When you read the Bible, you come away with the profound realization that God maintains a relationship with his creation, governing everything.
God’s personal involvement with his creation is what we call providence.
What Is the Providence of God?
Although we cannot see God rule in the same way we see the president or a king govern, we can be aware of God’s personal involvement in our world and in our lives if we know where to look. Let’s consider the ways God has explained to us his providence in Scripture.
Sometimes God Does Miracles
We certainly see God at work in all the miraculous ways he acted in history. Some examples in the Bible include God parting the Red Sea for his chosen nation Israel (Exodus 14), sending a worldwide flood (Genesis 7), and saving Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego from being burned alive when they were thrown into a Babylonian furnace (Daniel 3).
Every Day God Controls “Natural” Events
God doesn’t only prove his involvement in the world through the miraculous. The Bible affirms that even mundane things are orchestrated by God. For example,
- “He makes grass grow for the cattle, and plants for people to cultivate—bringing forth food from the earth” (Psalm 104:14 NIV).
- “He makes clouds rise from the ends of the earth. He sends lightning with the rain and brings out the wind from his storehouses” (Jeremiah 10:13 NIV).
- “He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous” (Matthew 5:45 NIV).
While some of these passages are poetic expressions about God’s activity, they are still true. God’s work in the world is as constant, comprehensive, and ordinary as the sunrise and snowfall.
The Bible reminds us that we see God at work, sustaining his creation every day.
God Controls the Hard Things to Bring About Good
One aspect of God’s providence is his participation in human affairs. There are dozens of examples in the Bible of God’s personal involvement in the lives of individuals.
But this does not always mean things will be peachy.
For example, Joseph’s envious brothers sold him as a slave (Genesis 37:28). Still, he told them later that God’s providential hand was involved. Joseph could see in hindsight how even the evil of his forced slavery was used by God to save Egypt and its surrounding nations from famine.
He said to his brothers, “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today” (Genesis 50:20 ESV).
God is able to direct even the worst things in our lives to bring about good, because God is good (Psalm 34:8). By acknowledging both God’s governance and his goodness, we honor him.
One biblical character named Job also knew a lot about suffering. He understood that even when God sends suffering, he deserves praise, because he is still accomplishing his good purposes. Job said, “The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21 ESV).
God conducts even the hardship in our lives, that he may bring about goodness, as we see in both Job’s and Joseph’s lives.
God Directs As We Make Decisions
The Bible also says that God works through our own decisions. In a mysterious way God planned that our freedom to make choices would not contradict his directing hand.
- “In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps” (Proverbs 16:9 NIV).
- “The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; he turns it wherever he will” (Proverbs 21:1 ESV).
- “For dominion belongs to the Lord and he rules over the nations” (Psalm 22:28 NIV).
Clearly God is involved both in the fate of nations, and in the lives of the individual people of those nations. While we have freedom to make decisions, ultimately all things happen according to God’s grand plan.
God’s Plan of Salvation
This balance between God’s providence and human responsibility is best seen in the death of God’s Son, Jesus, who died for the sins of the world. One of Jesus’ followers, Peter, explained this to a group of Jews:
“Fellow Israelites, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. This man was handed over to you by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him.” (Acts 2:22-24 NIV, emphasis added)
Here too we see God using something terribly evil to bring about something wonderfully good.
While wicked people willfully put the innocent Jesus to death, their actions were part of God’s providential plan—that through Jesus’ death and resurrection, anyone who believes in him for forgiveness of their sin, and turns from it, can and will be saved from God’s just and eternal punishment, and enter into a peaceful, loving relationship with the Maker.
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. (John 3:16-17 NIV)
God’s Providence Makes Him Worthy of Praise
God’s providence—from the simple snowfall to his plan of salvation—should cause us to praise him for who he is and how he cares for us.
Contrary to what our world tells us, we are not the masters of our own destinies. The truth of God’s providence comforts us that God cares about both everyday matters and our eternity, because he coordinates both.
What great comfort to know that in both grand and small issues, God’s good and powerful hands are directing our lives.
But maybe this is a new concept for you. Ask yourself, Am I trying to direct my own life? Have I surrendered my control to the one who holds my today, tomorrow, and eternity?
Joseph’s story in the Bible wonderfully displays God’s providence, and will encourage you to trust God’s control of your life. Read Joseph’s story here.