by Jerry Bridges /
Read all the posts published to date in this 9-part series on God’s Providence from Cruciform’s good friend, the late Jerry Bridges. This was a teaching Jerry was presenting in the months leading up to his fatal heart attack in March, 2016.
GOD’S PROVIDENCE, PART THREE OF NINE
Whenever we encounter a difficult episode in our lives we are inclined to want to ask God the question, Why? And when we do this, we seldom get even an inkling of an answer. Here are four reasons God’s providence is a mystery so much of the time.
- God usually works through what we call secondary causes. For example, your flight was an hour late, causing you to miss your connection. Why was it an hour late? Turns out the scheduled pilot woke up sick and the airlines had to find another pilot. That is the secondary cause for your delay. But God was the primary cause, controlling everything as it were “behind the scenes.” We tend to attribute outcomes to surface, secondary causes. But ultimately we should recognize God is in control of everything. Exactly how he does it is a mystery.
- God works through the free choices that we make. God works through our wills, not upon our wills. Proverbs 21:1 says, “The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the LORD; he turns it wherever he will” (also see Ezra 1:1-2). Exactly how God puts thoughts and desires into the hearts of humans is mysterious. And yet the Bible offers many examples, such as when God hardened Pharaoh’s heart (Exodus 10:20).
- God’s ways of working are beyond our understanding. In Isaiah 55:8-9 the LORD tells us, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” (also see Romans 11:33). There’s a sense in which trying to figure God out is futile.
- God never explains. For example, he did not give Job an explanation for the providential events that took place in his life. The same is true of Paul and his thorn in the flesh. We must beware of demanding that God give us an explanation. Even if he did, we probably wouldn’t understand it in a way that satisfies us.
The mystery of God’s providence is not surprising when we consider who God is. He is by far the most mysterious being in the universe. It would not be an overstatement to say he is infinitely mysterious. And yet, much about him—and his ways—is revealed in his Word. It is there we must look for answers.
At the end of the day, it’s probably best not to speculate about God’s motives in specific instances. And may we be careful never to “go beyond what is written” (1 Corinthians 4:6) but stay focused on clear, in-context interpretation of Scripture.
This has been Part 3 of a 9-part series on God’s providence from Jerry Bridges.
Jerry Bridges (1929-2016) was the author of Who Am I? — Identity in Christ, as well as numerous other books, including The Pursuit of Holiness (which has sold more than 1.4 million copies), and the award-winning The Discipline of Grace and I Will Follow You, O God. He maintained an international speaking ministry and, from 1955 until his death, served in a variety of capacities with the Navigators.