Thursday, April 3, 2008

Providence and Intimacy

“It is He who changes the times and the epochs; He removes kings and establishes kings; He gives wisdom to wise men and knowledge to men of understanding.” Daniel 2:21

One of my biggest challenges as a teacher was to meet the needs of my many students. One pressing need I was always conscious of was a child’s need for significance. In a classroom of twenty-five, it is all too easy to get lost in the shuffle. If I wasn’t careful, I could allow the extroverted and outgoing children to command all of my attention. The quieter children needed attention, too. Therefore, I consciously tried to connect with each student on a daily basis. Whether I was asking them about their ball game the night before, giving them a wink as I caught their eye, or touching their shoulder as I passed by their desk, my goal was to demonstrate to each one that I noticed them that day. They were already secure in the fact that I had the classroom under control. But they also needed to know I recognized them as an individual, too.

Of course, my ability to do it all, controlling the classroom as a group yet making each child feel significant, was severely limited by my humanness. I started every day with great intentions. But more often than not, fatigue, a discouraging note from a parent, or a difficult discipline problem would rob me of my energy and leave me hanging on by my fingernails to survive the rest of the day. I was only one person possessing twenty-five charges, desperately trying to meet their impossible demands-- the definition of a teacher-- and sincerely struggled to give it my best shot. But in reality, I failed children in this priority on a regular basis.

When we look at our world, we are challenged to understand the ability of God in this same regard. There is a new country song out, quickly gaining popularity, titled “God Must Be Busy.” The writer fully believes that God is in control of this world. So the reason bad things happen or his prayers aren’t answered must be because God is too busy. Overwhelmed by the world, I guess. Making everything go well is too big a job for even God.

The above quote from Daniel correctly identifies God as being all powerful. In His providence, he controls the happenings in this world with ease. He places kings into power and takes away the authority of others. Nothing that happens in this world is a surprise to God. He is working His purposes and His will definitely will be accomplished.

While most of us don’t have trouble believing in an all-powerful God, we, like that country song writer, sometimes struggle to believe that our daily struggles can also be significant to Him. Our problems are too small, too unimportant.

But that is not what scripture teaches.

Jesus told His disciples: “The very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear; you are more valuable than many sparrows.” (Luke 12:7) King David wrote: “You know when I sit and when I rise up; You understand my thoughts from afar. . . You are intimately acquainted with all my ways. Even before there is a word on my tongue, You know it all.” (Psalm 139:2-4) God is not a god who is only interested in the big picture. He is powerful enough to be involved in even the very mundane in our lives.

So why do we limit Him in our perception? I think we are making the mistake of reducing Him to human terms. He does sometimes use human characteristics to describe Himself. It is really the only thing we are capable of understanding. But He is so much greater than that. We need to expand our thinking and acknowledge that His being is far beyond what we can truly comprehend.

While I might have trouble keeping the class as a group organized and on task while at the same time attempting to connect with the children as individuals, God is not limited in His power. He can put kings into power and still know the number of hairs on my head. He does more than sit back and watch us as we struggle through this life. He is intimately involved with us. He is in our head and in our heart. Don’t mistake difficult circumstances for a lack of involvement. God is never too busy.

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