Have you ever heard a word or phrase over and over, and then suddenly, one day, you hear it (or read it), notice it, and think about it in a different way? In my mind, it seems as if this happens very often with words or phrases related to God or spirituality, like these:
Live as a witness.
Suffering is redemptive.
God loves you.
Offer it up.
This is my body.
God’s providential care.
I distinctly remember the first time I really heard the word providence. I remember, because I realized at that moment that I really had no idea what the person was talking about. I had heard that phrase “God’s providential care” many times over the years, but had never really given it much thought. When heard it again that day, it was clear that I was being invited by God to explore the concept in a new way.
I think it works like a spiral staircase. You begin to ascend, and you notice something. You continue to climb the stairs, and when you come around to the same side of the staircase again, you’ve experienced all the steps in between. Your experience in the interim informs your reaction to the phrase the next time you hear it. Perhaps you had a conversation about something related to God’s grace, and the next time you hear “providence” you make a connection to grace. Or, perhaps you realized that a particular person who came into your life at a particular moment in time changed the course of your life in a significant way.
In the same way, I can trust that things in my life that I don’t quite understand have some significance in God’s plan for me.
What does this mean?
Here’s an excellent example. When I began writing this blog a few months ago, I was not quite sure about the title, “The Grace in Life.” I mean, I know that grace abounds (Romans 5:20), but I wasn’t sure I would be able to write about God’s grace, week in and week out. To prevent writer’s block, I began making a daily list of things I saw as grace-filled. These daily affirmations of grace helped me become more aware of it during difficult times. As I have been saying here for a few weeks now, my life has been difficult of late. Yet, the things I know to be grace-filled have sustained me in this darkness. God somehow led me to write these lists. And now, I have them to review when the going gets tough. This is providence and grace.
My incredible friend whose wife suffered an aneurysm a few weeks ago has found so much grace in his circumstances. A loving community has rallied around them, he and his wife are so conscious of all the prayers that are sustaining them, and he has identified many daily miracles in her progress, which he publishes online daily. His signature closing line has become, “Let’s pray for another day of progress tomorrow.” Our prayers for her progress are answered on a daily basis.
Sometimes God’s providence becomes obvious to us over time. Sometimes it remains a mystery forever.
Always, grace abounds.