Life is Good

Life is Good

Photo Credit: “Rocks”, © 2008 wablair, Flickr | CC-BY | via Wylio

I took a college geology class.  I suspect that geology is not as popular with students as physics or biology.  The professor was probably aware on the first day of class that he was addressing a skeptical group.  He cleared his throat and said, “Most people know a little about the non-living world around them.  They enjoy mountains and waterfalls.  A few people can tell the difference between a piece of granite and a sheet of slate.  But when you study geology, your appreciation for every exposure of bare rock, every elevation in the landscape, and every stream multiplies tenfold.  You see, behind that stone in your hand is a story of titanic shifts and pressures miles below your feet.  The striations in the cliff exposed by dynamite in order to allow a highway to cut through a mountain tell of ten million tide cycles in a primordial sea.  None of this would be appreciated without the study of geology –what we were about to embark upon in this class.”

I remembered that old geology professor as I’ve pondered the role that Providence  plays in revealing the grand story behind the specifics of our lives.  Just as the principles of geology open up a rich vista into rocks and streams, so does the idea of providence open up a grand insight into the events going on around us and the happenings of our generation.

The word Providence is an old fashioned expression that enjoys less and less use nowadays.   It’s not really much of word in the Bible.  I’ve never heard a sermon on Providence.  So, its worth reviewing what the word means exactly.  Providence is the merger of two Old Latin words that mean to “see ahead.”   God sees ahead.  In fact, in seeing ahead, God “sees to it” that what happens ahead is what God intends.   Providence is a—to use an old theological expression—mask of God.

Providence is a momentous idea.  If the course of our lives and the affairs of humanity are ultimately guided by divine desire, then there is a certain quality that pervades everything that happens.   The road we’re on will ultimately get us to where we need to go.  Of course, we don’t know how long or difficult that road will be.  But we know something of the destination.

Now, providence isn’t a prediction of what will or will not happen.  God does not disclose who will win elections or what stocks will go up.  Rather, providence gives us confidence about the quality of life that will triumph in the end of all things.  For example, after God finished creating all things, God stood back and pronounced it all good.  The world isn’t junk.  It isn’t disposable.  It’s good.  Providence draws the same conclusion about the events that have unfolded in Creation after it was finished.  These are good too—and always will be.

Now, “good” is a bland word.  I bought an inexpensive ball cap recently that had written on it “life is good.”   As I wore the cap, I didn’t notice anyone around me breathing sighs of relief and taking the afternoon off of work to celebrate because, “hey… ‘it’s all good.’”  The goodness about happenings in this life, which are disclosed by belief in providence are, more precisely, the attributes of God.  What we know about God through the tradition of Christianity, through the Bible, and through our personal talking with him, are the same qualities that God is ever pressing upon history.

Nowhere is this better expressed than in Tony Campolo’s often cited Easter Sermon—“It’s Friday Now…But Sunday’s Coming.”

Actually, the Christian belief that Jesus is God who entered into human experience, enriches the idea that God’s nature illuminates history’s direction.  Jesus’ ministry in the world, his character qualities, the tasks he chose and how he handled relationships all illuminate the value system that guides where things are ultimately headed.

I’ve come to see Jesus as a kind of lens.  We can look at and through him to see a number of amazing things.  We see what God the Father is like through this lens.  We see our own nature and calling through him.  I’m suggesting here that we also see the coming future through him.

What can we say about that future?   I like N. T. Wright’s expression, “God intends to do with Creation the same thing that he did with Jesus when he raised him up.”  That’s a good start.  Even beyond that, Providence affirms that all peoples will be included and honored in the future that will one day dawn.  Tyrants and oppression will be defeated.   The aching chasm between the Creator and people will somehow be closed.

So, then, to address the question around which this blog is organized: How then shall we live?

Confidence that titanic and infinitely patient forces lie behind the transitory happenings in this world, encourages us to see no good and just cause as a lost cause.  Peoples who have been oppressed for time immemorial will breathe freely…someday.  Taking their side, no matter how unpopular or discouraging is to side with the order or grace that lies behind history.

Sometimes the most despairing conclusions about a person are self-directed.    “I’m a loser.  I’m a mistake.  My life sucks.”   Sometimes people arrive at a point months before they will draw their last breath and are beset by dark depression.   Loved ones are gone or worse, were non-existent.   Cherished goals were never reached.  The world has marched on and is already forgetting that you even existed.   It is in this dark time that trust in God’s providence can push back.  The path through life, though rocky and winding, was, by God’s grace, the right path.  And upon careful reflection, there were always glimpses of this truth.

Providence offers a buoyancy that insists, even against massive evidence to the contrary, that the darkest assessment is never correct.  Evil, falsehood, ugliness are always temporary.   What God saw on the seventh day was that what he had done was good.  Providence gives us to see that what God did after that was good as well.

Photo Credit: “Last station nursing home”, © 2009 Ulrich Joho, Flickr | CC-BY-SA | via Wylio
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2 Replies to “Life is Good”

  1. Great blog entry! It caused me to ponder if evil or even just “bad things happening” is the absence of providence. Or is there ever an absence, void – or pause-of providence? I’m watching Houston flood this morning as I read and type this. I’m working hard to pull the good of providence from that experience.

    I think you may have pointed to an answer that God’s work is always in progress and that eventually God’s will or grand design will prevail. The clouds will part, the rain will stop, the floods will recede, and we pray something new and better will evolve. He is out there and he is at work in the midst of our crisis. It seems faith and grace fill the times when it appears that providence may not be so evident. Just making me think Doug! Thanks

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