God of All Things

| 09-27-AD2013 | [12]

Emmanuel Joseph - Providence

One of the problems an ordinary human person faces while trying to accept God’s providence is the way God gives; God gives us what we need rather than what we want. Every time I hear someone trying to explain Divine Providence this way, I also see lots of hands going up in the air. Those are people struggling to place their trust in God’s plan because they just can’t figure out why their wants are not perceived as needs. These are well qualified individuals who are unable to find work, children who are ill and suffering from mind numbing pain, parents who lost their children to tragic circumstances, people who are involved in abusive relationships, and the list goes on. 

Many of these people have made a decision to turn away from their sinful ways. Most of them have never committed any extraordinary sinful acts. And they have trouble understanding why God isn’t listening to them. I myself am a recipient of several physical and many spiritual healings upon returning to God, but I can also recall many instances when my prayers went unanswered, occasions where things didn’t turn out the way I anticipated, to be exact. On several occasions in the past, I have tried to explain away the way God’s providence works. Then I get to meet a mother who lost her only child or a kid abused and abandoned by both parents, and my theory falls apart. What I have learned from failures is that there is no universal way to explain why God acts the way He does. However, we can catch glimpses of His majestic plan in little things of our everyday life. If we are patient enough to comb through these not so significant everyday events — pick one of them apart to fill in the holes in another one — then we will begin to see how all those little things come together for the good of a person who has put their trust in God.

When I met Joe a year ago, he was working as a respiratory therapist. He worked at the same hospital for over ten years and things were going well for him and his family. We both were attending a three day fasting retreat; he showed up to show his gratitude to God who has provided him with a good life, and I was there to figure out why I was there. He called me a few months ago to share some of his experiences after that retreat.  He told me that upon returning home from the retreat, one of the first things he found out was that he no longer had a job. He was unexpectedly let go from his job of ten plus years. Strange, I thought, here is a man who went to great lengths to worship God by attending a three day fasting retreat only to find out that his ability to earn bread for his family has taken away from him. Joe knew what I was thinking and immediately told me to listen to the whole thing before I reach any conclusions. 

Since Joe worked in the medical profession, he was forced to work almost every weekend. He was on call all the time and even on those days when he was scheduled off, he ended up working. During the retreat, he was deeply touched by one of the speakers talking about keeping the Lord’s day Holy. He knew it would be impossible for him to get every Sunday off to spend it with God and his family, but he asked God anyway to help him to find a way to get at least a few Sundays off. So when he returned home and found out that he had lost the job, he immediately sensed the irony. He asked for a few Sundays off and God gave him off all seven days of the week. 

One of the things Joe came to find out soon was that none of the nearby hospitals were looking to hire in his area of expertise. With house payment, car payment and the older kid ready to hit the college, his wife’s job wasn’t enough. Though worried, his faith came in handy as he believed that God has a plan for him and his family. So he made good use of his time off and spent a lot of time in an Adoration chapel with the Lord. About two months went by and the financial reserves were depleting faster than he anticipated. Then one day, he got the inspiration to walk into a hospital near to his house. Though he had no appointment, his request to meet with the human resources director was immediately granted. He explained his credentials to the HR director and to his surprise, he got hired on the spot. The hospital didn’t have a need for another respiratory therapist at the time, but for some reason the HR director felt that he would be a good hire. So they created a position just to hire him. Not only that, his starting salary and other benefits were much better than his previous job. Just when he thought the surprises were over, they gave him one more – they didn’t need him to work on Sundays, ever! 

Joe concluded by saying that God did indeed fire him from his previous job because God knew he was so accustomed to the place that he would never resign or look for another job. Then God gave him few months to rest and get things in order — God first, then everything else. In closing, Joe reached his destination, but the road that took him there was the one he never envisioned. 

And I believe that the answer for much of our grief over God’s plan and providence also lies there. Our plans often collide with God’s plan and when it does our hearts break. Look at the Israelites for example. After more than 400 years of captivity, God answered the prayers of His people and they started a journey toward a land where milk and honey was flowing. Then they saw the Red Sea parting and as they walked across it they began praising God in celebration of His saving power. “Then Moses led Israel forward from the Red Sea, and they marched out to the wilderness of Shur. After traveling for three days through the wilderness without finding water, they arrived at Marrah, where they could not drink its water , because it was too bitter” (Exodus 15:22,23). The Israelites stepped off the Red Sea anticipating the promised land, but was greeted with the harshness of a desert. Instead of milk and honey, they found bitter water! Little did they know that the promised land was forty years away. That’s how God worked yesterday, how He works today, and how He will work forever.

