Living in Providence

A city on the northeastern coast of the U.S.A. bears the name “Providence.” Wondering how this capitol city of Rhode Island got such a good name, I looked up a bit of history concerning its founder: “Roger Williams (1603- 1683) was a radical Puritan thinker and founder of the colony of Rhode Island… His developing Puritanism alienated him from the church [of England], and in the first year of the Puritan migration to New England, Williams left England with his family, arriving at Boston in 1631. . . He moved to Salem, his ‘strange opinions’ arousing controversy everywhere. He insisted that the lands given to Massachusetts and Plymouth belonged to the Indians and denied that government could enforce religious laws… Williams was expelled from the colony by the Massachusetts General Court. He fled with a few Salem acquaintances to the Indians on Narragansett Bay. At the head of the bay he bought land and named the tiny settlement, the first in Rhode Island, Providence.” [1] Williams chose the name “Providence,” because he believed that God’s providence had brought him there.

No matter where you live on the planet, you can live in “providence.” In fact, everyone lives under God’s providential rule, whether they are aware of it or not. As Ephesians 1:11 declares, God “who works all things according to the counsel of His [ultimate] will.” [2]

Yet, many live as though life is a matter of chance. Instead of trusting God’s wise providence they try to pursue illusive “lady luck.” Sadly, believers often succumb to this outlook of today’s culture.

The meaning of providence

Then what do we mean by the “providence of God”? Here is a theological definition: Providence is “that work of God in which He preserves all His creatures, is active in all that happens in the world, and directs all things to their appointed end.” [3] There is a mysterious dimension to this truth, since God is not the author of sin: “Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am tempted by God’; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone” (James 1:13). Although Satan is active, He cannot overstep God’s permissive will (Job 1:1-2:13).

A striking example of how God providentially rules, yet holds people accountable for their free choices, is the prayer of believers in Acts 4:27-28: “For truly against Your holy Servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the people of Israel, were gathered together [free will] to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose determined before to be done” [God’s providence].

Principles of providence

Living in recognition of God’s providence includes believing in these principles:

1. God preserves what He has made. Col. 1:17,18 affirms that, “He [Christ] is before all things, and in Him all things consist [hold together]. . .”

2. God uses secondary causes, (such as the forces of “nature” and the actions of people) to accomplish His plans. This ministry of concurrence is seen, for example, in how we are enabled to earn a living (Deut. 8:18), how calamity is overruled (Amos 3:6), and how God matures believers through life’s circumstances (Phil. 2:13).

3. God governs the physical and spiritual realms of the created universe. “The LORD has established His throne in heaven, And His kingdom rules over all” (Psalm 103:19; see Dan. 4:3; 1 Tim. 6:15).

In light of this, we are prepared to ask the penetrating question, “Do I live in conscious harmony with God’s providence?”

Trust in God’s providence

Let’s learn from Job. When he was healthy and prosperous, he wouldn’t have found it difficult to wax eloquent on God’s providential rule. But when God–for reasons known only to Himself–allowed Job to be afflicted, this man’s faith was really put to the test. After the death of his children and the loss of his wealth, Job proclaimed,

“‘Naked I came from my mother’s womb,
And naked shall I return there.
The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away;
Blessed be the name of the LORD.’
In all this Job did not sin nor charge God with wrong” (Job 1:21,22).

How consoling to see that Job was later vindicated and rewarded double for all that he lost; (although he had seven more children, he still had his first seven–in heaven! – Job 42:10-17). The believer will be similarly compensated for all of life’s trials after Christ’s glorious return, “And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away” (Rev 21:4; Cf. 2 Cor 5:10).

Laura Barter Snow wrote a tract titled, “This Thing is from Me.” It’s written in the first person–as if the Lord Himself were speaking (based on biblical principles and promises). Ponder this providential counsel:

“My Child, I have a message for you today; let me whisper it in your ear, that it may gild with glory any storm clouds which may arise, and smooth the rough places upon which you may have to tread.

It is short–only five words–but let them sink into your inmost soul; use them as a pillow upon which to rest your weary head: ‘THIS THING IS FROM ME.’

