In the realm of Christian theology, I find that few concepts are as profound as the doctrine of God’s divine providence. For centuries, theologians, scholars, and believers have sought to comprehend the intricate workings of God’s providential care in the world. Therefore, in this blog post, we’ll explore the meaning of divine providence and why it is essential for you and me to understand it.

Understanding Divine Providence

God’s divine providence is a profound theological concept that seeks to explain God’s divine guidance and care over all creation. The term “providence” itself, derives from the Latin “providentia,” meaning foresight or preparation. It refers to God’s constant and purposeful involvement in the affairs of the world. Although the term is not explicitly used in the Bible, the concept of providence permeates the pages of the Bible.

The Scriptures unmistakably illustrate God’s active involvement in every facet of creation and human history, overseeing and sustaining everything according to His eternal plan. God not only upholds all things but also directs everything to its appointed end. He is not a distant or indifferent deity, but a personal and loving God who cares for his creation.

He reigns over human affairs and works within the laws of nature to see that His purposes is carried out. Every event, circumstance, and person in the world is a part of God’s intricate plan. Nothing is left to chance, and even in the most challenging situations, God’s providence is at work.

In light of this, nothing happens by mere coincidence, a lucky break, fate, or fortune; rather, everything is part of God’s overarching plan.

“providence is a term that has to do with God not interfering with the normal processes of life but orchestrating all of those contingencies and all of those thoughts and actions to effect exactly what He wants, when He wants, with whom He wants, where He wants.”
John MacArthur

The extent of God’s Divine Providence

The Bible shows that nothing is beyond the scope of God’s providential care. His divine Providence extends to:

  • All Creatures of the Earth: As expressed in passages like Psalm 104:21–29 and Matthew 6:26–29, God’s providence embraces every living being on Earth.
  • The Material World: Acts 14:17, Psalm 104:14, and Matthew 5:45 illustrate how even the elements and resources of the material world are under God’s providential care.
  • The Affairs of Nations: Psalm 66:7 underscores that God’s providence extends to the collective destinies and paths of nations.
  • The Fate of Individuals from Birth to Death: Scriptures such as Job 10:8-12, Psalm 139:13-14, Jeremiah 1:5, 1 Samuel 2:6 and 25, Job 14:5, and 2 Peter 1:13–14 illustrate how God’s providence shapes every person’s life journey, from conception to the grave.
  • The Affairs of Men: Job 12:23, Daniel 2:21, Isaiah 4:25, 1 Chronicles 16:31, Psalm 47:7, and Proverbs 21:1 emphasize that God’s providence influences the actions and decisions of individuals.
  • Men’s Free Choices, Including Their Sins and Good Works: Exodus 12:36, 1 Samuel 24:9–15, Psalm 33:14–15, Acts 4:27–28, 2 Samuel 16:10, and 24:1 reveal that even in matters of free will, God’s providence plays a role.
  • The Achievements and Failures of Men: Luke 1:52 showcases how God’s providence shapes the outcomes of human endeavors.
  • The Safety of His People: Psalm 4:8 assures that God’s providence extends to the protection and well-being of His faithful.
  • Prosperity and Adversity: Job 36:11, Isaiah 45:7, and Lamentations 4:5 and 11 emphasize that God’s providence governs both seasons of plenty and seasons of trial.

Key Aspects of Divine Providence

God’s Sovereignty

Divine providence serves as a testament to the sovereignty of God. It affirms that God is the ultimate ruler of the universe, and nothing happens outside of His sovereign control. The Bible resounds with this truth, as exemplified in verses such as:

 "The Lord has established his throne in the heavens, 
and his kingdom rules over all."
Psalm 103:19 ESV
“The counsel of the Lord stands forever, 
The plans of His heart to all generations.” 
Psalm 33:11 NKJV
“But He is unique, and who can make Him change?“
And whatever His soul desires, that He does.”
Job 23:13b NKJV
“Whatever the Lord pleases, he does, in heaven and on earth, 
in the seas and all deeps.” 
Psalm 135:6 ESV
“All the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, and he does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand or say to him, “What have you done?” Daniel 4:35 ESV

These verses underscore the enduring authority of God, His unchanging purpose, and His timeless governance over all creation. In His divine providence, every event and circumstance finds its place within the tapestry of His eternal plan.

