“The LORD has made everything for its purpose, even the wicked for the day of trouble.” Many, if not most people, scoff at that verse’s claim. I mean, are we really to believe that God exists, that he is the Author of life, and that he is sovereign over the affairs of men? Surely not, right? That is the world’s general reaction, of course. The concept of the infinite-personal God working “all things according to the counsel of his will” (Eph 1:11) seems so foreign to the majority of people.
When I meditated on Solomon’s words, my thoughts reeled. Providence is largely a foreign concept to many people today, at least in my life. Of course, theological circles know the term, and are filled with students who could probably pass exams on providence. But for most folks who are laymen, or those untrained in theology, is providence a concept that the world views as anything other than folly?
Most folks that I’m dealing with in ministry (not all, of course, but many) are battling discouragement. Most are not Christians, so they do not have a biblical worldview. And so one of my default positions is to ask them questions.
Below is a snippet from a recent conversation with one I think God is calling:
“Things are just so rotten. Evil is winning. Where are the good guys, Chaplain?”
“Can you tell me what you mean by rotten?” I ask.
“How can you not see it? Rottenness. Did you see how many black boys and girls, men and women, were murdered in Chicago over the weekend?”
“No. Are you saying that is tragic?” I ask.
“Really? You don’t think that is tragic?” he responds incredulously.
“I do think it is tragic. But I’m asking you on what basis do you think it is tragic? Is Chicago to be a “safe space” or exempt from tragedy?”
“Chaplain, do you really think it should be this way?”
“I understand your question. I think that Chicago is a microcosm and a symptom of a deeper issue. I think people murder because their hearts are murderous. I think it is a hateful heart that murders. The bodies on the streets are symptoms of a heart issue,” I say. “I know that it may sound silly or foolish to you but may I share something with you?” I ask.
“Sure,” he says.
“You have heard of Jesus, right? Well, he claimed to be God in the flesh. He was even crucified by Roman authorities and Jewish mobs for his claims to be God. But the Bible claims that even that evil—the crucifixion of Jesus—is part of the providential plan of God. This is what the Bible teaches. Peter says this: ‘this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it’. What I am saying is that the Bible claims that evil is real, but that even the worst evil—the murder of Christ—was under the sovereign providence of God, because Christ was raised from the dead three days after his murder in fulfillment of promise and specific prophecies. Deaths in Chicago are tragic. The death in Jerusalem was tragic, too. But God is sovereign even over the souls of men. Do you understand these things?”
“But if that is true, then how come good is losing?” he asks. He is looking right at me, as if to see through me to what is behind.
“I cannot go beyond what is written. But what God has revealed to us about the most enduring and difficult of questions is that he is working even evil together for the good of those who love him and are called according to his purpose. The Bible says he works all things. That means, among other things, that nothing is random. That means that the symphony has a conductor. That means the limits of the sea are bound by his word. That means that the evils we see are not without purpose. He has made everything for its purpose, even the wicked for the day of trouble. Does that make sense?”
“I need to think, Chaplain.”
When I have conversations like this one, I am reminded that these conversations are either one of two things: A) random/haphazard/cosmic accidents in a meaningless universe or B) divine appointments where God uses us fallen sinners, even with our feet of clay, for his sovereign purposes.
When he and I talked, I don’t think either one of us believed we were random, haphazard, cosmic accidents. I think we both believed we were intentional, thinking, rational soldiers who wanted the truth. And that makes all the difference.