Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Embracing the Mysteries of Providence

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Learn more about You Can Trust God to Write Your Story.

Dannah Gresh: Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth says that the stress in your life may be connected to what you believe about God.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: Imagine the peace, the comfort, the hope that would be ours if we really believed that God sees and knows everything that lies before us before it happens.

Leslie Basham: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, along with Dannah Gresh, for September 16, 2019.

Dannah: Nancy’s continuing in the new series she started with us this month. It’s based on the book she and her husband Robert have written, a book called You Can Trust God to Write Your Story.

Nancy: I was really interested to read recently a new Gallup Poll that talks about “Americans’ Stress, Worry, and Anger Intensified in 2018.” It says that Americans’ stress, worry, and anger intensified over the past year. Here’s some highlights from that report:

Americans were more likely to be stressed and worried than much of the rest of the world. . . . Nearly half of Americans (45%) felt worried a lot; more than one in five (22%) felt angry a lot. . . . Even in a booming economy, more Americans were stressed, angry and worried last year than they have been at most points during the past decade. [You wonder why.] Younger Americans between the ages of 15 and 49 are among the most stressed, worried and angry in the United States.

As I read that, I thought, I wonder where I would fit in that survey? Stressed, worried, angry, sometimes those qualities come out—some more than others. I don’t think I show a lot of anger, but stress and worry? Um huh, yes, I might be in those statistics there.

And you think about why would it be that Americans more than in many other parts of the world in the midst of a booming economy, and particularly younger ones, would feel higher degrees of stress, worry and anger?

I think there are a lot of reasons, a lot of factors that play into that. But as I’m thinking about this series and what we’re talking about this month on “You Can Trust God to Write Your Story,” I think at the heart of a lot of stress, worry, and anger is that we don’t know God, and we don’t trust His providence—we don’t know God, and we don’t trust His providence.

And that’s why today I want to take a look at the subtitle of this book that Robert and I have written. The title is You Can Trust God to Write Your Story, and that’s the part that’s probably the easiest to remember and repeat to others. But I want to focus on the subtitle. We spent a long time on this, threw out a lot of different possibilities for the subtitle. But here’s what we landed on: You Can Trust God to Write Your Story, subtitle, Embracing the Mysteries of Providence—embracing the mysteries of providence.

I’d like to unpack that over these next moments together, particularly focusing on the words “mystery and providence.” Providence is a really, really important word, and, to the extent that you learn to embrace the mysteries of providence, you will find your stress, worry, and anger level going down. And that’s why, not just with ourselves, but with friends, with family members.

Now, we’re not just going to throw these notes at them or throw these concepts: “You need to embrace the mysteries of providence.” No, this is a process. But we need to get to know the providence of God and to come to see why it’s a mystery and to see what it means to embrace it. And to the extent we do that, I think it’s going to have a lot of impact on our stress, worry, and anger levels.

First, that word mystery. The dictionary says that a mystery is “something that is difficult or impossible to understand or explain.”

Here’s another definition: “Anything that is kept secret or remains unexplained or unknown. A novel, short story, play, or film whose plot involves a crime or other event that remains puzzlingly unsettled until the very end, such as a mystery by Agatha Christie.”

A mystery. I like that term: “puzzlingly unsettled.” You don’t know how it’s going to end. You don’t know how it’s going to resolve. You don’t know how it’s going to turn out, and it’s puzzling. You’re scratching your head, and you’re going, “Who did this? How did it happen? How’s it going to be found out? How’s it going to end?” “Puzzlingly unsettled” until the very end.

You know, life is full of unknowns and mysteries—all through life.

Kids want to know what they’re going to get for their birthday or what they’re going to get for Christmas. You say, “It’s a surprise. It’s a mystery. You can’t find out until Christmas day.”

In high school kids want to know, “Am I going to get into the college I want to get into? How are my grades going to be? Will I get into the sorority or fraternity?”

In college they want to know, “Will I get into grad school? Will I be able to get a job that pays enough to pay off my college loans? Am I going to get married?”

Different seasons of life there are different mysteries. Right? Like, “Who was I going to marry, whether I was going to marry?” was a mystery to me until Mr. Wolgemuth walked into my life when I was fifty-six years old. It wasn’t a mystery to God. It was a mystery to me. But now that I’m in a different season, I have different mysteries. It’s not a mystery who I’m going to marry. That part is known and settled, but there are a lot of other unknowns and other things that aren’t settled.

A young married couple may be having the mystery of, “Will we be able to get pregnant?” And when a woman gets pregnant, “Will the baby be okay? Will I be okay?”

