catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 8, Num 22 :: 2009.11.13 — 2009.11.26


Not by chance

Q. What do you understand by the providence of God?

A. Providence is
the almighty and ever present power of God1
by which he upholds, as with his hand,
and earth
and all creatures,2
and so rules them that
leaf and blade,
rain and drought,
fruitful and lean years,
food and drink,
health and sickness,
prosperity and poverty-3
all things, in fact, come to us
not by chance4
but from his fatherly hand.5

From the Heidelberg Catechism (Lord’s Day 10, Q & A 27)

I remember memorizing this particular question and answer from the catechism in the ninth grade.  I don’t remember memorizing many other sections, but I remember Q & A 27.  I sometimes wonder if the current chaos in my own life might have something to do with a deep sense of God’s control over everything.  If God, with his hand, upholds heaven and earth and everything in them, why should I worry?  Or, more to the point, why should I organize my workroom?  Or my desk?  Oddly, God’s “upholding” hand never seems to bother with these places.  Why not?

I love how the catechism so boldly proclaims pronouncements like these: all things, not by chance, from his fatherly hand.

I know a lot of folks who are really neat people-not as in really cool, groovy people, but “everything in its place” people (though with some, the two do actually go together).  They impress me with their shiny surfaces, their confidence, their drawers and pegboards all lined up with just the right stuff.  And I really do wish I could be like them.  I also have a fair number of friends who are not neat.  These people, as you might imagine, impress me with their hospitality, their genuineness, their evidence-o-plenty that life happens in their homes and workplaces.  I usually sit longer in their spaces and just chat.

It seems to me that our desire to control has a complicated history to it, rooted first in the goodness of God’s assignment to Adam to name-to give order to-the animals in the garden.  I’m guessing there was some plant taxonomy involved, too.  Sounds like a lot of (maybe really fun!) work.  But then that desire for control took a violent turn when the weeds began to grow, and it became Adam’s job to work the soil, to restore some order to it.  Less fun.  Much more complicated.

In many ways, that’s the work that we’re still involved in.  Our attempt to control or provide some order is our way of participating in the blessed curse of Adam to restore order to the groaning creation.  With global activist Bono, we hope that “when the day is done [we’ve] been able to tear a little corner off of the darkness.”   I think working on a little corner of the darkness is a lot easier to keep at with the understanding of providence that the catechism offers.  I’m warned about rain and drought, fruitful and lean years, health and sickness, prosperity and poverty-and I’m assured that it’s somehow under control.

On second thought, I think I can come up with pretty good arguments for my friends’ neatness and desire for control.  I also think that my messy friends have some good insights into trust and priorities.  The trick for me, for us, is to figure out when to put the tools back in their places, and when to leave them be and put the hot water on for tea.


1 Jer. 23:23-24; Acts 17:24-28

2 Heb. 1:3

3 Jer. 5:24; Acts 14:15-17; John 9:3; Prov. 22:2

4 Prov. 16:33

5 Matt. 10:29

your comments

comments powered by Disqus