Christ’s Providence (Like a Surprise Garden)

Bob RoaneJesus Christ, Joy and Peace, Loving and Trusting God, Providence

The Son of God sustains all things by His powerful word….The LORD has established His throne in heaven and His kingdom rules over all….All this also comes from the LORD Almighty, whose plan is wonderful, whose wisdom is magnificent. (Hebrews 1:3; Psalm 103:19; Isaiah 28:29)

Anna’s Story

Imagine young Anna growing up in Nashville, Tennessee.1 Every year her mother gave her an envelope containing a mixture of mystery flower seeds. Anna never knew in advance what her garden would look like. They might be Calendulas, Columbines, or Cosmos. They might be Marigolds or Morning Glories, Asters or Zinias. The flowers could bloom orange or red, blue or purple. Anna looked ahead with eager expectation to see Christ’s surprising work in His world unfold.

Every spring Anna prepared the soil: loosening the earth, turning it over, breaking up the dirt, and pulling out weeds. Then she would carefully plant her mystery seeds and wait on the Lord. Sometimes Anna fretted about how they would come up or worried if they would bloom at all. But Jesus was teaching her something important. Anna came to see that the flowers always grew exactly as the Lord designed and created them to do. His hot sun shared its energy with the soil and made the seeds pop open. Anna watched with cheerful delight as sprouts poked through the top layer of dirt. The flowers grew a little every day, stretching toward the sky. Sometimes Anna wished for a particular type, color, or size of flower. But most of the time, Christ’s surprises were better than anything she could imagine. There were always some colors, shapes, and growing patterns that astounded her. Some flowers were short, others tall, some delicate, others hearty. Some smelled sweet like perfume, others were pungent. As one dying petal fell to the ground, it made room for new life and growth from other flowers. Anna’s garden was a wonderful place, full of stunning sights and life lessons from God.

God said: Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit…, according to their various kinds. And it was so….And God saw that it was good….We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose. (Gen 1:11-13; Rom 8:28)

Flavel’s Observations

In his book, The Mystery of Providence, John Flavel says that we live in Jesus’ garden of rarities under the wings of His loving care.2 His book is based on Psalm 57:2, “I cry out to God Most High, to God, who fulfills His purpose for me.” Published in 1678, Flavel’s message rings true today: Christ shows us His profound wisdom, infinite tenderness, and perpetual watchfulness in managing everything that happens to us. Flavel challenges us to observe and meditate on the Lord’s magisterial management of every experience in life. He says “sometimes God’s providences, like Hebrew letters, must be read backwards,” meaning that often we can only see Jesus’ plans and purposes as we look back over our personal history.

Flavel experienced heartache and struggled to understand Christ’s providence himself. His first three wives died of sickness. He was hunted like a criminal because of his Christian commitment and was sheltered by strangers. Yet Flavel held onto his loving Lord, confident that King Jesus was powerfully involved in the hardest times of his life. When Flavel was barred from preaching because of church politics, he kept on teaching people about the Lord each night in his own home. He became paralyzed in 1691 and died that same year. Flavel said, “It is our duty as God’s people, especially in times of crisis, to reflect upon Christ’s providence for us in all the events and through all the stages of our lives.”

I have lived a long time, and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see that God governs all the happenings of human life. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without the Lord’s notice, how can a nation survive without His aid? (Benjamin Franklin, 1787, adapted)

Everything in the universe down to the smallest detail is ordered by Jesus’ providence.3 Nothing was too little for Him to create and nothing is too little for Him to care for. Christ is continually active—preserving, supporting, and governing all human history, every creature and every action. God manages the orbits of His planets and the life spans of His creatures with His own personal care and attention. Anna’s story and Flavel’s writing prod me to observe and reflect on Christ’s workings in and around me. I don’t want to miss the delight and pleasure He wants me to enjoy in the unfolding of each day.

Oatman’s Hymn

I love the words of Johnson Oatman’s hymn:

When upon life’s billows you are tempest-tossed,
When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost,
Count your many blessings, name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord has done.4

What areas of life or events cause you to struggle with the truth of Jesus’ providential care? How have you seen Him grow a beautiful surprise garden from mystery seeds in your life or in the lives of others?

Prayer: Lord, you will never be dethroned or defeated, you rule and over-rule in human history. Your government will never fail in any part of the world, in any person’s life, or in national and international events. Help us trust you to make everything beautiful in your time.5 We ask it in Jesus’ name. Amen

Go in peace, beloved. Walk with King Jesus today and be a blessing to others!

Notes: 1 My story about Anna is adapted from a true story by Doreen Blumenfeld.     2 John Flavel (1627–1691) was an English pastor and author.     3 Matt 10:29-31; Psalm 139:16.     4 “Count Your Blessings” in Songs for Young People (1897).     5 Eccles 3:11.