Reading God’s Providence Backwards (2) – S.Ferguson

In the thirty-sixth chapter of his book In Christ Alone, Sinclair Ferguson has a wonderful piece on the providence of God (go here for the first post on this).

His starting point is his contact with an long-time Christian friend, for whom God’s providence had led in ways of affliction and pain after an auto accident, and Ferguson’s own struggle to understand God’s ways with this godly man who had had such an influence on him in his youth.

The Mystery of Providence (Puritan Paperbacks)

It is at this point that Ferguson introduces what he calls “Flavel’s Law”, named after the Puritan who wrote a significant book on the providence of God. He pulls a quote from Flavel that goes like this: “The providence of God is like Hebrew words – it can only be read backwards.”

I plan to pull a few quotations from this chapter so that we may all benefit from Ferguson’s thoughts on this “law” concerning God’s providence. I believe that Ferguson’s thoughts will resonate with all of us as believers.

Here is the next part of this chapter from which I quote:

One great reason for this principle [that is, that God’s providence is best read “backward”] is to teach us to ‘Trust in the LORD with all [our] heart, and lean not on [our] own understanding’ (Prov.3:5). So perverse are we that we would use our knowledge of God’s will to substitute for actual daily personal trust in the Lord Himself.

Flavel’s Law… has widespread relevance for Christian living, but is particularly important in four ways:

The Big Decisions

It is true of the big decisions of life. God does guide His people, leading them in the right paths (Ps.23:3). It is a great thing to come to a major decision with the assurance that it is His will. But we would be mistaken to imagine that we therefore know in detail the reasons behind His plan.

Many Christians have discovered that obedience to what they believed to be God’s will led to great personal difficulties. When this happens to us, it is only later that we discover God’s purpose in leading us to a new orientation or situation may have been very different from the extrapolation we made from the first points we saw on the divine graph of or lives.

The Tests

It is true of the tests of life. We struggle to endure them for what they are in themselves. Afterward, we are relieved to have them at our back.

But in fact, earlier testing is often designed to strengthen us for later trials. Only when we have been brought through the later ones do the earlier ones more fully ‘make sense.’

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