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A Kind Providence

February 8, 2010

Should Christians ever use the phrase “a kind providence?”  Its used usually when something pleasant occurs like, running into an old friend and you spend the next 25 minutes having a delightful conversation about the past several years and each other’s families.  As you leave, you say, ‘Well, that was a kind providence.’

Now, immediately, many theologically acute (though maybe overly critical) Christians would respond, ‘As opposed to what, a cruel providence?’ The sarcastic remark is meant to point out that since (1) God is good, (2) he has providential care over all things, and (3) all things work out for the good of those who love God, labeling any circumstance as a kind providence is redundant or naive.

In some measure, this is true.  As Christians, we should recognize all circumstances as God’s providential care, and no matter the positive or negative perspective we may have in it, all things happen to conform us (those who love him) to the image of Christ (Romans 8:28-29).  All circumstances, if God is our Father, are kind providences.

Yet, we must admit that God’s care over us, as his children, is not impersonal.  There are times, when we experience God’s fatherly care in such a way that his providence seems very warm.  This can seem especially evident in times of trials, suffering, and grief.  Here are a few examples:

  1. The husband who is laboring to finish seminary, while working two jobs, and has three kids at home receives a check in the mail to pay off his bills that are all a month late.
  2. The grieving widow receives care from her church family by visits from young single women and her lawn mowed by young men.
  3. The 45 year old man, who is dying from pancreatic cancer, is reminded by the Lord of years of biblically-faithful sermons to help him trust in the Lord’s goodness and die well.

At one level, these instances of providence cannot be differentiated from the mundane occurrences of the Lord allowing us to put one foot in front of the other.  All instances are part of God’s providential care and all instances are good, even kind for those who love him.  Yet, there are times when we especially feel his warmth and we fumble our words in order to express what exactly we are experiencing.  When Christians come face-to-face with the warmth of God’s care and recognize this providence as a kind one, I won’t make a fuss over semantics.

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