Believers can be very happy even in spite of the hardships of human existence. So many ills trouble human life. Our bodies break down and our susceptible to so many diseases. Death stalks us at every turn. Even the weather being too hot or too cold can threatened us. Wherever human beings turn, they are threatened with harm and death. Go on a boat and you’re only a slip away from death. Ride a horse and you could be thrown off. Walk down the street in a city and something could fall off the roof of a skyscraper and kill you. If you or a friend are holding a knife, you could be harmed. Poisonous snakes can live in a seemingly safe place like a cultivated garden. Your house can burn down. You could lose your job and be plunged into poverty. You could lose your job and not make enough money to eat. You could be robbed.
You may be thinking, “Wow, this got dark.” But it’s the truth. We face constant peril if you really think about. And in the face of so much danger, it’s certainly reasonable to be fairly anxious. Now some of you may counter and say that these kinds of things seldom happen. Or, at least, they never happen all at once. Of course that’s true. But, on the other hand, they do, indeed, happen sometimes. And if they happen to others, then they can happen to you. Shouldn’t you be at least a little afraid of the future? And if God does not exist, and all we are is subject to the whims of chance, then certainly, it is very difficult to have confidence of a good future.
But once the light of God’s providence shines into the life of believers, all of their fears and anxieties are relieved. Christians do not believe in chance. They entrust themselves to God. They take comfort in the fact that their heavenly Father have all things under the control of his power. He governs them at will. He regulates life by his wisdom and nothing takes place except through his appointment. God receives his beloved children into his care and also entrusts them to the care of his angels so that neither fire, water, or physical violence can do them harm. Only those things that God allows comes into their lives. God’s protection is why the Psalmist sings:
2 I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress,
My God, in whom I trust!”
3 For it is He who delivers you from the snare of the trapper
And from the deadly pestilence.
4 He will cover you with His pinions,
And under His wings you may seek refuge;
His faithfulness is a shield and bulwark.
5 You will not be afraid of the terror by night,
Or of the arrow that flies by day;
6 Of the pestilence that stalks in darkness,
Or of the destruction that lays waste at noon (Psalm 91:2-6).
Elsewhere, the Psalmist praises God’s for his protection and care “The Lord is for me; I will not fear;
What can man do to me?” and “Though a host encamp against me,My heart will not fear;Though war arise against me, In spite of this I shall be confident” and “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me” (Ps. 118:6; 27:3; 23:4).
How can a Christian always be confident in God, especially when it seems like the world revolves at random? Despite the seeming randomness of life, believers know God is at work everywhere. And they feel assured that his work will be for their safety. When assaulted by the devil or evil people, they stand strong by remember and meditating on God’s providence. They can call to mind that the devil and all other evil people are held by the hand of God. They can only do what God allows them to do, no more, no less. They are not only constrained by God but actually forced to serve him! And when Christians think of God’s control over the wicked, they can be encouraged and endure.
God’s strong arm controls and guides the wicked. They cannot do more harm than he intends. Paul speaks to God’s providence over the devil, when he writes of being hindering by the devil (1 Thess 2:18). Yet, at another time, he desires to undertake a new mission, hoping that God allows it (1 Cor 16:7). If Paul had only written that Satan was the obstacle, then it might be reasonable to conclude that Satan is very powerful, so powerful, in fact, that he could overturn the counsels of God. But what Paul actually shows us is that God is the one in control. Satan can only accomplish what God allows him to do.
King David expresses similar sentiments as Paul. David sees the unpredictability of life and yet entrusts himself to the Lord: “My times are in your hand” (Ps 31:15). David could have said that his life or time (singular) is in God’s hand. But he doesn’t. He uses the plural: his times are in God’s hand. What he is trying to communicate is the fact that no matter how unstable his condition may be, they all take place under God’s providential care.
In another story, Rezin and the king of Israel had joined forces for the destruction of Israel. Yet the prophet Isaiah brands them “smoldering firebrands.” They could only emit a little smoke (Isa 7:4). The greatest enemies of God like nothing to God. For example, even Pharaoh at his highest power is likened merely to a beast and his armies are compared to fish. God declares that he will hook both by the nose and drag them wherever he pleases (Ezek 29:4).
Therefore, remaining ignorant of God’s providence will only make you unhappy. But if you are able to dwell and meditate on God’s providential care for you, it will provide stability, endurance, and even happiness in you!
“Blogging the Institutes” is my on-going attempt to paraphrase John Calvin’s work, the Institutes of the Christian Religion. You can find out more about the series in the Introduction. For all the posts in this series, check out the Master List.