As your kids grow up, what you’re wondering about, puzzling about is, “Will my child be safe? Will he or she be able to get a job? Will we be able to afford to send them to college?”

And then as you get older and into another season of life, you’re wondering, “How long will I have good health? Will my retirement savings last for the rest of my life? How will I die? When will I die? What will my death be like?”

Now, some of you who are, like thirty. You’re looking at me like, “Who thinks about those things?” (laughter) People who are in their sixties, seventies. (laughter) In different seasons of life, you’re puzzling over different things.

Here’s the thing: Whatever age we are, whatever season of life, we want a map. We want to know where we’re going, and how we’re going to get there. And I think especially us women. Guys don’t care about maps so much. But as women, we want an outline. To change the metaphor, we want to know the end of the story. “How’s this going to go? How’s this going to end?”

But God doesn’t usually give us all of that. He says, “Trust Me. Trust Me to write your story.”

Is it enough for us to know that He knows the answer to the mystery, that He’s not puzzled, that He’s not unsettled, that He knows the very end right now? The thing is: We don’t want our lives to be a mystery. It’s hard to embrace mysteries, things we don’t know, things we can’t figure out.

And I want to say that one of the keys to having diminished stress, worry, and anger is to learn to be content with mystery. That takes faith, doesn’t it, to say, “There’s some things I don’t understand; some things I don’t get; some things I can’t see; some things I don’t know; some things I may not know this side of heaven, but I’m willing to be content with mystery, knowing that to God there are no mysteries, that He knows it all, He sees it all.”

Now, I want to talk about the second word in that subtitle: embracing the mysteries of providence. There may not be any word in the Scripture that has more mystery attached to it than the word “providence."

I often say, “I love living under providence!” I love living under providence, and I hope at the end of this session and after you read this book, You Can Trust God to Write Your Story, that you will be often saying, “I love living under providence.” There is no safer place to live. There is no more peaceful place to live. There is no more joyful place to live, even in the midst of pain and heartache, than to live under providence.

Now, providence is not a word you hear a lot in everyday conversation. In fact, I did a Google search—this is what nerds like me do. You can take a word, you can put it in this thing in Google, and it shows you the word in print, for as long as books have been printed, how frequently that word is used.

When I put the word providence into that—whatever that thing is on Google—it shows that the use in print has steadily declined since 1800. So the word was much more popular in 1800. So the word was much more popular in 1800. You see very little of it, or it’s been in constant decline since then.

But it’s an incredibly important word and concept. What does it mean? Well, tucked inside this three-syllable word is the shorter word provide—providence, provide—which combines two Latin words, one that is kind of like the word video, which means “to see,” and then the prefix pro, which means “before.” So that provide part means“to see before.”

God sees things before we see them. He sees things before they happen. To go before—God goes before us. He sees and knows everything before it even happens, and He makes provision—providence—for whatever we will need at that time. He doesn’t always tell us what it is before that time, but He’s gone ahead to make provision.

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

Providence is God’s watchful care over His creation—the plants, the animals, and the humans—over all of His creation. And what an amazing gift that is to us. 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—His watchful care and His sovereign rule.

Now, this thing of God’s sovereign rule over all of His creation is admittedly a subject that can stir up controversy. But when you think about it, there are really basically two options. Door number one: God sovereignly causes and/or permits everything to happen that happens in our lives and in this world.

Or, door number two: God stands by and watches passively and powerlessly, unwilling or unable to do anything about what happens.

When it comes down to it, those are really your two choices: A God who does sovereignly rule or who doesn’t, and He’s unable or unwilling to do anything about what’s going on in our world—which would make Him not God at all.

As I was working on this session, I saw a news report about an 1100 foot asteroid that’s going to fly past planet Earth on April 13, 2029, (about ten years from now) within the distance of some other spacecraft that are in orbit. It’s, like, 19,000 miles away, but that’s not all that far as far as asteroids go, I guess. So it’s huge, and it’s going to be flying closer to our planet than even some spacecraft that are in orbit now. And scientists are really interested in this because asteroids of this size rarely pass by earth at such a close distance, so they’re able to do a lot of study and speculation about how coming close to the earth will change it. There’s a lot of scientific study going on about it.

But here’s what was interesting to me about that asteroid. It’s named Apophis—A-p-o-p-h-i-s, which meant nothing to me until I read a little bit more. Apophis is the ancient Egyptian god (lower-case “g”) of snakes, war, and chaos. An ancient Egyptian god, in Egyptian theology, god of snakes, war, and chaos.

