Scripture Reading: Romans 9:20-33, Jeremiah 18:1-6, Ephesians 1:11-14
I did an internship in Washington D.C. the summer before my junior year in college. The job was good enough; I coordinated summer camp logistics for kids interested in politics. Yes, it was as nerdy as you’re imagining, and yes, I was a former attendee. But the best thing about that summer wasn’t licking envelopes and herding hormones. It was meeting a new group of friends at church.
I don’t know if you’re familiar with the town of Stars Hollow from the TV show Gilmore Girls, but those quirky, fictional characters had nothing on my new, real-life friends. Despite the fact that I was a stranger in town, and only planning to stay for eight weeks, they grafted me in, constantly hounding me to join them for weekend adventures of camping, floating down rivers, or taking long motorcycle rides through the Shenandoah Valley. It was as dreamy as it sounds, and healing for my soul in many, many ways.
We talked about the gospel, too, and one of those conversations led to the topic of the providence of God—what some call “predestination.” The candor of the conversation shocked me. Who talks about this stuff anyway? And what does the providence of God even mean?
I was kindly pointed to today’s passage in Romans, and from there one friend explained the idea that God knows, plans, and orchestrates everything. All the days ordained for me (and you, for that matter) were written in His book before one of them came to be (Psalm 139:16). We are God’s workmanship created to do good works that He prepared in advance for us to do (Ephesians 2:10). Salvation itself is a righteousness that comes by faith, and even that comes from Him.
At face value, the concept that God is in control of everything might seem offensive. We humans have a cosmic authority problem. We don’t like to believe that Someone else has the final say in our lives. When Paul asks in Romans 9:20, “Will what is formed say to the one who formed it, ‘Why did you make me like this?’”, I want to scream, “Yes! That’s what my prayers to God sound like on a regular basis!” But if we are to take Romans 9 to heart, we have to concede that God is ultimately the one in control of His creation.
In the years since my dream summer in D.C., I’ve learned a lot about faith. I’ve read much more of the Bible. I’ve spent countless hours with Jesus. And despite all that, God’s providence is as mysterious to me now as it was then. But I do know this: I would rather believe in a loving God who is fulfilling His purpose for me, than a cosmic universe that is inflicting its chaos on me.
I look at the seasons, coming and going in their time. I look at the ocean waves, which know their boundaries. I look at my face in the mirror—imperfect, yes, but a masterpiece in the Master’s hands. I look at the miracles of birth and life and death. None of it is a mistake. This beauty is His creation, and He is sovereign.
If we trust Him—if we believe His love—we can put away our questions of Why did you make me like this? and put on the posture of Thy will be done.
Claire Gibson is a freelance writer and editor whose work has been featured both locally and nationally in publications including The Washington Post, and Entrepreneur Magazine. An Army kid who grew up at West Point, New York, Claire is currently growing roots in Nashville, Tennessee. She loves her husband, Patrick, and their dog, Winnie.