I wonder how frequently you pose the question, “God, what are you doing in my life?” In August 2016, I incessantly wrestled with that question. A month prior my wife and I packed up our meager belongings and moved 2,260 miles to the Pacific Northwest. As we began driving on Interstate 94 for Mount Vernon, Washington, we were embarking on a new venture to a place where we had no established family, friends, or church. What brought us to the area was a missionary aviation training center in Arlington, Washington. But less than a month after arriving, I unenrolled from the program. The purpose for which we had uprooted our lives and moved across the country, from our standpoint, was now null.   

Deliberate thought and prayer went into that decision, but the initial aftermath comprised of uncertainty, confusion, and doubt. As a newlywed, everything weighed heavier on my heart. Why were we there? Had I made a foolish decision? Was it a mistake? What’s next? Should we stay or move back home? How do we explain this to family and friends? What will this do to our marriage? These types of questions swirled around the bottomless pit in my head.   

God, what are you doing?  

A Servant of Providence  

I often reflect back upon that season with fondness and gratitude. I didn’t see it at the time, but through those trying months, God was teaching me one of the sweetest lessons I’ve learned: be a servant of providence.  

The fact that God’s providence affects all creation is biblically undeniable. He is providential over fish (Jon 1), worms (Jon 4), lions (Dan 6), lambs and wolves (Isa 11). He is providential over every decision, down to the casting of lots (Prov 16:33) and Satan himself (Job 1–2). Indeed, the entirety of Job 36–41 is a testimony of the power and parameter of His providence. Among all the hosts of heaven and all the inhabitants of the earth, no one can usurp His plans or strike His hand (Dan 4:35). He does whatever He pleases throughout the galaxies, upon the earth, and in the deep seas (Ps 135:6).

He is sovereign over all, and He providentially works through it all.  

Proverbs 16:9 teaches us that while we plan (think upon) our course, Yahweh directs (establishes) our steps. This familiar passage must habitually humble us to be servants of providence. To acknowledge and surrender to the indisputable truth that we can’t control life. To hold our plans and dreams with open hands, submitting and surrendering our lives to the King. To approach life with a keen awareness that the Creator orchestrates every aspect of it and to trust Him in all circumstances, especially when outcomes aren’t immediately apparent.   

This frame of mind is obsolete and foolish in the twenty-first century. Society heralds the sufficiency and superiority of self: Do what you please. Manifest your destiny. Be a self-made man or woman. You are the master of your life.

These subtle deceptions trick us into believing we are rulers of providence, not servants of it.  

Providence is Purposeful  

Maybe we would more readily welcome our role as servants of providence if we better understood its nature. Perhaps the most essential aspect to grasp is that providence is purposeful because God is purposeful. As God sovereignly arranges and acts for His will to be accomplished in the universe (i.e., His providence), He is deliberate and intentional. He does not make mistakes; all that He does accords with His cosmic and eternal plan. This divine involvement occurs on a macro level, like sending a global flood (Gen 6-8), and on a micro level, like sending a man and his betrothed 5 miles south of Jerusalem to the little village of Bethlehem to give birth to a boy in a manager (Luke 2:1-7). Infused with purpose, God’s providence can only be  mistaken with fatalism by gross error. As Charles Spurgeon said, “Fate is blind, but providence has eyes.”  

The biblical writers were dominated by this worldview, and they helpfully connect God’s purposeful providence to the facets of everyday life for believers like you and me. It is the reason Paul declares that all things work together for good for those who love God (Rom 8:28), and that nothing has the power to separate us from God’s love (Rom 8:35-39). It allows Peter to encourage believers that through faith God is protecting them for the consummation of salvation, where we will receive an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading (1 Pet 1:4-5). It draws the author of Hebrews to conclude that our hope is immovable in Christ, granted the unchangeable nature of God’s purposes (Heb 6:13-20).

In all things, God will see to it that His purposes and promises are fulfilled. 

For the believer, God’s providence is wondrous news. And the fact that He is purposeful in all His providence is even better news. As servants of providence, we are beneficiaries of a good, loving, faithful, just, and infinitely wise God. He alone is who we want and need as the Master of providence. Granted, His purposes are not always revealed or understood on this side of heaven. Certainly this was the case in the events and affairs of Job’s life. Likewise, albeit far less severe, there is much in my life that I don’t understand. But I do pray that each day my soul is more acutely aware of the affirmation that God can do all things; none of His purposes will ever be thwarted (Job 42:2).   

Providence Must Be Read Backwards 

As you contemplate God’s purposes in His providence in your life, take to heart the words of the Puritan John Flavel. Flavel wrote that providence is like a Hebrew word—it can only be read backwards (Hebrew is read using a right-to-left script). When you finally reach glory, God will fully exhibit the vibrant tapestry of His providence in your life. But even now, during our short stint as exiles on this present earth, woven shapes and colors on the tapestry begin to form before our very eyes. Through time, trust, and repeated reflection, the looming question, “God, what are you doing in my life?” unravels (not totally, but suitably).  

Nearly seven years after discontinuing my training in missionary aviation, I am awestruck by God’s purposeful providence. Last month, I completed a Master of Divinity degree at TMS. Humanly speaking, the only reason I am at this school is because of our move to Washington. That relocation wasn’t pointless. God just had a different purpose in store. We joined a church pastored by a TMS alumnus, and for the first time we sat under verse-by-verse expository preaching.  I am eternally grateful for the pastor who discipled and mentored me and ultimately influenced me to attend TMS, a school I knew virtually nothing about beforehand.  

I couldn’t see it at the time, but God had a kind and purposeful plan all along. How sweet it is to be a servant of His providence.