Apophis is known as the Uncreator—like the Creator brings things into order—the Uncreator sends them spinning out into chaos. And this Egyptian god was an enemy, it was thought, of the Egyptian sun god named Ra—R-a. You may have heard of the Egyptian sun god who was considered sovereign over the whole universe. So this Apophis god of snakes, war, and chaos was the perpetual enemy, always trying to destroy the sun god, Ra.

Now, we know that neither Apophis, the god of chaos, or Ra, the sun god, is a real god, but it reminded me that we either live in a world that is controlled by random chance, a world of chaos, or we believe in a world governed by God who made the sun, the heavens, the earth, and us. Those are the two options, and I choose door number one. We don’t live in a world of chance, of luck, of chaos, of disorder. We live in a world that is governed and ruled by a wise, loving, sovereign, good God.

So where would we be—think about it—without the assurance that “He’s got the whole world in His hands,” and not just this world, but all the asteroids and all the planets and all the galaxies and all the universes. He’s got it all in His hands. Where would we be without the assurance that every detail of our lives and our days is ordered by our all-wise, all-knowing, loving God? You see, God’s providence, His watchful care over His creation, and His sovereign rule over every detail of our lives—that providence—is a great and precious gift. It’s a gift.

Let me just read to you some Scriptures that talk about the providence of God. They don’t use this word. The word isn’t actually found in the Scripture, but the concept is all through the Scripture.

God’s provision and sustenance—we read about that aspect of His providence in Psalm 145, verse 15: “The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food in due season.” God provides for the needs of His creation.

Jesus talked about this in Matthew chapter 6. Beginning in verse 25, He says, “Do not be anxious about your life. I think He would say this to Americans who have this hyped-up fear, worry, anxiety, and anger. He says:

Don’t be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. . . . Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. [God’s providence, His watchful care over His creation.] Are you not of more value than they? . . . And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, [they’re not anxious or worried or angry] yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.

God’s provision, His sustenance of His creation—birds, flowers and us—it’s all an expression of His providence.

And then we go out to the big picture, the macro-picture of history and world affairs and current events and governments and nations and kingdoms, and all the stuff in the news. That’s probably half the reason Americans are angry, stressful and worried, is because there’s so much crazy stuff going on. Right? In the news—I mean, some days you just think, “I shouldn’t watch any more of this. It’s all crazy.”

But where is God’s providence in this? Let me read you a few verses.

Daniel chapter 2—and by the way, the book of Daniel is a great study in providence. It says, 

He changes times and seasons; he removes kings and sets up kings (Dan. 2:21).

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?” (Dan. 4:35).

He makes nations great, and he destroys them; he enlarges nations, and leads them away” (Job 12:23).

Who’s in charge here? So what are we worried about? Right? I love this verse: 

The Lord has established his throne in the heavens, and his kingdom rules over all (Ps. 103:19).

That’s a verse you need plastered on the walls of your house and wherever you tend to be worried or anxious or fearful or angry. Put it where you can think about it and see it and counsel your heart. “The Lord has established his throne in the heavens, and his kingdom rules over all.” And then for the “all,” fill in the blank of whatever that “all” is bothering you today.

What’s making you worried? Stressed? Angry? Does His kingdom rule over that?

Robert and I look at each other—I don’t know how often, it’s at least weekly, sometimes daily, sometimes multiple times a day. When we hear something on the news, when we hear something in our world that’s kind of out of our control or that is in our control but we can’t figure out what to do about it. We just look at each other and we go, “Heaven rules!” Heaven rules. That’s actually in the book of Daniel. That’s God’s providence. Heaven rules. #HeavenRules #TrustGodToWriteYourStory. God wins. Heaven rules.

That’s the macro. But what about the minutiae, the details on the circumstances of our lives? Well, God rules over that, too.

Unexpected developments: Proverbs 16, verse 9: “The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.”

God brings nations in and out, but God also establishes your steps. He directs where you’re going. And these unexpected developments, they were unexpected to you, but not to Him.

Seemingly random or chance events in our lives: Proverbs 16, verse 33: “The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord.”

There’s no chance. There’s no luck. Why would somebody be a gambler when you can trust in God? And I don’t mean to be smart about that. I’m just saying there’s nothing random in this universe. There’s no god of snakes and war and chaos. There’s the God of the universe whose kingdom rules over all.

Hard, inexplicable things: Exodus 4—this is a hard verse, “The Lord said to him, “Who has made man's mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the Lord?”

We could do a whole series, and maybe someday we will, on why God might do some of those hard things, but I want us just to soak ourselves in the concept right now that God rules. Heaven rules. That God is in charge. He knows what He’s doing. He doesn’t fall asleep. He’s able to simultaneously watch and guard and watch over and rule over and orchestrate all the events of every human being on the planet all at the same time not to speak of the economy and the geo-political this and that and the wars and the rumor. All of this, heaven rules.