Our God is the God of all things, not just some things. We can’t expect Him to do just a few things for us, or we can’t expect Him to finish only what we have started. He starts and He finishes according to His plan. We might plan for our immediate welfare, but God always plans for our ultimate good and that might involve not granting something we feel important at the moment. For a few lucky ones, like Joe, the revelation about God’s plan will come in a few months; for some, like the Israelites, it will be a few years; and for many, it will not come in this lifetime. But there will be a time when everything is made clear to each one of us. At that time, depending on how we reacted to the collapse of our plans, we will either praise Him for His brilliance or disparage ourselves for our lack of faith.

“…Without faith it is impossible to please him, for anyone who approaches God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him” (Hebrew 11:6).

About the Author:

Born in India, Emmanuel is a cradle Catholic who spent most of his adolescent and adult life as an agnostic. After dedicating much of his life to make, lose, and waste money, he felt the love of Christ embracing him and picking him up from a bottomless pit during a low point in his life. He now spends his days spreading the love of Christ through the word of God. He is a proud father to Vismaya Ross, Vivek Joseph and Varsha Regina, and a loving husband to Sheena. Emmanuel writes about the mercy and love of God with the heart of a believer and the brains of a former agnostic in his blog "A Walk with Mother Mary" (www.emmanueljoseph.com).
Faith Filed in: Faith
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  • John Darrouzet

    I appreciate what you are wanting to say. But I beg to differ about what you need to say.

    The problem arises for me when you say the following two things in your post: (1) “…God gives us what we need rather than what we want….” and (2) “…Our God is the God of all things, not just some things….”

    When our God is the God of all things, He is the God of our needs and our wants. He gives us both. We, of course, want what we need from Him, especially those things and people only He can provide.

    But we also need what we want from Him. And amazingly, God realizes this.

    Rather than approach our desires as the source of our problems, I think the Lord, the Giver of Life, The Holy Spirit, gives us our deepest wants at our conception.

    Instead of denying what we want as the source of suffering as the Buddha would suggest, we spend our lives uncovering our deepest desires and discover that they are planted their by God from our get-go. They manifest in our natural talents, for example.

    Even our suffering discloses what we want and what God wants: a relationship with Him that saves us from this vale of tears.

    You may find the following book helpful in your future consideration of needs and wants: “The Fulfillment of All Desire: A Guidebook to God Based on the Wisdom of the Saints” [ http://www.amazon.com/Fulfillment-All-Desire-Guidebook-ebook/dp/B001MWRTHM/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1380309806&sr=8-1&keywords=fulfillment+of+all+desires ].

    By following Jesus we become willing to do what he did, but not just doing the will of God (as if that battle of wills could ever be ultimately resolved by ours over His unless we prefer Hell to Heaven), but by doing what God wants us to do: Love Him. He doesn’t need our love, but He moves everything for us to want to love Him in return.

    • nannon31

      John,
      We often want things that are not in God’s will though. Two of the ten commandments are about covertousness…the 9th and the 10th. Ergo God is against some of our wants and calls them covetous. Obviously then God does not plant at our conception….all of our wants. Some of our wants are sinful. I married an attractive woman but I still need the 9th commandment to correct my inclination toward other attractive women who are more attractive at a distance because they never asked me to put out the recycling barrel at 11 PM in the dead of winter while I was already in bed :)

    • John Darrouzet

      I think Thomas Aquinas would disagree with you. {See http://www.newadvent.org/summa/2075.htm ]

      We are moved by what we think is good. (We don’t want what we know to be evil.) We desire what is good. That is part of our DNA. While we, as sinners, may well break His commandments, it is not out of a power struggle with Him. That would be a fool’s quest. Rather, the sins we commit follow on our inclination to find the good in what attracts us.

      When the attractive woman does ask you to put out her recycling barrel, you may want to have anticipated that she is asking for a level of help and communication that does not involve just recycling. However, while you may be projecting your own sexual interests in her with your quick judgment of her intended actions, what you may want to explore is the spiritual friendship that is ultimately wanted and sorely lacking in our culture. Maybe that’s what she and you need. See “Between People: Communicating One-To-One” [ http://www.amazon.com/Between-People-Communicating-One---One/dp/0809124408/ref=la_B001H6MOD2_1_8?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1380738087&sr=1-8 ].

      By shutting down the opportunity to communicate on a human-to-human basis, the moral restraints you are trying so hard to comply with end up being a moralism that may have unexpected consequences.

      Jesus, I sense, was very aware of this legalistic tendency. He counseled love of neighbor, even the recycling woman. How to love is the key. When covetousness arises, the temptation involved is better responded to by distinguishing its egocentric source from the beauty or other feature of attractiveness that gives rise to the reaction.

      With insight and insight-into-oversight, as well as inspiration, the grace God offers when such desires surface will help you see what’s really going on as you prepare to decide your course of action.

      And that decision will not simply be a matter of judgment based upon hypothetical reasoning about evident facts that have already occurred, nor on choices available at the moment, as if some are available and others not so much. Rather the decision will come easy when you understand what God wants that is best for you and you align what you want with what He wants out of the situation as you act on your decision.

