In the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus teaches us to ask God the Father to “give us this day our daily bread”. By “daily bread”, Jesus means the things we need each day to live. But what does it look like when God gives us those things? Does a divine “care package” arrive from heaven each day, lit from above, tied in a ribbon, borne by angels and accompanied by a note, “Here is your daily bread, with all my love, from God the Father?”
Well, no, not usually. When God provides for our daily needs, he typically does so quietly, through the ordinary and usual course of events. This is called “divine providence“, providence because it meets our daily needs, and divine, not because it looks like a miracle or comes to us in some completely mysterious way, but simply because we recognize in it that God is providing for us.
Someone might object: how do you know it is from God? If the providence is a consequence of the normal course of events, perhaps it is just a natural thing which would have happened anyway, a coincidence, or a “lucky break”? Can you prove it is from God? Maybe God has nothing to do with it?
We know, whether we can prove it or not, that God has everything to do with it. When Jesus spoke of how the Father provides for the birds and clothes the flowers in the field, he was not claiming that birds and flowers have little angelic suppliers that give them birdseed and petals from heaven accompanied by the sound of trumpets. He meant instead that God uses the ordinary and natural course of events to supply the needs of those he loves, even little ones, like flowers and birds. While he does so quietly, without fuss and without attribution, it is none the less coming from him and according to his will.
Ask any serious Christian about God’s providence in their lives, and you will hear stories of prayer and prayers answered, sometimes even in ways that seem extraordinary: the needed amount arrives just in time from an unexpected source, the solution comes together at the last minute, the phone rings out of the blue and the long-estranged one is on the other end, reaching out. Coincidence? One could say so. But in such coincidences, a Christian sees the hand of God. This is divine providence. It is providence too when God provides but we do not notice, and it is still providence when God provides for those who do not recognize him at all.
A wise Christian once said that a coincidence is a miracle in which God chooses to remain anonymous. This is what divine providence is all about: God provides in a way in which he does not make his role prominent: he gives anonymously, not noisily. Yes, in so doing, God risks not getting credit for his gift. It is up to us to see God working in it. The more we pray and the more we listen and look for God, the better we will see God’s quiet action in our lives, and the better aware we will be of his concern for our needs. In divine providence, God’s love for us is not shown in a noisy way, but quietly, through the regular course of ordinary events. Yet it is still love; may we have eyes to see it.
© Agapios Theophilus