Providence (Not Rhode Island)

It was a Saturday afternoon late in May. I was returning from a conference in Chicago, which meant I was wrapping up my last activity for the Spring. I had worked extra hours during several weeks trying to get everything organized and strategized, and I had never felt more prepared for a full summer of ministry and family activities. I remember thinking to myself, For the first time in a long time I have the details of my life under control and I am ahead of the game; ready for whatever. I’m going to drop 15 pounds, begin writing my next book, and crush any obstacles that come my way. I probably added something spiritual like, with God’s grace…or according to Your will, God…but my confidence was placed squarely on my abilities.

I also remember thinking, Oh yeah, I will likely have a new niece born when I arrive.

The next day was Sunday, and I was back home. After church we had planned a trip to the hospital to visit the baby. I was as relaxed as I had been in a long time — finally feeling on top of things — and I intended to keep it that way. I held my new niece in my arms and drew an invisible cross on her brow with my finger, over and over again. I was thankful that she was happy and healthy, and after our visit we went back home.

Later that evening, everything changed. Some challenges had developed, and my new baby niece was going to need a place to live. Within the next several hours, we decided our home would be that place. When baby Kynzleigh was released from the hospital a few days later, she joined our family. Whatever control I imagined that I had was an illusion. That baby is now 3 years old, and she is officially my adopted daughter.

Providence.

The biblical truth that God is not only in control of everything that exists, but He is also providing for His creation and He is directing everything towards His purposes and plans for redemption.

We saw lots of evidences of Providence from the very beginning with Kynzleigh, even in the midst of fear, insecurity, conflict, and pure exhaustion.

  • We had no baby furniture or baby items, and all of them were provided within just a few days of Kynzleigh’s arrival by our loving church family. Providence through God’s people.
  • Our three children were about to have their worlds turned upside down as well. We prayed and prayed for their ability to cope and love Kynzleigh. God had mercy and made it happen. Our oldest three love Kynzleigh more than I ever could have imagined. Divine providence.
  • Adoption is expensive and a very difficult process. Eventually, both of Kynzleigh’s biological parents gave consent and a wonderful friend took care of our legal work pro bono. Our families also supported the process in every possible way. Providence through the love of others and their gifts and abilities.
  • More than anything, that little baby who is now 3 years old needed a home. She needed to be provided for, and she needed God’s hand to protect her and work a miracle for her. Providence.

Among the most oft-quoted verses of Scripture are the words God spoke in Jeremiah 29:11: “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

What people often fail to notice is that these promises, given to the prophet Jeremiah on behalf of the people, were never actually experienced in their fullness by Jeremiah himself. Some 70 years of captivity would have to come first! When we read this verse within its wider context, verse 11 takes on much deeper meaning:

Jeremiah 29:10-14: This is what the Lord says: “When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my good promise to bring you back to this place. 11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12 Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity, I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.”

Too often we expect God to give us the promises without the captivity. For most of us, however, that’s not how things usually occur. The journey that results in prosperity often requires struggle and strife before it reaches its end. God’s promises to Jeremiah and the people of his day would not actually see their complete fulfillment for a couple of centuries, until the days of Ezekiel, Daniel, and eventually Ezra and Nehemiah. When it was all said and done, God’s Providence was clear and confirmed.

ulrich zwingli

Everything about us – when we were born, where we live, who we are, and the experiences that shape us – falls under what we call the Providence of God. Zwingli described Providence as: “The eternal, enduring, and unchangeable rule and direction of God over all things in the universe.” Which means God is control not only of everything that HAS happened; but He is in control of everything that IS happening and WILL happen; and He is directing it all according to His purpose and plan.

Consider also the words of Charles Hodge (1797-1878), in one of the most widely acclaimed systematic theology texts of the 19th century: 

Hoffecker_hodge_pride_princeton__86388_zoom

“The providence of God extends not only over nations, but also over individuals. The circumstances of every man’s birth, life, and death, are ordered by God. Whether we are born in a [lost] or in a Christian land, in the Church or out of it; whether weak or strong; with many or with few talents; whether we are prosperous or afflicted; whether we live a longer or a shorter time, are not matters determined by chance, or by the unintelligent sequence of events, but by the will of God.” (Hodge, Systematic Theology, Vol. 1, 588)

God is never taken by surprise. He wasn’t surprised by the circumstances which brought Kynzleigh Dawn into my life, and He wasn’t surprised by all the of the changes that shook loose any illusion of control I had. God sees the entire story of my life, which is only a small length of thread in the spool of time that has been unfurling since God created life in the very beginning. My story is a tiny part of a much larger narrative, all of which is authored by God. What a privilege and an honor it is to be a part of His Story.

7 thoughts on “Providence (Not Rhode Island)

  1. Carol Plum says:

    This was great. Thanks for sharing about Kynz and the God’s providence in her life.

    Sent from my iPhone

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  2. Bobby L. Jones says:

    Thanks for sharing. Just knowing God is in control provides daily peace in His presence. To God be all the Glory.

  3. Carol Counce says:

    What a wonderful description of providence. God had a special place for Kynzleigh. She could not be more blessed than to be in your family. We love and miss you, but we know you are where God wants you to be for now.

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