    • nannon31

      John,
      Some of our wants are wrong. Jesus as Word at Sinai gave the 9th and 10th commandment which forbid coveting…wanting …either our neighbor’s goods or his wife. Your criticism of the above essay writer went too far. It’s that simple.

    • John Darrouzet

      What Bible are you reading? Jesus did not give the commandments at Sinai. When he addressed the commandments, he summarized them as loving God with our whole mind, heart, soul, and spirit and our neighbor as ourselves. Then he added a few of his own, new commandments. You and the author have oversimplified what God and Jesus want. You face the problem of being judged in the way you judge others.

    • nannon31

      John,
      So you are going on record as saying the 9th and 10th commandments given by the Trinity on Sinai are revoked by Christ like circumcision and unclean dietary laws were revoked. I’m guessing you are from a non denominational church because Catholicism in the present catechism sees the ten commandments as alive as ever.

    • John Darrouzet

      nannon31: So now the Trinity appeared to Moses? Who knew? Moses did not mention the Trinity.

      Jesus did not revoke the Old Testament commandments. But he did not leave them unchanged either.

      You are missing the point and seem not to want to explore what the New Covenant means.

      Wanting some thing or a relationship with another may well be wrong. I agree. But what you seem to want to insist on is the wrongness of the “want” without being willing to explore is how the “want” gets there in the first place.

      As Aquinas sees so well and you don’t, no one in their right mind wants evil. We want something or someone that or who is good for us. Where the line is drawn becomes the problem for many a legalist.

      The deeper problem is noted by Jesus when he tells us that lust in our hearts is just as bad as laws against adultery, for example.

      But within the lust, their is a kernel of truth, a kernel of good, else it would be pure evil.

      So what is that good, for God’s sake? Are we just so flawed we can’t see the good, but must resort to thinking we are only projecting it.

      No, we are moved toward what is good objectively. It is not just in our minds? Sin results from what we do with such thoughts.

      The wisdom of recognizing the “want” is to find its source.

      What is the source of the good in the covetousness? Are you suggesting it is pure evil and we as persons are the source? I for one do not believe in pure evil. Do you?

      Are human beings the source of pure evil, if you believe it exists?

      Or is the devil pure evil and he is the one who makes us do it? I believe in the devil. But I do not believe he can make us do evil.

      Moreover, even our Catechism, at section 1800, asserts: “A human being must always obey the certain judgment of his conscience.” This is part of our freedom of conscience as a human being, not just as a Catholic. Catholics are very adamant about that nowadays. I think we are right. But it does cut in ways legalists are not always happy with.

      For those who want no part of such deeper understanding, the Commandments and the Catechism are clearly helpful in guiding the conduct of our lives, especially when we are young. Understanding their philosophical and theological underpinnings become more important as we grow older and more nuanced in our experiences. This is especially true when we heed the warning of Jesus not to judge others.

      Indeed, St. Paul in Romans 7 takes us to the deeper levels of understanding how we learn sin at the hands of laws. [ http://usccb.org/bible/romans/7 ]. His own struggles with the law and sin show he knew more than just the commandments.

      Jesus himself suffered at the hands of the law, for God’s sake and ours. He was charged with blasphemy, remember. We have the Trinity to thank for not annihilating Jesus for blasphemy. It was his claim to be one with God that put him crosswise with the reigning Jews of his time. Their actions may demonstrate many other things and motives, but they clearly abhorred what Jesus was claiming about his being God. Their killing Jesus did not put an end to the controversy, of course, and God (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) resurrected to show everyone who would hear it that the mystery of the Godhead, addressed in the Commandments, is much more complicated that previously thought.

      Many a saint who was a sinner first found God through sinning and dealing with the consequences. I do not recommend it. But as St. Teresa of Avila notes: “To reach something good it is very useful to have gone astray, and thus acquire experience.”

      Finally, to approach sin in the way you suggest seems to make it unforgiveable. My impression of the way of Jesus is he wanted us to forgive and forgive and forgive. And then forgive again. And when we were still hurting, to forgive again. Forgive me. I forgive you, in advance of the tongue lashing I expect, if not from you, then from someone more knowledgeable about sin than me.

    • nannon31

      Goodbye sir.

    • John Darrouzet

      God be with you, nannon31…

  • Mary Ann

    What a great story and wonderful reminder of God’s generosity! Sometimes it’s very hard to trust in Divine Providence when life gets tough and when we are most emotionally vulnerable. That’s why it’s critical to develop a close and comfortable relationship with God all along, even in the good times. Then, when things seem to fall apart, our turning to Him will be more instinctual and our trust much stronger.

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  • Anabelle Hazard

    Great and inspiring story! I’m sharing on my blog sometimes next week.