Providence is a gift. Providence involves responsibility.
I am deeply reminded of the uncontrollable blessings in life. At times, it is easy to blur the line between God’s blessings and our achievements. I work hard therefore I am successful. Is it God’s blessings or my effort? In good moments, of course, we affirm God’s good gifts. In our bad moments, we grab hold of our efforts taking pride in what we have accomplished.
Yet, there are aspects of life where no blurring should occur, one being the providence of birth. I did not have control over my birth. God determined my family. He providentially placed me in a particular culture and country. I did not choose to be raised in America. Therefore, I should not boast in the blessings that accompany such a gift. Nor should I feel entitled by the privilege of having a U.S. passport. Truly, the only appropriate response is one of thankfulness, that God in His goodness placed me in such a context.
I have been deeply reminded of God’s providence as of late. My wife is currently teaching ESL to refugees in Lancaster. Two of her students are new to the United States. When asked how long they spent in a refugee camp, they respectively stated 18 and 19 years. Ok, let that sink in for a moment. Last night, she shared how their children were born and raised in a refugee camp. They ended up creating jobs in the camps simply to survive. For a bulk of their life thus far has been spent in the desperate, unstable, and poor conditions of a refugee camp. Did they choose to be born in such conditions? No. Are the grateful to be in a home? Absolutely. In fact, my wife describes the most beautiful smile that appears on the woman. I want to believe that her joy is stirred in part by the gift of being in a place more stable, free from the destitute conditions of a camp.
It easily could have been me in that camp. It most certainly could have been my kids raised in such conditions. As I wake to a beautiful home, writing in a comfortable office, and enjoy the opportunities afforded by higher education, my only appropriate response should be one of thankfulness. These blessings, while in part enjoyed by hard work and perseverance, ultimately flow from the gift of providence. Ok, it is human to feel accomplished. In fact, it is good to take pride in oneself. Yet, it should be fully tempered by the realization that blessings are undeserved. Thus, I reflect today on how God has been so good to me, so good to my family.
Flowing from this gift should be a willingness to share those blessings. One remedy to entitlement is the extension of generosity towards others. The political climate is protectionist. Honestly, I understand it as I want my family to be safe. However, it also cultivates nationalistic entitlement, as if we own this country and deserve the blessings afforded by it. If God providentially placed us in this context, then it is not ours to horde. Rather, it should be shared. One of my doctoral professors mused that our country is blessed due to its extension of hospitality to the refugee and immigrant throughout our history. Certainly, this is a biblical principle. God blesses those who care for the disenfranchised. The two are connected and should remain so. To receive mandates that we extend to others the blessings we enjoy to no effort of our own.
Leadership is connected. It is a gift of providence that I have a PhD. It is expected. No, it is required that I use that education and the position obtained from that education for the good of the kingdom. I should leverage my position not for my own gain or reputation but the cultivation of kingdom values and the promotion of Christ. With regards to providence, it means I advocate for those who do not enjoy the same opportunities, with the hope that I can help, in God’s providence, open doors for them. At the end of the day, providence should ultimately lead to service. And in serving we express thankfulness for the blessings received from our good and gracious Father.