The Lord watches over you—
the Lord is your shade at your right hand;
the sun will not harm you by day,
nor the moon by night.

The Lord will keep you from all harm—
he will watch over your life;
the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.
-Psalm 121:5-8

If we were to advertise a public lecture on “Understanding the Providence of the Lord,” we might attract a handful of nice, religious people who already know something about it, but it’s doubtful that many of our unbelieving neighbors or youth would show up.

The word “Providence” isn’t self-explanatory—it sounds a little technical, and maybe even be a bit too ponderous to draw one’s attention. So the best way to answer the question is to start with real-life examples of what it is:

  1. An elderly man in his car is stopped at a stoplight. When the light turns green he looks both ways, sees nothing, and then accelerates into the intersection. But a few feet forward, the brakes of his car engage, startling him, and bring his car to an abrupt halt. A trained mechanic, he knows he hadn’t slammed on the brakes and that the car was in mint condition. Out of the blue, a truck, having run the red light, flies by just a few feet from him. Had he moved forward a few inches, instant death would have greeted him.
  2. A woman praying for some unusual necessities for her orphanage receives a box in the mail that afternoon with exactly the two items she requested. The box was mailed months before she even knew of the need.
  3. The entire choir of a church fails to show up on time for choir practice at 7:30 p.m., each person giving a separate reason as to why they couldn’t get there. At 7:27 p.m., three minutes before the first person usually arrived, a gas explosion completely destroys the church.
  4. A baby is switched at birth in the hospital and given to the wrong family with the same name. Only by means of several extraordinary “coincidences” is the mistake discovered and both babies are eventually returned to their rightful families.
  5. A man who runs a small computer business had a heart attack while he was helping to relocate a medical practice. That is, he had a heart attack in the presence of a physician. Had the heart attack happened sooner or later it would have proven fatal. But it was providence that it occurred at that precise moment. The man had to undergo almost immediate heart surgery and that day more things happened that weren’t coincidental. He had a second, far worse heart attack the moment surgery began. So, thanks to God, he survived having had now four bypasses.

These are all generic (but true) stories of how Providence works. It’s not simply about dramatic rescues from death, but also includes jobs provided, food and shelter in times of need, healing of illnesses, coincidental encounters of other people leading to life changes, protection of children, meeting the right mate, guidance out of bad situations or into better ones, the outcome of great land or sea battles, and much more.

God’s providence is happening in every square yard of the earth in every hour of every day. What the Creator made is the very thing he continues to tend and protect, and often with a flair for the dramatic and the ironic.

Even where rescues aren’t being prayed for, or people aren’t being saved or redirected, we are still in the realm of God’s providence. He holds both life and death in his hands and does whatever he chooses from cradle to grave. He is in ultimate control of the bad (and the very bad) as he is the good, and will use all to bring us into the safe harbor of his best for our lives.

God’s providence is an extension of his character—he openly reveals his loving personality through his acts. We can take great pleasure in God’s benefits and relax knowing that he is in charge of every aspect of our lives, and even the entire universe. He’s on the side of those who cry out to him. His will for us is laden with design and packed with purpose.

If you are desperate for God’s presence or are seeking an answer to prayer, ask him to reveal himself to you in a powerful way. Then trust him to bring to fruition his best plan for your life and the lives of your loved ones.

And if you have a story of God’s providence to share, would love to hear it.