Chaplain’s Corner: LXXVI

“Do You Believe in God’s Providence?”

Life is full of close calls. I can look back over my life and see the hand of God in many things that happened to me that I would consider “close calls”. Over the years I have wondered to myself-“were these happenings circumstances or was there a divine hand at work?”

When I had just started seminary at Princeton, our daughter was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis. The hospital expenses were beyond the means of a seminary student and the equipment for her care would cost thousands of dollars more. I would have to withdraw from school and get a job if we were to survive as a family. One day after chapel, the President called my name and asked me to come to his office. I knew my studies were in good shape. What could he want? He said that he knew of our situation and that there was a person that would forever be anonymous that wanted me to finish my studies for the ministry and all our expenses were now paid in full. A stranger! When I look back on over 50 years of ordained ministry I realize I am indebted to a stranger for my career. What a close call! Who knows where I would be today if not for this providential hand of God in my life at an early stage?

I loved mission work! In my ministry I was fortunate to lead mission trips to Haiti, The Yucatan of Mexico, Honduras and Croatia. We made over 40 trips total. During one of my 5 trips to Haiti, we were in a bus in the mountains above Port a Prince when our bus rolled down the mountain, rolling over three times. The bus was stopped when it hit the only boulder on the mountainside just 50 yards from a 4000 ft. drop off. No one was killed but we were badly injured. To have hit this boulder at just the right angle and to roll down at just the exact spot seemed like a miracle. Was it just a circumstance? Coincidence? Or was there a providential hand of God at work?

There are those that would say to think of these experiences as anything but just “good luck” is foolish. But for Christians we see things through the lens of faith.

When I was diagnosed with bladder cancer 15 years ago the surgeon said “If we had not found this for three months, there would have been nothing we could do and you would be dead in a matter of weeks.” The circumstances that led to this discovery at an early stage was nothing short of a miracle. I am grateful every day of my life for what I see as the hand of God again in my life. Close call? You bet!

Of course I am aware of loved ones and friends who died in accidents, of cancer, heart disease, war and natural disasters. Was God not concerned for them? Why do bad things happen to good people and not to others? That is a mystery I do not have answers for in this life. But I still believe in Providence-that God’s hand is at work in our lives.

Think about the myriad of close calls that have been a part of your life-including the ones that you know absolutely nothing about. Do they mean something? Are they just lucky breaks or providential interventions? How can we possibly know?

God knows. The biblical doctrine of providence comes from the Latin words pro (before and video (to see). God sees everything in advance. What Scripture tells us is that there are no trivial happenings. God is fully attentive at every moment. Psalm 34:7 reminds us: “The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and he delivers them.”

You are alive right now because God has preserved you through every close call. The best advice we could possibly heed with regard to finding security is, “Take hold of God with all your heart and never let go–confident that God will never let go of you.”

Ron Naylor, Chaplain