Q. 27 What dost thou mean by the providence of God?
A. The almighty and everywhere present power of God, whereby, as it were by His hand, He upholds and governs heaven, earth, and all creatures; so that herbs and grass, rain and drought, fruitful and barren years, meat and drink, health and sickness, riches and poverty, yea, and all things come, not by chance, but by His fatherly hand.
Q. 28 What advantage is it to us to know that God has created, and by His providence doth still uphold all things?
A. That we may be patient in adversity; thankful in prosperity; and that in all things which may hereafter befall us, we place our firm trust in our faithful God and Father, that nothing shall separate us from His love; since all creatures are so in His hand, that without His will they cannot so much as move.—Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day 10.
Up! Up into heaven! That is the certain direction and sure destination of every believer, of everyone who has been bought by the precious blood of Christ! However, the reality of the child of God on his earthly pilgrimage is such that he does, at times, feel down—very down.
Dear reader, does that not describe your experience from time to time, and especially during a time when you find yourself in the midst of a global pandemic? Perhaps you feel down because you are isolated and lonely. You feel down because you are suffering from the economic fallout and from the threat of a highly infectious and deadly virus. You feel down because you are fearful of the future. Most of all, you feel down because you are unable to join the multitude that kept holy day and that had gone into the house of God with the voice of joy and praise (cf. Ps. 42:4). You feel down. You need to be lifted up! You need peace, comfort, and hope to fill your heart and mind and flood your soul! How are you going to experience this? Scripture’s answer is that our thoughts and attention be directed away from our earthly circumstances and towards God. “The Lord is my light and my salvation!” (Ps. 27:1). “God is our refuge and strength!” (Ps. 46:1). “O Zion…behold your God!” (Is. 40:9). Following the wise and faithful counsel of Scripture, the authors of the Heidelberg Catechism point us to our heavenly Father and God in Lord’s Day 10, and call us to confess and cry out anew, “I believe in the God and Father of providence!”
The confession points us to God without delay. God! The only living and true God! The all-glorious, triune God! The great and almighty God who made heaven and earth, who calls us to lift up our heads and to behold Him and His greatness (cf. Is. 40:9)! Behold Him who measured the waters in the hollow of His hand, who comprehended the dust of the earth in a measure, and before whom the nations are as a drop of a bucket (cf. Is. 40:13, 15). Behold your incomparable God (cf. Is. 40:18)! What an infinitely great and mighty God He is!
A most astounding truth it is that this great God is also our heavenly Father for Christ’s sake! No, He is not Father of all men. But He is the heavenly Father of all for whom Christ shed His precious blood to redeem and save. Our adoption papers into the heavenly family of God have been signed by Christ’s blood, and we have been sealed with His Spirit (cf. Eph. 1:13)! It is by that same Spirit that we, the children of the living God, fly to and cry out to Him, “Abba Father.” (Rom. 8:15). No one may say that but His child. You say that, don’t you, dear reader?
Through the Word of God and the indwelling Spirit of Christ operating within us, we experience anew the wonderful truth that He is the God and Father of providence. The truth of providence consists of two parts. First, God our Father upholds all things by His power. This means that there is no creature or life that does not depend completely on Him and His power. Apart from Him and His power all creaturely life would cease to be. For in Him we live, and move, and have our being (cf. Acts 17:28)! Second, our Father in heaven governs and directs all things according to His eternal counsel or plan, a Christ-centered plan that is purposed for His glory and our good. All things that come to pass in time and history are according to His plan. This means that there truly are no accidents in our lives. This means that nothing frustrates the execution of His plan. The heathen rage and the rulers and kings of the earth plot and purpose to rebel against Him, but He shall have them in derision (cf. Ps. 2:1-4). Our God who is in the heavens does His good pleasure (cf. Ps. 115:3). Always! Without fail! He is absolutely sovereign! And all things work together for good to all who love Him, for the called according to His purpose (cf. Rom. 8:28)! And if that be the case, child of God, you should know that all things are for you and not against you.
You know that, don’t you? You who know that will cry out by the gift of faith wrought within you, “I believe!” “I believe!” in days of sorrow and sadness. “I believe!” in days of trial and trouble. “I believe!” in days of earthly joy and prosperity. “I believe in the God and Father of providence!”
The ground of such a confession and cry is unshakable.
For it is the invincible power of God, a power fitly spoken of by our Catechism instructors as the almighty and everywhere present power of God. What an awesome power this is! This is the awesome power that was demonstrated at creation by the great Creator God. “By the word of the Lord were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth. Let all the earth fear the Lord…for he spake and it was done; he commanded, and it stood fast” (Ps. 33:6-9). Even more, this is the invincible power that was supremely demonstrated by God when He raised up Jesus Christ, His only-begotten Son and our Savior, from the dead and set Him at His own right hand in heavenly places (cf. Eph. 1:19-20).
This same unshakable ground is also described with biblical, pastoral warmth by the use of a figure: Father’s hand. Behold this hand of your heavenly Father! This is a hand of almighty firmness that will never let us go! In Father’s hand we are safe and secure! No one shall be able to pluck us out of His hand (cf. John 10:28). Further, this is a hand that holds and is in control of everything! Nothing eludes its grasp! Not one molecule! Not a single virus! By this hand, all things come! All things come to us not by chance, but by His fatherly hand! Finally, this is a hand that works and directs all things for our good. It makes all evil He sends us turn out to our advantage and makes all things subservient to our salvation (cf. Lord’s Days 1 and 9)! All things work together for our good (cf. Rom. 8:28)!
Are you weary of all the burdens and troubles of life that have come your way? God’s counsel to you is that you humble yourself under this mighty hand of His, and cast all your care upon Him, for He cares for you (cf. I Pet. 5:6-7). In Him who alone is the great God of our salvation and of providence do we have a faithful Father who cares for us at every point, at every turn, and in every strait of our earthly pilgrimage!
And so, we say, “What a comfort!” What a comfort it is to say from within the depths of our hearts, “I believe in the God and Father of providence!”
This comfort speaks to our present circumstances. For those who are enjoying happy times, this comfort we enjoy is such that we are thankful in prosperity.
And for the vast majority of us, the comfort we feel in our hearts during these uncertain times of a global pandemic is such that we are patient in adversity. Though circumstances may be very difficult for us, believing in the almighty, great God and Father of providence, we do not despair. Rather, we enjoy precious peace and wonderful comfort. So, rest in Him. Wait on Him. Do so “forever trusting in [the Lord], tak[ing] heed to do His will; so shalt thou dwell within the land; and He thy needs shall fill” (Psalter 100:1).
But there is more. The comfort we enjoy by faith is also such that with respect to our future, we place our firm trust in our faithful God and Father, that nothing shall separate us from His love since all creatures are so in His hand, that without His will they cannot so much as move.
What comfort it is to know that all of our earthly lives fall under the loving care of our God and Father of providence!
Praise God from whom all blessings flow!