Understanding Providence

“If you stand at the end of a platform on York station, you can watch a constant succession of engine and train movements which, if you are a railway enthusiast, will greatly fascinate you. But you will only be able to form a very rough and general idea of the overall plan in terms of which all these movements are being determined (the operational pattern set out in the working time-table, modified if need be on a minute-to-minute basis according to the actual running of the trains). If, however, you are privileged enough to be taken by one of the high-ups into the magnificent electrical signal-box that lies athwart platforms 7 and 8, you will see on the longest wall a diagram of the entire track layout for five miles on either side of the station, with little glow-worm lights moving or stationary on the different tracks to show the signalmen at a glance exactly where every engine and train is. At once you will be able to look at the whole situation through the eyes of the men who control it: you will see from the diagram why it was that this train had to be signaled to a halt, and that one diverted from its normal running line, and that one parked temporarily in a siding. The why and the wherefore of all these movements becomes plain, once you can see the overall position.

Now, the mistake that is commonly made is to suppose that this is an illustration of what God does when He bestows wisdom: to suppose, in other words, that the gift of wisdom consists in a deepened insight into the providential meaning and purpose of events going on around us, an ability to see why God has done what He has done in a particular case and what He is going to do next.…

If another transport illustration may be permitted, it is like being taught to drive. What matters in driving is the speed and appropriateness of your reactions to things, and the soundness of your judgement as to what scope a situation gives you. You do not ask yourself why the road should narrow or screw itself into a dogleg wiggle just where it does, nor why that van should be parked where it is, nor why the lady (or gentleman) in front should hug the crown of the road so lovingly; you simply try to see and do the right thing in the actual situation that presents itself. The effect of divine wisdom is to enable you and me to do just that in the actual situations of every day life. ” J.I.Packer Knowing God


“Providence is  wonderfully intricate. Ah! you want always to see through Providence, do you not? You never will, I assure you. You have not eyes good enough. You want to see what good that affliction was to you; you must believe it. You want to see how it can bring good to the soul; you may be enabled in a little time; but you can not see it now; you must believe it. Honor God by trusting him.” Charles Hadden Spurgeon God’s Providence

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4 Responses to Understanding Providence

  1. Brenda Keck says:

    Wow – what a great distinction about what wisdom really is. Will be thinking about this one for awhile! Thanks.

  2. Two thoughts: Providence especially in Trials is something I gained a much better understanding over through the journey of my own writing. Second….where is Platform 9 and 3/4??? (Sorry, I couldn’t resist.) 🙂
    Thank you for sharing. Both descriptions are very thought provoking.

    • Ha! Packer totally avoids the subject of Platform 9 and 3/4. I hadn’t noticed that until you brought it up. I have gained a better understanding of Providence over the journey of my life.

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