[This post is in a weekly devotional series called Everything New. Sign up here if you’re interested.]
Here’s a word from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount that we would do well to ponder within the first waking hour of every day: “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear.” It doesn’t get any more practical than that. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus made some of the preeminent statements in Scripture about the providence of God. He was addressing one of the universal pressing questions we all ask: Who is going to take care of me?
“Your heavenly Father knows you need them,” so don’t get caught in the rat race or, we might say, the pagan chase (“the pagans run after all these things”). There is a better alternative, in other words, to living a life of hoarding. As someone said, the problem with the rat race is that even if you win, you’re still a rat. Our security does not come from the bank statement telling us how much we’ve saved up, or from the number of suits in the closet. Food in the pantry is a good thing. But no matter how much any of us have to eat or drink or wear or drive or shelve, we will never know security until we see the face of providence: the God who clothes the lilies of the field and who tends to the birds of the air. And he knows. He knows what we have and what we need. He knows those days when we have less than we think we need, too.
Sparrows fly, but they also fall. But not one of them falls to the ground apart from the will of the Father (Matthew 10:29). This year may be a time for any of us to feed and fly and travel far, or it may be the year of a broken wing-or that final plummet. And that is where providence figures in more powerfully than anywhere else.
The fact of pain and loss and even overt evil does not nullify the reality of providence. While we try to explain the dark, the greater reality will always be the light. The only reasonable explanation for the way things work is that the Creator of all things keeps it all going day by day.
There are a thousand things that could go wrong with my body right now, but at the moment it seems to be working just fine. My breakfast if being converted from fuel to energy and the oxygen my lungs are sucking in is making bluish blood turn red and rich. My brain is sending thousands of commands a second, and my heart muscle is relentlessly contracting like a fist, pushing lifeblood to every external and internal cell. I’m not amazed that I can so easily get sick or injured. I’m astonished that my body works as well as it does. And there is only one explanation: a continual divine care.
Hearts don’t always work right, and sooner or later they all stop. Some pregnancies end in miscarriage. At the moment there are at least a dozen wars going on in the world. There are crimes against property and person, and unspeakable things that go on behind closed doors. But the incidents where things don’t work well are set against the backdrop of so many healthy days, and good relationships and proper exchanges. Generosity, forgiveness, forbearance, support, patience, kindness: these are among the many gifts given every day. And there is only one explanation for this: a divine governance.
The proof of providence is the fact that it never stops raining permanently, living things keep growing, and the human race keeps reaching out for hope and life. In so many ways the creation keeps asserting itself. It is irrepressibly alive, even though pieces of it keep dying. But more importantly, the Creator keeps asserting himself. God keeps saying, I’ve made what I’ve made. And I will keep it going and growing, and recreate when I need to.
Excerpt from Putting the Pieces Back Together: How Real Life and Real Faith Connect. Free DVD available now.