Behind a Frowning Providence

Proverbs 3:5-6:

5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart And do not lean on your own understanding. 6 In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He will make your paths straight.

It is a good thing that none of us can predict the immediate outcome of all our decisions. If we could, then there would be many choices in life that we would reject, especially if we knew in advance that our decisions would lead to pain, suffering and personal loss. God does not give us a crystal ball with which to make our choices in life, and this is for our good. If we did have such a thing, then we would spend our days hovering over that ball of glass rather than seeking God’s wisdom through His word and fervent prayer.

For myself, I know that if I could go back and alter some of my decisions in the past, there would be many that I would gladly reverse, simply because those choices were clearly sinful as defined by God’s Holy Word. All of us have regrets from the past concerning sinful choices that we have made. But then there are those choices that were not sinful and yet they yielded great trials and afflictions. Of this latter category of decision making, I would like to offer the following thought:

The choices that we make in life that have been diligently scrutinized by the standard of Scripture; that have been reviewed by godly counsellors in the church and have been immersed in fervent prayer in the Spirit, are choices that we can make with a clear conscience before God. If we can say that we have served the Lord in our choices, trusting in His wisdom from the heart, then we can have peace of mind as we look back on those choices. Sinful choices should rebuke our hearts – but with godly decisions, we can have peace.

Now this is not to say that we can make decisions perfectly, but it does mean that our primary goal must be to make decisions in life through the means of genuine godliness, rather than leaning on our own corrupt understanding. This truth is an important issue concerning our conscience. Whatever sinful choices I have made in my life should lead me to repentance as I reflect on them. Frankly speaking, there are things that I have done in my past as a Christian, that I believed to be right at the time, but I now realize that the confidence of those choices was based upon my foolishness, rather than the firm foundation of God’s truth. Those choices ought to goad me to relent of such foolishness, so as to learn and grow in godliness. But of the choices that we entrust to the Lord, we can say “I will trust the Lord to make my path straight.” Choices that we make about a future spouse, a job, a place to live, a church to attend or even the things that we buy do not have a chapter and verse in the Bible by which we can seek guidance (unless of course your fiancee’s name is Jezebel [1 Kings 16:31] 😉 ). What we have to guide us in life is God’s revelation, the Holy Spirit’s illumination and leading, as well as God’s providence. Beyond this, we won’t receive an angelic e-mail telling us what to do with our lives. What we need is to learn to reject our own understanding, while trusting in the Lord and His wisdom as we acknowledge Him in all of our ways. The good news is that as we prayerfully submit our decisions to the Lord, we can rest in Him for the outcome…

Proverbs 16:9: 9 The mind of man plans his way, But the Lord directs his steps.

I often wonder if Joseph would have gone to Dothan to meet his brothers, if he had enough foreknowledge to know that his brothers would sell him as a slave to the Ishmaelites. Would you? Joseph’s choice to meet his brothers at Dothan could in no way be construed as sinful, and yet his choice led him into a great and painful trial; and yet, Joseph’s final assessment of his brother’s sinful deed against him is such a wonderful display of God’s providential care for His people:

Genesis 50:20: 20 “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive.

It is a grace of God that Joseph could not know the outcome of his visitation with his brothers (Gen. 37). The revelation of that event would have sent most people in the opposite direction. Truly, Joseph’s choice to visit his brothers bore no corruption. His brothers, however, acted in great wickedness. Through it all, God was accomplishing a great work for the descendents of Israel so that the nation would be preserved for His glorious purposes.

Thank God for His providence!

It is our responsibility to seek to be godly stewards concerning the decisions that we make in life; learning from our mistakes, while seeking to abandon our own wisdom to God’s revelation – trusting Him with all of our hearts as we do. But as we do this, we must also entrust ourselves to God’s care, understanding that the onset of trials and affliction should never lead us to doubt God’s loving character and sovereign purposes. His trials are always sent our way with a loving purpose, though we may not always comprehend that purpose in time; or as Spurgeon once said: “When we cannot trace God’s hand we can trust God’s heart.”

The doctrine of God’s sovereignty and loving providence is a truth that brings genuine peace to the heart of the child of God. If frees us from the fearful superstition of reading crystal balls, so that we might pursue the Lord’s revealed will for all of our lives: holiness.

God Moves in a Mysterious Way (William Cowper)

1 God moves in a mysterious way, His wonders to perform; He plants His footsteps in the sea, and rides upon the storm.

2 Deep in unfathomable minds Of never failing skill, He treasures up His bright designs, And works His gracious will.

3 Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take, The clouds ye so much dread Are big with mercy, and shall break In blessings on your head.

4 Judge not the Lord by feeble sense, But trust Him for His grace; Behind a frowning providence, He hides a smiling face.

5 His purposes will ripen fast, Unfolding ev’ry hour; The bud may have a bitter taste, But sweet will be the flow’r.

6 Blind unbelief is sure to err, And scan His work in vain; God is His own interpreter, And He will make it plain.

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