I remember a time when an associate pastor and I were asked the question by a couple of senior Christian women what the difference is between the sovereignty of God and the providence of God. These are similar terms that definitely overlap but each carry meaningful and specific ideas.
The sovereignty of God is defined more broadly in terms of God’s rule over all things. God himself is the only Being qualified to rule this way as Creator; the One who is “infinite, eternal, and unchangeable” (Westminster shorter catechism). He knows the end from beginning and His sovereign rule is over all wars, crises, world leaders, kingdoms that rise and fall, and even pandemics.
Every planet spins within God’s universe and on the atomic level, “there are no rogue molecules.”
So where does this leave providence? God’s providence is a subset of all God’s sovereignty, but with an emphasis on God’s protective care. God not only transcends time and space (sovereignly), at same time He enters into His world, engaging our daily lives. God guides and God provides.
I have no greater or even more personal example of God’s providence working out in my life than how I met my wife Judy. During my junior year at Liberty University, I was suffering a doomed dating relationship; trying to pass second semester Greek. You can imagine that the one thing was causing the other thing. This Greek final had serious implications for my final grade in the class, a class essential to my major.
My test being the next morning, I grabbed a close friend (who happened to be at the top of the class) and proceeded to stay up most of the night reviewing Greek paradigms. Midway through the night, he began counseling me to let go of my dating relationship. He then proceeded to pull out a photograph of a girl who had broken his heart back in upstate New York. Guess who? (Incidentally I aced the Greek final).
Long story short, I met this same young lady a year and a half later all the way over on the west coast at The Master’s College. Through a series of events, I had been hired there, a job that put me through Seminary, and this young lady had delayed finishing college to save money, making her a new transfer student.
We met at the bottom steps of my dorm, the same dorm adjoined with hers. Needless to say, it did not take long to connect the dots and (over the next several months) develop a friendship. Well, as is the case in these kinds of stories, the plot thickens. Her former boyfriend (the same college friend) was still pursuing. So, about a year into our friendship, I felt that the Lord was prompting me tell her to cut this mystical relationship all the way off. She did! The rest is history.
The Gospel of Matthew quotes Jesus making an amazing statement on His providence. He says,
“What God has brought together, let no man separate.” (Matthew 19:6)
The focus and force of Jesus’s words typically surround the command at the end: “let no man separate.” This is the point right? At the same time, do not miss what makes this command so powerful...God’s providence. What makes marriage so solemn, so powerful, worth dying for, is that God orchestrated all the circumstances to bring a husband and wife together.
When you think about it, it is easier to see God’s direct involvement in people finding someone to marry. The question is whether you believe God is directly involved in everything else. How about your daily life?
God’s Word says you should.