Rainbow Piñata from Rosalee’s 3rd Birthday Party
“God will provide for himself the lamb for the burnt offering, my son,” Abraham replied. The two of them continued on together. (Genesis 22:8)
I have heard the phrase, “God will provide” thrown around a lot. It seems like anyone who isn’t an atheist uses this phrase to provide some droplet of hope to one in dispair (Atheist prefer the phrase, “It will work out”). The problem is that the phrase “God will provide” is so vague I don’t quite understand its intentions or helpfulness. So I thought I would try to break this phrase down the way I did in 5th grade english, with 5 Ws and an H.
Obviously the who is God. God is the one who provides. God is the ultimate source of provision. That is fairly straightforward. If there is anything the phrase “God will provide” clearly communicates, it is this concept of God as provider. Like the verse above where Abraham trusted God to provide an offering, even if that meant the offering was his only son. The problem with people throwing around this term, “God will provide” is that most who use it don’t realize they can be God’s means of provision. Often, we don’t need a miraculous cataclysmic event from God, we need people to hang around us, love us, listen to us, pray for us and walk with us. The thing I hate most about people throwing out the phrase “God will provide” at the sign of any disturbance is that it almost appears as if they don’t want to be a means of hope and peace but rather are trying to remove themselves from the equation of being God’s provision. So yes, God is the one who provides but often, if not almost always, He chooses to use people to do so.
So this is the vague part of the statement. Like Abraham in the verse above we struggle to understand what the provision is going to be. Surely Abraham was thinking the worst, “God’s provision is going to be my son’s death.” If I were Abraham, I am guessing I would have thought something along the lines of, “I don’t want God’s provision, this is ridiculous. Really God you want me to murder the son you gave me?” God’s provision appears insane. The term, “God will provide” requires a supernatural understanding of God’s goodness. If one lacks an understanding of God’s goodness then he will likely only see God as a devil, because sometimes God’s greatest provision comes through excruciating and heart-wrenching circumstances. Abraham used this phrase to bring peace and calm to his son, but often we unintentionally use this phrase to create unnecessary fear in whether or not God will really provide and what He will provide. If you aren’t willing to be one source for God’s provision than don’t tell someone else that God will provide, in doing so you are just breathing out empty words.
Another question that goes unanswered in the phrase “God will provide” is when does this provision come? I am sure Abraham wrestled with the same question. Will God provide before I have to offer my son as a sacrifice or after? Will God provide by keeping my son alive? Or will God provide by helping me deal with the aftermath of my son’s death? Another thing I don’t necessarily prefer about the statement, “God will provide”, is that it neglects God’s provision in history, God’s provision in the moment, and God’s coming provision. God has provided, is providing and will provide. Now that is a statement I can get excited about. God’s provision is not just in the future! He provided the cross, he provided the church, and he promises to provide the calvary when He returns to restore what has been utterly distorted. One thing that is awesome about God is that He is in complete control. Hence, even if we think our circumstances are beyond God’s ability to provide, He can and will put the broken pieces back together. As the story of Lazarus shows, even when everyone thought the circumstance was beyond God’s provision, God provided. Don’t loose hope, grow in perseverance. Just realize you might not find relief until you breath your last or Christ comes back, which ever happens first.
Hopefully in my life. Maybe my previous sentence is comical but don’t we all want God’s provision to be geographically centered in our life. And by provision we really are usually asking for calm, quietude where troubles, problems, and pains are so far aloof they are a distant fragment of our imaginations. But if James 1 means anything than maybe we should pray for painstaking circumstances rather than provision. Let a life of ease be someone else’s lot as we grow through tribulation.
This is a question that I struggle with because there really is no obligation on God to provide. God doesn’t have to provide. Our actions only solidify that God is under no constraint to provide. We willfully walked away from His perfect provision in the garden and we deliberately killed His perfect provision on the cross. If there were any obligation on God to provide (which there isn’t) it would be because He is overly gracious and exceedingly kind. Maybe it is seeing the cup half full verses seeing it half empty, for seeing God as owing us nothing makes the little provisions that we often ignore a little more precious. Even in turmoil don’t forget to see God’s provision, it is there even if it is difficult to see.
Scripture doesn’t really say much on how God will provide, especially when one is looking at the individual rather than the community (Israel or the Church). Again God is under no obligation to provide and likewise there are no rules that govern how He must provide. Nevertheless, God can provide through miraculous events (but miracles are miracles because they are rare, and defy nature), mundane happenings, or anywhere in between if He so chooses. Nevertheless, God loves using His people to provide for other’s needs. This is emphasized throughout scripture, clearly seen in the great commandment where one is charged to love one’s neighbor and also Jesus’ command to love one another (John 13:34-35). We make God look good when we use what God has stewarded us to provide for the needs of others. Personally, the greatest acts of God’s provision in my life have almost always come through the lives of other people.
The question is not whether God will provide (He will!) the question is will you partner with Him?