A sad feature of our fallen state is that inclination to overlook God’s acts of kindness towards us. We so easily forget or take them for granted. We go from home to work every day without a hitch. Your wife was pregnant for nine months and gave birth to a baby without any defect. Or you may have been involved in trade for several years, yet your goods have never been stolen. To a secular mindset, these are instances of mere luck or random cases of ‘good fortune’. However, to one who has come to discern that ‘God governs in the affairs of men’*, they are instances of God’s providential control of the universe (cf. Deuteronomy. 8:18; Psalm 136:25; 103:19; Proverbs 16:33; Nehemiah 9:6; Acts 14:17).
One story that clearly illustrates this scriptural teaching is the classic novel Robinson Crusoe* which was published by Daniel Defoe in 1719. It’s a tale of shipwreck but with an interesting angle – the sole survivor found himself marooned on a lonely island. In the midst of his struggle to survive, Crusoe was brought to perceive the guiding hand of God in his affairs.
First, in pondering his condition, he realized that though he had suffered much hardship, he had a lot to be thankful for. He had experienced much evil, yet God had also provided much comfort in the midst of his misfortune. He even drew up a table and compared both sides of his situation:
|I am cast upon a horrible, desolate island; void of all hope of recovery||But I am alive – and not drowned as all my ship’s company was.|
|I am divided from mankind, a solitary; one banished from human society||But I am not starved or perishing on a barren place affording no sustenance.|
|I have no clothes to cover me||But I am in a hot climate, where if I had clothes, I could hardly wear them.|
He concluded his comparison with these words:
‘On the whole, here was an undoubted testimony that there was scarcely any condition in the world so miserable but there was something positive to be thankful for in it.’
In reflecting upon his past life and the shipwreck itself, he could discern the voice of God calling him to repent. While suffering from a severe fever, he recalled his immoral past and his present misery. The light of truth shone upon his heart and he was eventually able to trust in Jesus for salvation. He recorded his conversion in these words:
‘Now I looked back upon my past life with such horror, and my sins appeared so dreadful, that my soul sought nothing of God but deliverance from the load of guilt that bore down all my comfort…And I add this part here, to whoever shall read it, that whenever they come to a true sense of things, they will find deliverance from sin a much greater blessing than deliverance from affliction.’
God rules in the affairs of men, we can only choose to ignore it.
*This phrase is attributed to the American statesman, Benjamin Franklin (1706 – 1790).
*Focus on the Family edition, published in 1997.