It takes a measure of faith to believe in God’s providence. It is possible to dismiss the everyday positive happenings as coincidence or luck. And when things go horribly wrong in our lives, it is hard to see a caring God or to trust that in the end it will be for the best. Often the only way to see God’s providence is by looking back, years after a painful event. I’d like to share one story like that.
During the summer of 1988 I spent part of my summer in Michigan leading Vacation Bible School and otherwise assisting a church with outreach. While I was away from home my family was going through a particularly stressful time such that my father had to be hospitalized. The reasons for the stress concerned a business partnership that had gone awry despite the best of intentions at the beginning. My father’s hospital stay caused hardship to my family because of the separation and the need to manage a farm during the busiest season of the year. As the eldest child in the family, I was unable to help from a distance.
My father’s response to being in the hospital led us to being able to see God’s providence in the situation, however. He was looking out for the other patients and seeing how he could help them. He was drawn to talk with one woman in particular. Vera, like my father, was born in the Netherlands. She was alone in the world and was suffering from major depression. She was estranged from her husband, and she would have no place to go upon release. Her only relatives lived overseas. When my mother went to visit, she was introduced to Vera in the pleasant meeting area provided. My parents’ hearts went out to her.
Not really knowing how things would unfold, my parents agreed that Vera could come home with them when my father was released. Vera walked around my parents’ spacious acreage, ate with the family and appreciated the privacy of the guest room she had been given. However, it seemed that God knew my parents had enough to handle. An aunt and uncle from the Ottawa area were also visiting and they felt compelled to give Vera a new start at their home.
Vera lived with them for a period of time and was able to find work. Through my aunt and uncle, they were able to make contact with her family in the Netherlands. In the end an arrangement was made for her to go back to Holland and be cared for by her relatives. If it were not for the misery my family went through, my parents would never have been involved in helping Vera’s life move forward.
Sometimes circumstances place us where we would not choose to go. At such a time, the purpose of our being there may not be about us at all. It may be for the benefit of someone else entirely. Eyes of faith must overcome our natural tendency for self-pity. God has a bigger plan than we can imagine, and we need to trust Him.
It causes me to think about the imprisonment of Christians in many places around the world. Prison is the last place a person chooses to go, but many faithful Christians who have been placed there by the evil intents of a corrupt regime make the most of their time. They determine to live out their faith for the benefit of the hardened criminals and guards who might not otherwise hear the gospel of salvation.