It was C. H. Spurgeon, the Prince of Preachers, who once said that “the Sovereignty of God is the pillow upon which the child of God rests his head at night, giving perfect peace.” To know that God is completely in control of all things is the greatest comfort for the Christian. This article aims to answer the following question, “What practical applications does the providence of God have in the life of a Christian believer?” Specifically, how does the sovereignty of God comfort those who are going through suffering and hardships?
The Providence of God in the Christian’s Suffering
The Lord Jesus warned his church that “through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22). Additionally, “all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Tim. 3:12). Without the knowledge of the providence of God, every trial seems like a pointless, random event that catches us off guard. Christians will face much suffering in their pilgrimage to glory. To many, their sufferings seem like a wasted time that has produced no effect. However, with a proper understanding of the sovereignty of God, the Christian can find comfort in him who governs and sustains all things to his end, namely, the glory of his name and the well-being of his children. Whatever trial one may face, they can be assured that is has come from the loving hand of their heavenly father. God is not sitting back wishing things were different. All things are working towards his divine plan.
In the midst of suffering, the providence of God has much to say for the Christian. The providence of God has been a doctrine that Christians of all eras have clung to. The promise of Romans 8:28 tells us that “for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” The greatest comfort in the Christian life is to know that God is the one who is reigning actively over his creation, even amid our suffering. What a terrible thing it would be if our situations were out of God’s hand. There would be no comfort for the Christian if God were to say, ‘Well, I didn’t think it would come to that conclusion. I didn’t want that to happen to you.’ Where is the comfort in that? The Bible gives us a different picture. Yes, suffering is ordained by God in the Christian life. We will suffer in this fallen world; however, God is actively governing all things for the glory of his name and the good of his children.
It was Thomas Watson who wrote, “All the various dealings of God with his children do by a special providence turn to their Good.” Moreover, Sedwick said, “No good man ever lacked anything that was good for him. I may lack a thing which is good, but not which is good for me.” Thus, God’s providence offers the greatest comfort to his covenant people. Whatever the circumstances may be, the Christian can be assured that all things are working according to God’s plan. Additionally, the providence of God should humble us into submission and trust in our Sovereign God who cares for our ultimate eternal good. Thomas Boston said that “whatever is crooked in life was made so by God and therefore must be received in submission to God… There is not any thing whatsoever befalls us without his over-ruling hand.” In the Scriptures we see that God makes the blind, the poor, and the deaf (John 9:1-3; 1 Sam. 2:7; Ex. 4:11). Whatever God deems best, the Christian must submit to his all-wise counsel, knowing that it serves an ultimate eternal purpose.
As Christians suffer, all that is seen right now is the “disjointed wheels and scattered pins of a watch,” but in eternity the entire picture of God’s all-wise plan will be seen. The providence of God is a great mystery that we cannot fully understand today; however, the Scriptures make it clear that it will work out for our eternal good (Rom. 8:28). With this mystery, we must cling to what God has revealed in the Scriptures. To see and understand the providence of God in trials enables Christians to thank him for ordaining sufferings that will be used to conform them into the image of Christ. In many cases, providential afflictions are used in great ways to shape and refine us into holy vessels used by God. For example, when Job suffered immensely, he realized that it was providentially used by God, and that led him to praise his Maker. Job said, “The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21).
Therefore, the proper response to the providence of God in suffering should be to worship him as the sovereign Lord over both “the prosperous results of our labors and the painful troubles brought by men and devils. All things are in God’s hand, whose hand is in all our sorrows.”