Justin Kim serves as the Assistant Director of Sabbath School/Personal Ministries and Editor of the Collegiate Quarterly. More of his editorials can be read at beforethink.org.

On Providence

I believe in providence. Maybe that’s too simple of a statement; or maybe I’ve been reading too many authors who use words like that, words that people used in the 1700’s, but no longer do. No, not the town in Rhode Island. Without getting into the various nitty-gritty theological permutations of providence, I simply believe that God provides.

Yes, He makes the grass to grow and the sun to shine. Yes, He places food on the table and grants health to our family. But anyone living in the first world with these basic necessities taken for granted would take this definition of providence for granted too. And one doesn’t need even to be a Christian to believe this.

Yes, He provided the basis of our salvation in the blood of Jesus Christ. Yes, He implemented the plan of redemption from the foundation of the world and became our righteousness in spite of our sins. But anyone reading this blog, it being a Christian, Seventh-day Adventist blog, should already believe these things, that God provides our spiritual deliverance (ah, another 18th century word).

No, the providence that I speak of is that, I believe God provides transcendent directing that eventually every point in our lives should comprehensively make sense. No, I don’t think it’s some static blueprint that we need to ascetically attain. No, it’s not some generic feeling that we rationalize everything that’s happened as the will of God.

Rather when we step back from the painting of our lives and do that square thing that people in art museums do with their two fingers and hands, we should be able to see the paint marks from each bristle, the ferocity of brushstrokes, the blending or contrasting of colors, as well as the work as a whole from a distance where these minutia aren’t seen.

We live our lives as the composite of our decisions. Some of those decisions were inconsequential, while others are the climax of previous circumstances. Some are utter mistakes that we as human beings made totally out of our own volition. Others were gently introduced by God. And lastly, others are completely outside our control.

The masterpiece that is developed, however, in the end is not the success that our peers acknowledge us for, the remaining income in our accounts, the years that we have maintained our health, or any quantitative metric. Rather it is the character that that is chiseled out, not by circumstance, culture, education, or career, but by Providence. God provides us with character. I believe that in this providence.

Through the hard times and through perhaps the wrong decisions we have made, as well as the right and easier chapters of our lives, we can make sense of them in the light of character. If we partition some stage as a mistake and refuse to acknowledge God’s providence there, then we actually place our character development in some indeterminate hiatus. We are continually, psychologically, and spiritually stunted from any future growth. Only when we accept and resonate with every nook and cranny of our past with the goodness and power of God will we have confidence and faith that He will continue to provide in the future.

There several reasons why we so many times have anxiety for the future, especially during the new year, a new presidential term, or a new stage in our lives in general. We might just have no experience or track record with God. We can’t really attest to His goodness and power during the rocky moments, so we have no divine precedence to believe in divine providence. Many adolescents are at this stage, where though they may trust in God intellectually, they have no history to provide context.

Secondly, we might have forgotten the past experiences altogether. In this media-saturated culture that is high-paced and technophilic, we have lost the art of reflection, contemplation, and calm thought. It’s not that God hasn’t intervened in our lives, but simply we have forgotten them. Forgetting divine providence is as terrible as rejecting divine providence. Perhaps it’s just being busy with good things; or just busy with nothing at all; regardless, we get preoccupied with the present and future, where the past becomes obsolete.

Lastly, it may be due to a horrendous past experience, where our relationship with God has been burned, where we refuse to believe either in His power, His goodness, or worse, both. This is either due to our own deliberate sinful actions, the ruthlessness of others, or just another life experience where we just refuse to let God in on. This negative punctiliar experience then becomes the primary lens by which we view the rest of our lives. In essence, the “experience” becomes another god, an idol, that we serve, worship, and venerate.

God doesn’t deliver us from evil circumstances. Rather He imparts the ability to become like His character that delivers us from evil itself. Each year, as more has been overcome, we develop a history to trust Him further. In addition to living life forward, as we reflect on life backward, we develop a confidence to trust Him further. Rather than hiding the worst parts of our lives from God, granting Him solicited as well as unsolicited access, we develop a character like Christ’s. This is providence. And I believe in it.

Romans 8:28 And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.