Divine providence affects every area of our lives. I love this verse in Psalm 139. It actually became kind of a key verse for the book that Robert and I wrote, You Can Trust God to Write Your Story.

Psalm 139, verse 16: “All my days were written in your book and planned before a single one of them began.”

God knows. He sees. He’s made provision. Heaven rules—every day. Things may sometimes seem chaotic and out of control, but events on this earth and events in our lives are not determined by happenstance or chance. We are not helpless victims of chance, tossed about on the chaotic storms of life. We don’t need to be fearful, angry, anxious, and worried, though often we are. Why? It’s needless because everything in our lives, in one way or another, flows out of God’s providence. He’s in control. He knows what He’s doing.

And He looks at our circumstances, our concerns, our anxious fears, and He says, “I’ve got this. I’ve got this. Peace, be still. Take heart, My child, My daughter. I’ve got this.”

Pastor Charlie Dates posted a tweet recently after experiencing a turbulent airline flight, and I thought it fit in well with this subject. He said, 

I’m amazed at how, on a bumpy flight, the pilot’s voice is calm and assured when addressing the passengers. What unnerves us doesn’t seem to bother them. It’s good to have a life captain who’s assured of your safe arrival when life is bumpy.

Isn’t that good? We are not the captain of our own ship or of our own fate. If you’re a child of God, He’s the Captain of your salvation. His providence is overruling and overseeing all that is a part of your life, and He assures you that, even when the ride is bumpy, you’re going to have a safe arrival. So we can trust God to write our story. We can embrace the mysteries of providence.

So I want to ask you, as we’ve been doing throughout this series: What is it that’s the hard thing, the hard part of your story, the hard chapter, the hard paragraph that you’re walking through right now?

A woman came up to me right before this session with tears in her eyes, and she said, 

My dad died a week ago. It all happened quickly in the last few weeks. We were standing around his hospital bed when the end came. I kept saying [and I don’t know if she was saying it out loud or just in her heart, but it was], “God, I trust You. God, I trust You. God, I trust You. God, I trust You.” I thought of that song, “Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus.”

It’s so sweet. Freedom from anxiety, from fear, from worry, from stress, from anger because we know God’s got this. We can embrace the mysteries of His divine providence.

So say about that thing that’s hard in your life right now, “Lord, I don’t understand it. It’s a mystery to me. I don’t know what You’re doing, where You’re going with this, why this would be happening, but I trust You to write my story. I trust that Your watchful care and Your sovereign rule over my life is enough. It’s all I need, and that You’re going to show me how to take the next step. You’re going to show me what I need to know to get through this.”

He may not show you more than that right now, but when you need to know, He will show you. It’s a mystery. It’s unexplained. It’s unknown. It’s puzzlingly unsettled to us until the very end, but not to God. So trust Him. Trust Him to write your story.

Dannah: Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth has been inviting all of us to embrace the mysteries of providence.

She says that folding your story into His story has the potential to reduce your worry and anxiety. To help us explore this topic more deeply, Nancy and Robert Wolgemuth, her husband, have written a new book, You Can Trust God to Write Your Story: Embracing the Mysteries of Providence.

You can get a copy of this book by making a donation to Revive Our Hearts in the month of September. We’ll send it to you as our way of saying, “Thank you for supporting the ministry.”

If you want to give a gift right now, you can go to www.ReviveOurHearts.com, or give us a call at 1–800–569–5959.

During this series, what has the Lord been revealing to you about your story? Nancy’s here to tell us how we can encourage others with what we’ve been learning.

Nancy: Thanks, Dannah.

Well, everyone has a story. God is working in each of our hearts, and we all have something to share. One reason God gives you a story is so others can learn from it and be blessed by it. So I want to encourage you to share how God is working in your life on social media. And when you do, use the #TrustGodToWriteYourStory.

I can’t wait to see all the ways we encourage each other and get a taste of the stories the Lord is telling in the lives of our listeners. Again, that is #TrustGodToWriteYourStory.

Dannah: Today Nancy’s been talking to us about the mystery of God’s providence, the fact that we don’t always understand why He’s writing our stories the way He is writing them. Sometimes, in His plan, He brings along a painful health challenge, and tomorrow we’re going to hear from our friend Kimberly Wagner who is currently learning to trust the mystery of God’s providence as she cares for her husband LeRoy. He’s facing some tremendous physical suffering right now. It’s an interview that will give you much encouragement and hope for your situation.

I’m Dannah Gresh. Please be back tomorrow for Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth wants to help you embrace the mysteries of divine providence. The podcast is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

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