Have you ever thought of it, that all that concerns you, concerns Me, too? for “he that toucheth you, toucheth the apple of His eye” (Zech. 2:8).

I would have you learn, when temptations assail you, and the “enemy comes in like a flood,” that this thing is from Me: that your weakness needs My might, and your safety lies in letting Me fight for you.

You are very “precious in My sight” (Isa. 43:4). Therefore it is my special delight to educate you.

Are you in money difficulties? Is it hard to make both ends meet? ‘This Thing Is From Me,’ for I am your purse-bearer, and would have you draw from and depend upon Me. My supplies are limitless (Phil. 4:19). I would have you prove my promises. Let it not be said of you, ‘In this thing ye did not believe the Lord your God’ (Deut. 1:32).

Are you in difficult circumstances, surrounded by people who do not understand you, who never consult your taste, who put you in the background? This thing is from Me. I am the God of circumstances. You did not come to your place by accident: it is the very place God meant for you. Have you not asked to be made humble? See, then, I have placed you in the very school where the lesson is taught; your surroundings and companions are only working out My will.

Are you passing though a night of sorrow? ‘This thing is from Me.’ I am the ‘Man of Sorrows, and acquainted with grief.’ I have let earthly comforts fail you, that turning to Me, you may obtain everlasting consolation (II Thess. 2:16,17).

Has some friend disappointed you? One to whom you opened out your heart? ‘This thing is from Me.’ I have allowed this disappointment to come, that you may learn that:

‘The best friend to have is Jesus;
He will hear you when you call,
He will keep you lest you fall,
The best friend to have is Jesus.’

I want to be your confidant. Has someone repeated things about you that are untrue? Leave them to Me, and draw closer to Me, your shelter out of reach of ‘the strife of tongues,’ for ‘I will bring forth thy righteousness as the light and thy judgment as the noonday’ (Psalm 37:6).

Have your plans been upset? Are you bowed down and weary? ‘This thing is from Me.’ You made your plans, then came asking me to bless them; but I would have you let Me plan for you, and then I take the responsibility; for ‘This thing is too heavy for thee, Thou art not able to perform it thyself alone’ (Ex. 18:18). You are only an instrument, not an agent.

Have you longed to do some great work for Me, and instead been laid aside on a bed of pain and weakness? ‘This thing is from Me.’ I could not get your attention in your busy days, and I want to teach you some of My deepest lessons. ‘They also serve who only stand and wait.’

I want you to learn to sing:

‘I am not eager, bold, or strong,
All that is past;
I am ready not to do
At Last! At last!

… This day I place in your hands this pot of holy oil; make use of it freely, my child. Let every circumstance as it arises, every word that pains you, every interruption that would make you impatient, every revelation of your own weakness, be anointed with it! Remember, ‘interruptions are divine instructions.’ The sting will go as you learn to see Me in all things. Therefore ‘Set your hearts unto all the words which I testify among you this day, for it is not a vain thing for you; because it is your life, and through this thing ye shall prolong your days in the land’ (Deut. 32:46,47). [4]

Is it possible to live with such poise and strength? No — Unless Jesus Christ is living through you. The only way to welcome everything as from God’s hand is to abide in Christ through continual surrender, trust, and identification (John 15:5).

How consoling is the promise of Romans 8:28: “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” As a believer, “your life is hidden with Christ in God” (Col. 3:3). So, let’s contentedly and victoriously live in God’s providence.


This article looks at life from the perspective of God’s sovereignty. The next article will explore this theme from the angle of God-given human responsibility.

[1] “Williams, Roger,” Grolier Multimedia Encyclopedia, Y 2000 edition

[2] For a study on “The Sovereignty of God and the Responsibility of Man: A Quest for Balance,”

[3] Louis Berkhof, Summary of Christian Doctrine, (Eerdmans, 1938), p. 59.

[4] Laura Barter Snow, “This Thing is From Me,” printed by the Western Tract Society, Grand Rapids, Michigan. Full text under “Classics Index.

Copyright 2000 by John Woodward. Permission is granted to reprint this article if credit is given to the author and Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, New King James Version (copyright by Thomas Nelson).