Post 5 – “Everything Has a Reason” – What About Divine Providence?

The question was asked, where does providence fit in? I mentioned very briefly in my second post on the “everything has a reason” topic that I did believe in providence and divine intervention, I’ll try to elaborate a little more on that.

I certainly do not believe in a God that is sitting in a hammock drinking lemonade or Iced tea. I am not sure it would make much sense to 1. pray to a “god” like that and 2. believe in one either. I believe that God is at work. Further, I celebrate the truth that all good things are from God. Over the years, I have heard many point to Romans 8:28 as a text proof of “everything has a reason”. While that it is a much longer, more complicated story, the short answer is yes,” all things work together for good”. However, I find that testifies to God’s sovereignty over all creation, not what I should have for lunch or what moral should I learn from today’s misfortunate. God’s sovereignty and His 24/7 micromanaging of the 6 billion plus people on our planet are different things. “God is in control of all things” – sure, but not all things are ordained by God, therefore I am not willing to say, “God has a reason for everything”.

Great theological minds from Augustine, Aquinas, to Calvin and Luther have always believed in divine providence and its connection to election. It is my understanding that they are speaking more towards the broader aspects of salvation than the singular events of our lives and the details of our day. For instance, Karl Barth wrote that the greatest act of divine providence is in the person of Jesus Christ (II, I’ll update with full reference later). When approaching divine providence from that sense, it hardly seems appropriate to seek a sign from God regarding, “Should we vacation in the Caribbean or Europe?”

What I am really protesting against is our simplistic approach to life than God’s intervention. I tell our college-bound students to pray for which college they should attend. I am confident that the Lord does not want or need all of our students to attend a private Christian school. I am just as certain that He doesn’t want all of them to attend public universities either. Frankly, I am not sure God cares in the sense that we may think He does. Should one of our students decide to attend Grove City over Gordon, I doubt that it would be outside of His will and He will be so angry that those taking the SAT’s the following day best beware. I still remember that little boy called Simon Birch saying, “God doesn’t’ care about our coffee and doughnuts”.

I pray about our mission trips, our service projects, our retreats, etc. But I pray more for my/our faithfulness and motives more than whether or not we should go to Mexico, Appalachia, or New Orleans. Sometimes you get into an elevator when you are teenager and the door suddenly opens and you meet a beautiful girl that ten years later, you end up marrying and enjoy a beautiful life together (a true story – I did the wedding). Is that providence? The romantic in me says it is. Then there is the story of a friend of mine that married “the girl next door”. “God brought them together for all these years”, and one day back from Christmas break, they fell in love, got married a few years later, and then a few years after that, got divorced. Is that providence? Ouch (and no, I didn’t perform that wedding).

One of the best things that I learned from the emerging church conversation is that we as believers should have a strong pneumatology, meaning we ought to have a robust faith in the work of the Holy Spirit. So where does divine providence really fit in? The wise-guy answer is that it fits in the moment the Holy Spirit decides to intervene. I think sometimes God speaks to you while you are on the warm beach marveling at the blue water. But is not true that God speaks to you when you stand in the hall of a gothic church in the Czech Republic as well? And is it also not true that God speaks to us as we partake the sacrament of communion together, or in the laughter of our children, the embraces of our spouses and at much less dramatic times, when we stare out the car window.

It seems clear to me that we need to live our lives in faithful submission to the Spirit, take responsibility for our actions, seek what is good, just, and godly. But to label everything has providence and dissect the everyday occurrences and label them “of God” or “not of God” and to spend more time in finding the “reason” seems more like Christian horoscoping and a Christian version of astrology than the Spirit-filled life of a disciple.

As always, feel free to disagree, I have one more post on this – as always thanks for reading.


  1. I just read through all five posts on this and really enjoyed it. I appreciate the way you have approached this topic.

    I have a couple of friends who love to use the phrase, “No accidents!”. It’s basically a rephrasing of “everything happens for a reason.” We’ve talked about it, and their motives are good because they are trying to combat the opposite side that says “all is chaos!” So I appreciate what they are trying to do. But my word to them was that there ARE accidents, every day. And many of them are inexplicable by our finite understanding. So I recommended an alternate way to say it:

    “There are no accidents that God cannot redeem for his glory and our good.”

    It’s almost like coming at it from the other side. Yes, there is chaos in the world. But God is actively at work to redeem it all, even if we don’t ever see it fully realized in our time.

    Again, great stuff… I look forward to reading the last post.

  2. Thanks brother.

    I have heard the “No Accidents”, “No Coincidences” lines too and while I understand that chaos is not an appealing alternative, I do think these cliches end up doing more harm than good.

    I love your line of “no accidents God cannot redeem …” and especially love the next paragraph of “…even if we don’t ever see it fully realized …”.

    Of course no one wants to be in pain or to live in hurt, me, you included but we cannot substitute trust in the Lord with over-active imaginations of a God that micro-manages the realities of this world as if He is a child playing with legos and then decides to knock them down so He can build them back up again.

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