Not too long ago I received a phone call from a friend of mine, at 3:15, in the morning. My friend’s wife was experiencing abdominal pains and needed to go to the emergency room. He called me because he has two toddlers that needed to be looked after while they went to the hospital. What was odd about that scenario is that I generally turn off my ringer before I go to bed. It just so happened that earlier that evening I was tinkering with my phone and I inadvertently turned on the ringer. If that hadn’t happened I probably would have slept through my friend’s attempt to reach me. Thankfully nothing major was wrong with my friend’s wife.
The incident got me thinking about that phrase “it just so happened”. Some would call that coincidence; I call it providence. Providence is a term that we don’t’ use very much anymore. In essence it describes God’s invisible hand working in and through events in our lives. This can manifest itself in timing, circumstances lining up just right, or even unexpected provision. It is those times when things just seem to work out.
Our Founding Fathers understood and experienced providence first hand. The Revolutionary era in particular is full of examples, such as the battle of Brooklyn in 1776. Brooklyn? Yes, Brooklyn. In 1776 Brooklyn was not the sprawling metropolis that it is today, and it was one of many places where the British and Continental armies clashed. This particular meeting was not going well for General George Washington and his troops. General Washington decided to undertake a strategic retreat. The retreat would mean ferrying 9000 soldiers across a river in the dead of night without making any significant noise. As soon as it was dark the retreat commenced. All night the ferries ran back and forth across the river. Nearly at dawn there were still troops to be ferried. As it happened, a thick fog settled in that morning. The fog was so thick that the men could hardly see six feet in front of them. This fog persisted longer than normal, long enough to cover the rest of the retreating soldiers. When the fog finally cleared the British moved in to find an empty camp. All 9000 soldiers had gotten across the river in the dark and not a single hand lost; much to the surprise and amazement of the British.
Call it coincidence if you like, but General Washington called it Providential.
I believe there are many occasions in our lives when God acts providentially. Whether it is a ringer left on, an unlikely heavy fog or some other seemingly random event, God’s subtle hand works in our lives. The Psalmist puts it this way “The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord” (Psalm 37:23, KJV). The Apostle Paul says “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good” (Romans 8:28). The Founding Fathers called it Providence.
Thinking back I can see many times when Providence was evidenced in my life and the lives of those around me. Take some time and think back on your life and you will too.