth, never to turn back to the pain that brought me to it. WOW! Jesus compared this journey to a race, and He was right to do that. The pain of the running, the pushing on, the sweating and the muscles aching, are all what this working of His is. The finish line and the Glory of the guarantee of championship is what we are headed for, and what He is working towards. How can we not think He is involved in the pain as well? Now that I think about it, I am thankful to Bridges for pointing it out because I think I do subconsciously think this way even with all the harsh things I've gone through. "Because He (God) does not act as we think He should, we conclude He cannot act as we think He would." Now we know why he barked back at Job saying "Where were you when I laid the foundation of the world?" I LOVE THAT STATEMENT! I both hate it and love it. My sinful side hates it because it shrinks me to nothing. The Holy Spirit in me gets thrilled to death because it blows him up to the biggest fraction of His greatness that my mind can possible contain. There is such joy in submitting to how great God is! I truly believe that this act of submission is the one thing that keeps people from bowing their hearts to Christ. What do you think their thoughts are when Christ knocks at their heart? He says "Here I am, I am showing my truth to you through this person, or this event, or this reading of my word, won't you let me in to be the Lord of your life and reconcile you back to my Father?" I imagine that the immediate thought of the unbeliever is related somehow to being the one in control of their life, or that they can manage themselves, or that they are their own god, that they don't need Him or want to give into Him. It has to have something to do with the rejection of submission. Yet, the fact is, that submission to God, TRUSTING HIM, is the greatest one-way ticket to joy the world cannot give through any of its wealth, fame, medicine, or success. Why? Because it has nothing to do with us and all to do with the one who WAS there at the foundation of the world!
So, as my heart swells with amazing realization I find it affects my practical life in the smallest way. We have a major leak in our house. This seemed unbelievable to me at first. Our home is only nine years old. We thought the tub was leaking underneath but found it had nothing to do with the tub. The wall in the bathroom is soaked inside and black mold is on the drywall at the bottom. Then, I look up and there is a yellow circle on the ceiling right next to the wall that is wet on the bottom. The water came in and soaked all around the tub. Our big rug was saturated. It has been raining so much. There is a definite problem. My normal self panics at this. We just cracked our budget down to a no meat level (that's another blog), we can't afford this. I usually panic and start getting so grumpy. This time I found myself saying to myself "In God's providence, my house is leaking. Well, I can't wait to see how He will fix it!"
Hey, you have to thank God for your spiritual baby steps. He has probably been trying to get through for a long time:).

ps: My keyboard has been having problems where some letters don't register when I type them. I try so hard to edit these posts but sometimes I don't catch it all. Thank you for your patience. Yesterday Rick read my post below and we both cracked up when we realized that it stated that the house was worthless for "hosing" the Holy Spirit. Please, don't hose the Holy Spirit people:) It has been changed to "housing".

1 comment:

Kristen Borland said...

i'm loving this Bible study too.