“The biblical concept of providence … signals a universally confident belief in God’s loving care and protection of the world. It is grounded in the belief in God as Creator, one who continues at all times to preserve and order the world, holding chaos at bay, and leading the world and all human history toward life and full happiness.”[1]

          Providence is often described as God’s invisible hand with which He guides events in the world. It is to be contrasted with God’s miraculous in-breaking, when the Creator uses his visible hand to make some adjustment to His creation.

          In order to see God’s miraculous in-breaking, one only needs a set of physical eyes. Even the most vicious of Jesus’ critics could not (would not) deny that a miracle had been performed (see Acts 4:16, for example). Seeing God’s providence, His invisible hand, requires something else, however.

          Nine times out of three in order to see God’s providence we must use hindsight. It is only after God has led us through a difficult phase of our lives that we are able to look back, reflect, and then see the hand of God at work.

          Many God-fearing followers of Christ describe this phenomenon: a woman describes her newly-found intimacy with God after several rounds of chemotherapy; a man shares his deeper appreciation for God’s loving kindness after finally kicking a life-long addiction; a man describes his confidence in the face of imminent death as a skill acquired after a 30-year walk with God as a wheelchair-bound paraplegic.

          Seeing God’s providence requires hindsight. But, trusting God’s providence is an act of faith. And often the faith that empowers us to face an uncertain future, trusting that God will see us through no matter what, is a faith that is built brick by brick as we periodically look back over our own lives and the lives of others and see that while God may not remove our suffering as we so desperately desire, He does walk with us through our suffering and sustain us in all ways.

“Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” So we say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid.” (Hebrews 13:5b-6a).

[1] Barbara E. Bowe, “Providence,” Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2000), 1092.