Life has moments when it feels like the only thing to say is: “That’s so providential!”
We say it when we witness striking instances of how God carefully orchestrates every event: on the same day that you get a painful car repair bill, unexpected social assistance funds arrive in your account.
Or you’re visiting some far-flung place when you bump into your next-door neighbour, which leads to a meaningful conversation about faith.
Or within one week’s time you hear a sermon on a personally challenging piece of Scripture, and there’s a meditation on it in your daily devotional, and it’s also the topic at Bible study—it’s almost like God is trying to tell you something!
We talk about God’s providence too, in relation to notable events like disasters: an earthquake in China or a terrorist attack in France. In our shock we might say something like, “That’s God’s providence. This too, is in his hands.”
We notice the Father’s hand in life’s remarkable “coincidences,” and we confess that He also governs important global events. But do we think about his providence at other times? Like when we’re rising again from our bed, sitting down to breakfast, checking the day’s weather forecast, or putting in another day’s work at the office? Occasionally we might even despair if God is actually regulating all the details, for it feels as if someone has put our life on cruise control or auto-pilot—it’s essentially the same thing every day, on an endless loop.
When Lord’s Day 10 of the Heidelberg Catechism talks about God’s providence, it uses concrete examples from regular life. It says that God so governs all things,
that leaf and blade,
rain and drought,
fruitful and barren years,
food and drink,
health and sickness,
riches and poverty…
come to us not by chance
but by his Fatherly hand.
The Catechism wants to show how real and personal and ordinary is God’s providence: it’s even in the bits and pieces of every day. His almighty care encompasses the darting sparrows of the sky (Matt 10:29), extends even to the greying hairs on our head (Matt 10:30).
In this teaching the Heidelberg Catechism resembles a couple of other confessions from the Reformation period. Martin Luther wrote his Small Catechism, and there he confesses about the Father’s faithful care:
God gives me
clothing and shoes,
meat and drink,
house and home,
wife and children,
fields and cattle,
and all my goods.
There’s also the Geneva Catechism from John Calvin, where he says that God’s providence includes:
Rain and drought,
tempest and fair weather,
fruitfulness and barrenness,
health and sickness.
A few of these appear almost exactly in the Heidelberg Catechism, written some years later. The point is that God’s care misses nothing, but all creation—and all the minutiae of our own lives too—are in his hands. God’s providence doesn’t pertain only to the unexpected and dramatic, and not only to strange twists and fortuitous events, but it’s his perfect government of everything.
So do not be afraid, and do not despair, for in Christ you are worth more than many sparrows.