The following is, in part, a response to a comment posted earlier today. It seemed worth sharing more prominently, since not everyone reads comments.
These are some thoughts on the Providence of God and its work in our lives.
I think there is absolutely such a thing as Providence (not that we have much of a clue as to what God’s plan is in our life). Rather Providence is the trust that our lives are in the hand of a good God who is working all things together for our salvation (even when we sin and take a wrong turn). There is a common understanding of Providence, common in our culture, that would tend to see only one highway for our life [God’s plan] and that would argue that wrong decisions can only be corrected by returning to the previous point and starting over. Thus when we take a wrong turn – we must go back and correct it and get back on the previous route.
This reminds me of the GPS unit in my car which occasionally, having run out of “on-the-map” solutions, says, “If possible make a U-turn!”
There is another understanding of Providence, more common in the Eastern Fathers, in which God’s work in our lives is seen as far more creative. There is not one route, but one destination. Thus if we make a wrong turn, God is quite capable of continuing to bring us to union with Him. The problem is not that of a route, but of our heart.
Repentance is not the correction of the path in our life (which would tend to make history utterly immutable and the real “god” in our life). Repentance is having a heart with which God can do something. The best example I can think of in this is King David, whom the Scriptures describe as a “man after God’s own heart.” Of course, he was also complicit in the death of Uriah the Hittite whose wife he had taken in an adulterous affair. Murder and adultery are clearly quite wrong. However, when the Prophet Nathan confronted David with his sin, he did not seek to defend or excuse himself. I’ve often thought that he could have argued that he wasn’t directly reponsible for Uriah’s death, etc. Instead, David is a man after God’s own heart. Faced with his sin he repents – in sackcloth and ashes – in fasting and prayer. And he finds mercy from God (though a difficult mercy). Later a child from that union would be in the line of the Messiah. Such is God’s Provident mercy. We cannot say that God willed for David to murder or commit adultery.
Providence is the mercy of God displayed in history. It redeems history – gathering the whole of it into the renewal and recreation of the world in His glorious resurrection. If you choose wrong – choose God. Even history is redeemed by Him.
I was tortured for a number of years over several decisions in my life that, like many decisions, were irrevocable and seemed wrong in retrospect. The adversary tormented me and I found it depressing. Coming to understand God’s Providence in the manner I’ve described has allowed me to bless God and give thanks to Him for all things (including my wrong decisions – for by His mercy even these things have been used to His glory and for my salvation). I would not be where I am, doing what I do, etc., except for those wrong decisions. But I do not see my present circumstance as a result of wrong decisions, but the result of God’s mercy which has redeemed all things. He is the “glory and the lifter of my head.”
And so we can truly say, “Glory to God for all things!”