To learn more about God’s sovereignty read our blog post on Understanding the Sovereignty of God.

God cares about the tiniest things

Divine providence reveals that God is intricately concerned with even the tiniest facets of life. He is aware of everything because His care extends to both the monumental and the seemingly insignificant. With God, there exists no hierarchy of importance; nothing is too large or too small for His loving attention.

He knows the number of hairs on your head, and He knows the number of sparrows that take flight. From the moment of your birth to the moment of your passing, and every event in between, all are under His divine purview.

As beautifully expressed in the words of Jesus:

“Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows”. Matthew 10:29-31 ESV

In every corner of existence, from the grandeur of celestial bodies to the tiniest of creatures, from the rise and fall of nations to the choices individuals make, from moments of triumph to times of trial, and from the dawn of life to its final breath, the hand of God is ever-present, ensuring that His divine plan unfolds as predetermined.

God’s providence accommodates human choice

One often-raised question is how God’s providence coexists with human free will. While God is sovereign, humans possess the capacity to make choices. Divine providence does not negate human free will. Instead, the Bible reconciles the two by showing that God can work through our choices to achieve His purposes.

God’s plan accommodates our choices, weaving them into His providential design. This intricate interplay between God’s sovereignty and human free will is a mystery that theologians have grappled with for centuries but one thing we can always count on is the fact that God’s council will always stand:

“Many are the plans in the mind of a man,
but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.” Proverbs 19:21 ESV
“The heart of man plans his way,
but the Lord establishes his steps.” Proverbs 16:9 ESV
“The lot is cast into the lap,
but its every decision is from the Lord.” Proverbs 16:33 ESV
“The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; He turns it wherever He will.” Proverbs 21:1 ESV

God’s providence isn’t hindered by man’s sins and mistakes

The Bible shows that God is more than capable of using our sins and rebellion to further His purposes as well. He’s not confined to using our moments of obedience to do so. Perhaps one of the best examples of this is the story of Joesph. 

God allowed Joseph’s brothers to sell him into slavery in Egypt, ultimately leading to Joseph playing a pivotal role in rescuing them from a devastating famine. What his brothers intended as evil, God transformed into a means to accomplish a greater good. Joseph himself recognized this divine plan when he declared:

“As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.” Genesis 50:20 ESV

Similarly, the cross of our Lord was accomplished because of the hostility of the religious leaders, towards Him. God used their rejection of His son to achieve the salvation of mankind and to fulfill the Old Testament prophecies concerning the Messiah.

Nevertheless, it’s essential to emphasize that this does not imply that God is the source of sin. The Bible makes it adamantly clear that we bear complete responsibility for the sins that we commit and the decisions we make. puts it this way:

“God in eternity past, in the counsel of His own will, ordained everything that will happen; yet in no sense is God the author of sin; nor is human responsibility removed.” 

Therefore, lest we slip into complacency, we should always remember that God delights in the obedience of His children. Nevertheless, divine providence demonstrates His remarkable ability to work through human frailty and sin for the greater good.

God uses everything including suffering

Divine providence underscores that nothing in the universe is accidental in God’s plan. In God’s view, everything happens for a reason even when we cannot make sense of their significance at the moment. This includes evil and seemingly senseless catastrophes.

Since divine providence is deeply rooted in God’s goodness and love for His creation, it assures Christians that even in times of adversity or suffering, God is working for their ultimate good, as emphasized in Romans:

"And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." Romans 8:28 NIV

Related: A Christian Perspective: What Does the Bible Say About Suffering?

Even the enemy is under God’s providential ordering

The enemy may seem to have complete control over all of the affairs of this world, but the magnificent reality is that he’s firmly within God’s sovereign control. 

Even the devil’s opposition to the kingdom of Christ itself is a part of God’s divine plan. And he will be defeated for the sake of the glory of His Son. While it’s accurate to acknowledge that “the whole world lies in wickedness” (1 Joh 5:19), this does not signify that God has relinquished His rule over it.

Eventually, any aspect of Satan’s malevolence that does not willingly submit to the sovereignty of God will ultimately be compelled to bring glory to Him. God, in His infinite wisdom and power, will restrain and prevent the full manifestation of evil forces that stand opposed to His divine purpose.

