4 Reasons to Trust God's Providence with Patience

Jim Denison | Denison Forum on Truth and Culture | Friday, May 15, 2020

4 Reasons to Trust God's Providence with Patience


Prince Fielder is owed $24 million in the final year of his contract with the Texas Rangers. This would put him nowhere near the top ten current salaries in the sport. But it’s not bad for a player who has not appeared in a game since 2016, when injuries forced his early retirement. Here’s why Fielder’s salary is newsworthy: As Major League Baseball works on a plan to play a shortened season, current players could receive less than their salaries dictate. But because the sport’s collective-bargaining agreement seems to protect guarantees in contracts such as Fielder’s, he will probably receive the full amount.

This is just one illustration of the fact that COVID-19 is affecting far more people than it is infecting.

Here’s a tragic example: an American missionary pilot named Joyce Lin died in a plane crash Tuesday. She was transporting coronavirus rapid test kits and school supplies to a village in Papua, the easternmost province of Indonesia. A graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, she was forty years old.

The "principle of calculated risk"

A fifty-five-year-old person from the Hubei province in China may have been the first person to contract COVID-19. The case dates back to November 17, 2019, nearly six months ago. As mortality from this horrible disease passes 302,000 deaths as of this morning, why is it taking so long to develop effective therapies?

George Friedman is one of the most astute geopolitical analysts of our day. In a recent article, he discussed the medical system in the context of risk. He noted that “the moral foundation of science is that it must, first of all, do no harm.” As a result, “no drug is released until it is certain that it will do no harm. This requires meticulous testing and evaluation, and that takes time.” 

By contrast, “other systems operate not on a zero-risk principle but on the principle of calculated risk.” In a military operation, for instance, “the risk is calculated with care, but so is the consequence of inaction.”

In most structures, “an emergency means the acceptance of a degree of failure that would not be acceptable otherwise in order to gain time. In the military, such shortcuts may well cause deaths, even to civilians. But not taken, these risks certainly increase deaths.”

This is the dilemma with COVID-19. Dr. Friedman: “People will die from a failed medication. But people are dying without a medication. ‘Do no harm’ is an admirable and desirable principle. But moral absolutes may not be as useful right now as the principle of calculated risk.” 

His reasoning assumes, of course, that effective vaccines can be developed. Dr. Mike Ryan, executive director of the World Health Organization’s health emergencies program, warned this week that “this virus just may become another endemic virus in our communities, and this virus may never go away.” He pointed to HIV as a virus we have not eradicated and stated, “I don’t think anyone can predict when or if this disease will disappear.”

Four reasons to take "comfort" in God

It will obviously take longer than we want to develop effective medical treatments for COVID-19, assuming researchers can develop them at all. But we are not the first people to wait for help in the future while suffering in the present.

Isaiah 40 addresses the people of Israel in exile. This famous chapter begins, “Comfort, comfort my people, says your God” (v. 1). In what should they take comfort during such hard days?

First, the word of God: “The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever” (v. 8). Changing circumstances do not change the truth and authority of Scripture. 

Second, the compassion of God: “He will tend his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms” (v. 11). The shepherd goes wherever the sheep go and carries them in his protection and love.

Third, the power of God: “[He] has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand and marked off the heavens with a span” (v. 12). The world’s oceans weigh an estimated 1,450,000,000,000,000,000 tons, but he holds them in the “hollow” of his hand. The distance to the edge of the observable “heavens” is about 46 billion light-years, but he measures it with the “span” of his hand.

Fourth, the providence of God: “All the nations are as nothing before him, they are accounted by him as less than nothing and emptiness” (v. 17). The world’s wealth is estimated to be $360.6 trillion, but this is “less than nothing” in comparison to our Lord’s sovereign majesty.

What happens when we "wait" on God

When we live by God’s word, trust his compassion, depend on his power, and serve under his sovereignty, we can claim this promise: “They who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint” (v. 31).

To “wait” for our Father is to hope in him and depend upon him. Such a commitment is not a zero-risk proposition, however. In fact, Jesus warned his faithful apostles that “in the world you will have tribulation” (John 16:33). Each of them but John died a martyr, and John was exiled on the prison island of Patmos. 

When we trust in the word, compassion, power, and providence of God, we can trust that the risks he asks us to take are for our best and his glory. We can know that our obstacles are opportunities for his providence to work through our pain. 

And when we choose to trust our Father even while we wait on him, we can claim Jesus’ promise: “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (John 20:29).

Will you be blessed today?

Publication date: May 15, 2020

Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Manjurul

For more from the Denison Forum, please visit www.denisonforum.org.

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