How Does God’s Sovereignty Affect My Life?

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth  and Robert Wolgemuth
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Providence—it’s not a word you hear a lot in everyday conversation. In fact, a search of Google books shows that the use of the word in print has steadily declined since 1800. But it’s an incredibly important word and concept.

Noah Webster’s 1828 dictionary gives us insight into this bedrock truth that we need to learn to love and lean hard into:

Foresight, timely care; particularly, active foresight . . . accompanied with the procurement of what is necessary for future use. . . . In theology, the care and superintendence which God exercises over his creatures.

Tucked inside this three-syllable word is the shorter word provide, which combines the Latin videre, meaning “to see” (think “video”) with the prefix pro, meaning “before.” Pro-video, “to see before”—that’s at the heart of God’s Providence.

God goes before us. He sees and knows everything before it even happens. And He makes provision for whatever we will need at that time.

Stop and think about that for a moment. Imagine the peace, comfort, and hope that would be ours if we really believed that He knows and sees everything that lies before us, before it happens—and that He has already provided whatever we will need when we get there! What freedom from fear, anxiety, and dread that should give us.

This is why I (Nancy) often say, “I love living under Providence!” What an amazing gift this is to us.

Our God Cares for His Creation

If we were able to sit down with Jesus and chat about Providence, He might explain it with a simple word picture, much as He did on a Galilean hillside a long time ago:

Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? . . . Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. (Matt. 6:26–29)

Birds. Wildflowers. Human beings. In His Providence, God sustains, attires, and cares for all of His creation.

Our home in southwest Michigan gives us a front-row seat to an amazing array of wildlife. Having lived here for almost four years at the publication of this book, I (Robert) have become a bird man. There are thousands of birds in our neighborhood, ranging from tiny yellow goldfinches to massive hawks, herons, and bald eagles. I revel in the sight of these amazing creatures just outside my window. And early in the morning, even in the dead of winter, you’ll find me trudging through deep snow to refill the bird feeders, just to be sure our little feathered friends have breakfast.

“God goes before us. He sees and knows everything before it even happens.”

But what if I didn’t do this? Would the birds go hungry? And who feeds the birds I can’t feed? Who looks out for them when I’m out of town?

The fact is, none of these winged creatures needs me in order to survive.

That’s right. Our good, wise, sovereign God cares for and meets the needs of the smallest of His creatures. Every single day. That doesn’t mean they never have problems or that they never get hurt. But Jesus assured us that even common, ordinary sparrows cannot fall to the ground and die apart from the “Father’s consent” (Matt. 10:29 CSB). Even the birds live under Providence.

God Will Meet Your Needs

And then there are the flowers. The first spring after our wedding, I received a call from Nancy. “We need to hurry, honey,” she said. “What’s up?” I queried. “The trilliums are blooming,” she explained. “And they’ll only last for a few more days.” Not having any idea who or what trilliums were, I did my best to be a fully engaged husband and act like this was important. So I went along.

I could not have been prepared for the sight of hundreds of thousands of delicate little white flowers carpeting the floor of the wooded acreage just a few miles from our house. Taking Nancy’s hand as we walked a narrow, winding path through the loveliness, I drank in the beauty and worshiped the Creator who designed this visual feast—for His own enjoyment and ours.

When Jesus wanted to help people understand and trust God’s Providence, He reminded them that God does a more than adequate job of feeding birds and clothing flowers. So what does that mean for you? It means you have a God who cares deeply about you and who will meet your needs. He doesn’t just watch the birds eat or take photos of white blossoms. He is personally involved with the feeding and clothing. And what He does for these, He will do for you.

But that’s not all there is to God’s Providence. The word also speaks to His wise, sovereign rule over every detail of His creation. Now, this is admittedly a subject that can stir up animated arguments. But there are basically two options. Either . . .

1. God sovereignly causes and/or permits everything to happen that happens in our lives and in this world.

Or . . .

2. God stands by and watches passively and powerlessly, unwilling or unable to do anything about what happens.

So here at the outset, we’re going to be clear that we choose door number one.

Where would we be without the certain knowledge that “He’s got the whole world in His hands” and that every detail of our lives and days is ordered by our all-wise, all-knowing, loving God? Far from being a crushing burden to be borne or diminishing our value, the Providence of God is a great and precious gift. To be helpless victims of chance, tossed about on the storms of life—that would be forever disconcerting and tragic. Thank God it is not the case.

The Old Testament book of Exodus includes many providential moments. One of the most dramatic was when the Israelites were finally released from their Egyptian captors. They were escaping eastward, but there was a problem. They came to a massive body of water, with no way over or around it—and no boats or life jackets. What’s more, a ferocious army was bearing down on them, brandishing swords and plenty of hostility.

In the next few hours, God’s Providence would be on display in a way that makes bird feeding and flower dressing look like child’s play. But His people didn’t trust that it would happen. In spite of God’s relentless faithfulness up to that point, in spite of watching Yahweh perform one spectacular miracle after another on their behalf, they feared for their lives and fell back into their trademark response: complaining. “So dying in Egypt wasn’t good enough for you?” they griped to Moses as they stood there on the banks of the Red Sea. “You just want us to die here in the wilderness?” (see Exod. 14:11–12).

Undaunted, Moses had another plan. He trusted God. Proving that he was the right man for the job, he announced to the restless, fearful mob:

Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the Lord. . . . The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent. (Exod. 14:13–14)

And show up He did. Not only did He provide a path through the water and drown the pursuing army, He went on to lead the ragtag group of Israelites through the wilderness, providing food, water, protection, and more until they finally reached the land He had promised them.

Shades of watching God feed our birds or staring in awe at the little white wildflowers spread out in the woods.

Our heavenly Father looks at our circumstances, our concerns, and our anxious fears, and says, “Take heart, My child. I’ve got this.”

God’s Providence is often better seen in retrospect.

God Is Always At Work

There’s something about the clarity of looking into a rearview mirror. Looking back often gives us a more accurate picture of where we’ve been and what it means. That’s not to say that every look back will show us all there is to see—at least not in this life. We have to have eyes to see, and that may take time and prayer. But if we continue to ponder where we’ve been and look with the eyes of faith, the view in the rearview mirror will often snap into focus and we’ll get a clearer vision of how God has been working in our lives.

The view out the front windshield is a different story. We may think we know where we’re headed, only to discover again and again that we had no earthly idea. What actually takes place may not at all be what we had envisioned or anticipated.

What we see looking ahead is our story—our circumstances seen from our finite, limited perspective.

What appears when we look back is God’s Story—what He sees and knows and has in mind, how He is always at work for our good and His glory.

For Further Reading:

You Can Trust God to Write Your Story

by Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth and Robert Wolgemuth

Our kids beg us for stories at bedtime or while we drive; we gather around firepits and dinner tables to tell and retell our favorite tales—the...

book cover for You Can Trust God to Write Your Story