Heidelberg Catechism (Q. 27) – What dost thou mean by the providence of God?Answer: The almighty and everywhere present power of God; (a) whereby, as it were by his hand, he upholds and governs (b) heaven, earth, and all creatures; so that herbs and grass, rain and drought, (c) fruitful and barren years, meat and drink, health and sickness, (d) riches and poverty, (e) yea, and all things come, not by chance, but be his fatherly hand.
The catechism next teaches us about the nature of Providence. From one point of view, nature is Providence. We see God’s hand in the stars, in decomposing mulch, in the flight of a bird. There really are no natural laws. There is no such thing as an impersonal nature, much less a Mother Nature. God the Father has established every so-called “law” of nature. Nature is simply God’s law in action. But providence means more than this: providence is God’s active care over his world. The rain keeps falling on our heads because God makes it rain. The lightning which tears the sky is his power. The thunder which shakes our earth is his will shaking the earth. Providence means that God is charge of every sparrow that smashes into your sliding glass door. Providence means that God knows exactly how many hairs fell to the ground during your last hair-cut. But some Christians are schizophrenic about providence. This is often seen in what we call “natural” disasters. As hard as it is to believe, we must believe that God was guiding the tornado which destroyed Greensberg, Kansas.
We have to say God was in control of hurricane Katrina. The alternative is too terrible to mention. If God doesn’t control tsunamis, then our God is weak and feeble. After a disaster, people fall to their knees and cry out to God for healing and for the safety of their loved ones. But they would never say God caused a hurricane. Why, then, do people pray to a feeble God who can’t control hurricanes? If God isn’t in charge of the disaster, how could he possibly guide a recovery effort? If God can’t control a hurricane, how could he control FIMA? But, our God wasn’t busy doing something else when the tornado hit. He wasn’t surprised by Katrina. He may give Satan the power to wreak havoc and destruction, but God is still in control of Satan. Satan was allowed to destroy all of Job’s possessions through God’s providence. Providence is a good name for a church: it reminds us that nothing we do is by our own strength. Nothing that befalls the Church is a surprise to God.
This should remind us of how unworthy we are to deserve the good providence of God. We all deserve to be flattened in a hurricane. We all deserve to be drowned in a tsunami. But God, in his good pleasure, has elected us to benefit from his good providence. However, we only continue in his good providence if we are quick to confess our sins. Let’s do so now …