“And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever” Rev. 20:10 ESV

In this understanding, we find both a recognition of the very real presence of evil in the world and confidence that God’s sovereignty prevails, guiding all things towards His ultimate purpose and glory.

God’s providential care is for His glory

Ultimately, God is working in his wisdom, power, righteousness, and love to fulfill his own everlasting intentions for his own glory and for our eternal good:

For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen. Romans 11:36 ESV
For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.”Romans 9:17 ESV
“The keys of providence swing at the girdle of Christ. Believe it, Christian, nothing occurs here without the permit or the decree of your Savior… He that has gone to prepare a place for us by his presence has prepared the way to that place for us by his providence.”
Charles Spurgeon

Why Christians Should Understand Divine Providence?

Divine providence reveals God’s character, emphasizing His constant presence, unwavering love, and meticulous care for His creation. This knowledge provides profound security and assurance, especially regarding our salvation.

Believers can trust that their salvation is fully accomplished, for the God who saved them holds their future in His capable hands. They can have confidence that He will complete the good work started in them (Phil 1:6) because He is actively working in their lives and His purposes cannot be thwarted (Job 42:2-5).

In seasons of hardship, divine providence offers comfort, reminding us that God remains actively at work. Pain and suffering are not beyond His control, nor do they catch Him by surprise. He guarantees that He is working all things for our good, conforming us to the image of His Son (Rom 8:28).

As such, understanding divine providence bolsters and encourages us amid life’s uncertainties. Knowing the One who holds tomorrow dispels worry and fear. God’s intimate knowledge and care extends even to the smallest details of our lives (Matt 10:30), leaving nothing to chance (Matt 6:25-32).

Just as He adorns the grass and flowers with dazzling beauty, He cares for us.

This understanding challenges us to relinquish our need for control and instead entrust our future to His hands, confident that He will orchestrate events to align with His divine plan for us.

“The Lord Jesus sits in Heaven, ruling over all, and causing all things to work for His children’s good.”
George Whitefield


In conclusion, allow me to echo  R. Kent Hughes words,

Do you believe with your whole mind and heart that God is all-powerful? Do you believe with everything in you that God is spatially and specially present with you? Do you believe wholeheartedly that he knows everything, even your inarticulate words and thoughts before you say them? Do you believe that God is absolutely sovereign in all of life? Do you believe that God’s providence is working in and through your life to effect your good? If so, you have embraced the God of Genesis and the Christ of the Bible because “in Him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily” (Colossians 2:9). And you are ready to live.

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  1. avatar
    Ndeto says:

    So in essence, you are trying to say God is the author of evil, no? Does your argument imply that God willed evil to Adam when He sinned?

    1. avatar
      Wanjiru Ng'ang'a says:

      Hi Ndeto,

      Thank you for your question and I will try to answer it to the best of my ability. While I believe in the doctrine of divine providence, I truly hope that I did not imply that God is the author of evil.

      The Bible affirms God’s complete sovereignty and control over all events (Psalm 103:19, Daniel 4:35), yet it simultaneously teaches that humans are responsible for their actions, including their sins (Ezekiel 18:20, James 1:13-14).

      Scripture reveals that God can permit evil without being its author. The Bible unequivocally states that God is holy and does not commit or instigate sin (1 John 1:5, Habakkuk 1:13). James 1:13-14 makes it clear that God does not tempt anyone to do evil. Instead, humans are led into sin by their desires. This distinction maintains God’s purity while upholding human accountability.

      Therefore, when Adam sinned, it was a result of his own choice and disobedience, not because God willed him to sin. Genesis 3 narrates Adam and Eve’s free decision to eat from the tree of knowledge, despite God’s clear command. Their sin brought about consequences that God, in His sovereignty, had foreseen and allowed, but He did not cause it.

      My understanding is, God’s allowance of evil serves His purposes without compromising His goodness. When evil occurs, God’s providence ensures it ultimately serves His purposes, as seen in the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.

      Also note that I do acknowledge that there is tension between God’s providence and human responsibility that I do not fully understand because my understanding is finite. However, I believe that the above explanation is, so far, a Biblically true and balanced view.

      I hope this provides clarity on the matter.

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