“Can you pray . . . ?” Almost daily, that question flows between my dear friend and me. God providentially knit our hearts together through a series of circumstances that He obviously arranged. I’m in a different season of life, quite a few years ahead of her, but we have more important things in common than age: our love for Christ, our commitment to His Word, and our care for our husbands who both suffer with debilitating nerve pain.
If you’re a new reader here, you can find the story of my husband’s rare illness by clicking here.
There is a deep fellowship that comes through the school of suffering and I’m so grateful that God mercifully placed my praying friend in my life. I often say that it was a gracious work of providence.
Providence. One of my favorite words. It’s not in use as much today. Look at it on a word-usage graph, and you’ll see a steep descent starting in the early 1900s. It’s just not a word, or idea that people throw around real freely any more. Maybe it’s not used much because it isn’t on their minds, and maybe that’s because they haven’t realized how much their lives are impacted by this theological reality.
The word providence comes from the Latin language, and when we break it down literally, we discover that it means to “see before” or to have foresight. But the meaning of the word comes from its usage in reference to God. As early as the fourteenth century, the word was used in reference to God’s “beneficient care or guidance.” More than just having foresight, to be “panoptic” or all-seeing, providence is the combination of the foresight with the overseeing care of what is being watched.
Providence is having the foresight to know what is coming, but also moving beyond that to include care-giving action.
Only God can do this. He knows the end from the beginning, and He is able to move heaven and earth (quite literally) to accomplish His grand plan.
Way back in July, I mentioned four graces that have carried us during my husband’s physical affliction:
Long before that post, I started writing this one on providence, because it is one aspect of God’s sovereignty that has kept my heart tethered to the reality of His lovingkindness on days that are brutal. It would take the length of a book (at least) to record the many gracious ways that God has provided tangible demonstrations of His loving care since my husband’s body began its rapid descent. With each provision comes the reminder that God knows, He sees, He cares, and He is actively involved in our pain.
Since I last wrote you, LeRoy has gone through a series of tests: lab work, another thoracic MRI and an extensive brain MRI. The labs showed some concerning things that they’ll keep checking, the thoracic MRI showed that he still has one small spot remaining in his spinal cord, but we are so thankful—the brain MRI showed that he has no lesions in his brain. Every day I’m thankful that mentally he is still “with me.” There are days when he seems foggy, confused, and forgetful. But don’t all of us do that to some extent when we’re sleep deprived? He endures continual burning nerve pain, and that alone will wear out a person, plus he still experiences excruciating muscle spasms.
I missed sharing with you the milestone of our one year anniversary of entering the hospital. I haven’t been able to write and tell you how it feels to be one year into this new way of living. I missed sharing with you the disappointment that hit when, after the fifth infusion we still saw no great improvement. And now we are getting ready for his sixth (September 12th).
But through it all, we’ve experienced God’s providence—His loving care and provision. He reminds us that there isn’t a sparrow that falls to the ground without His knowledge.
His providential care includes bringing faithful friends into our lives, unexpected financial gifts, or groceries and meals, a good night’s sleep, a morning sunrise, a special afternoon watching our little ones play . . . but most importantly, His providential care includes the affliction that is intended to produce an eternal weight of glory:
[box]For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you.
Since we have the same spirit of faith according to what has been written, “I believed, and so I spoke,” we also believe, and so we also speak, knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence. For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.
So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal”
(2 Corinthians 4:11–18).[/box]
Could it be that our society has lost an understanding of “providence” it’s been replaced by the idea of “it’s just a coincidence”? When we do that, we deny the reality of God. We ignore His sovereign power and His ability of foresight. We forget about His loving care.
Today, I hope you’ll watch for God’s lovingkindness as it is tangibly expressed through His direct provision. I hope you’ll be aware that He provides the breath that fills your lungs, that the food on your table is from His gracious hand, that the laughter you enjoy is His kind blessing, and that every good gift comes from our heavenly Father. As we recognize these things, it produces praise and worship, and that accomplishes the purpose of providence.
Providence is a sweet grace that has carried us through the darkest valley of our lives. How is it carrying you today, dear friend?
[box]Dear Friends, your prayers are a tangible means of God’s grace in our lives. If you are new to the blog, and unaware of what we’re walking through and how we need your prayers, I hope you’ll read this post from the archives. Even though I’m unable to respond to your comments, I do read every one. For those who share prayer needs, I lift those to the Father and am so grateful to be entrusted with your prayer request. I love to hear from you, so please continue to leave your comments knowing that they matter![/box]