Why is it so hard to trust in God’s providential care in the midst of suffering?
When we can’t see God resolving things it’s tempting to doubt His goodness, nearness, and concern for our lives.
He is there, though, the entire time, working behind the scenes, using everything in our lives, to bring about His plan and purpose. Confidence in God’s providence–His care-taking–keeps our hope intact.
I remember hearing of an experiment done in the 1950’s, to a bunch of rats: the rats were thrown into a bucket of water, left to swim, and fight for their lives. They swam for about 15 minutes on average, but then quickly gave up and drowned. Curt Paul Richter, a John Hopkins scientist, rescued the rats just before drowning, dried them off, and let them rest before putting them back into the bucket. He found that rescued rats were able to swim for an average of 60 hours before drowning! The power of hope energized the rats to keep going 240 times longer than before!
When God reminds me of His sovereignty at work it burgeons me to persevere in suffering. Providence can be defined as the “foreseeing care and guidance of God over the universe and the affairs of humankind with wise benevolence.” *
Romans 8:28 is the most concise wording of God’s providential care in the Bible:
And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.
The book of Esther bolstered my trust in God’s providence over me today. God’s name is not mentioned once in the book, yet His fingerprints are on every page. When Haman is conspiring against the Jews to annihilate them, God was clearly working behind the scenes to protect His people.
- The king couldn’t sleep, which caused him to realize Mordecai had never been rewarded for uncovering a plot to kill the king, and so the king rewarded him.
- God gave Esther favor in the king’s eyes to come before him uninvited, and he heard her request.
- Haman’s wicked heart was uncovered, and he was hanged on the very gallows he intended for Mordecai.
- The Jews were authorized to protect themselves, and were therefore saved.
These powerful developments were unexpected, and only came about because God was divinely orchestrating all things on His perfect timeline.
How can my faith be strengthened to believe God is at work in the same way for me? What does my “water bucket rescue” look like in the midst of my trials?
As I meditate on God’s word my hope is energized, and my faith is built up. Reading the story of God’s providential care for Esther, Joseph, and others in His word strengthens my faith.
Romans 10:17 tells us, So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. Whenever we consume the living word of God our faith will increase. We are reminded of who He is, how He works, and that there is no one like Him.
The thing that sticks out to me regarding Esther is that God’s providential care wasn’t just activated during the imminent danger presented by Haman. God knew Haman would bring a threat against His people, so years earlier He set details into motion that would take care of it. The suffering Esther experienced in losing her parents, being raised by her uncle, then being taken as a part of the king’s harem was actually part of God’s sovereign care as well. He had the big picture in mind, and had greater things planned for Esther than she could ever have imagined for her own life.
I am always encouraged when I read the accounts of Esther and Joseph. They experienced incredible trauma, injustice, and suffering. If anyone had a reason to ask, “WHERE is God in this?”, it would have been them. Being human, they must have had that question repeatedly in their lives. The encouragement for us comes in seeing the whole picture. Zero in on any specific moment in their ordeals, and it doesn’t make sense. Zoom out to see the whole picture, and we are inspired with the view of God’s beautiful work of sovereignty for them as individuals and for His people as a whole.
The mistake we make is trying to resolve our story before it’s finished.
We have lots of puzzle pieces that don’t seem to fit together correctly. The more we concentrate, or obsess over one part of the puzzle, the more frustrated we become. It isn’t until all the pieces come together that we are able to see the full, amazing picture.
I’m always trying to get my kids to sit down and complete puzzles of 200+ pieces with me. They will help for awhile, but they inevitably end up quitting in frustration. They can handle the smaller puzzles for younger children, but they haven’t developed the confidence and perseverance needed to complete a more complex puzzle yet.
I know the many pieces will come together and make a beautiful masterpiece because the manufacturer shows a picture of it on the box, and I have previously persevered through many a puzzle-making. Our Creator has promised us He is working all our pieces of blessing, suffering, and waiting together for our good and His glory. He shows us the picture in His word.
He is a good God, and He takes good care of those He loves.
Are you lacking trust in His providence for you? Get into His word this week, and your “water bucket rescue” will renew your hope.