The Hidden Hand of God’s Providence
We all face difficulties in life – injustice, broken relationships, unrealized dreams. In hard times, it can seem like God is distant or uncaring. But the doctrine of God’s providence gives us hope and reveals His subtle work behind the scenes.
In a recent sermon, pastor Kyle Cunningham explored how providence played out in the lives of Roger Williams and Joseph from Genesis. Their stories show that despite trials, God is actively guiding events for His purposes. Clinging to this truth transforms how we live with hope, trust God daily, and extend forgiveness.
Roger Williams – The Refugee Who Founded Providence
Kyle began with the story of Roger Williams, a Puritan minister who left England to seek religious freedom in America. But his progressive ideas brought him into conflict with authorities in Boston. Advocating fair treatment for Native Americans, denying magistrates’ power over religious matters, and criticizing civil laws that violated conscience didn’t win him many friends among the colonial leadership.
Tensions escalated until Massachusetts authorities decided Williams was a dangerous threat who needed to be arrested and deported back to England. When Williams heard about this, he quickly fled into the wilderness in the dead of winter with a handful of supporters. With little food or shelter, it seemed they would perish.
But God’s providence was at work. The local Wampanoag tribe took pity on Williams and his followers, providing them food and refuge. In gratitude for this undeserved favor, Williams named the town he later founded Providence. He believed God had faithfully intervened to save them.
Providence doesn’t get named for random chance these days. But attributing their deliverance to God’s care shows Williams’ deep trust in God’s subtle direction of events.
Joseph – A Case Study in Hidden Providence
After recounting Roger Williams’ story, Kyle turned to the life of Joseph in Genesis as an even more vivid example of providence at work behind the scenes.
Joseph faced one injustice after another. His jealous brothers despised him and plotted his murder. At the last minute they decided just to sell him into slavery and convince their father he was dead.
In Egypt, Joseph experienced more ups and downs. He was promoted in Potiphar’s house before being falsely accused and imprisoned. Locked away for years, Joseph seemed forgotten and hopeless.
Yet at every tragic turn, Genesis emphasizes God was with Joseph. Though he faced abuse and abandonment, Joseph wasn’t alone – the Lord was guiding him each step, using hardship to place Joseph in positions to eventually save his family.
Unlike other biblical heroes like Daniel who experienced dramatic miracles and daring escapes, God worked quietly in Joseph’s life. No angels broke him out of prison. But the repeated refrain “the Lord was with Joseph” testifies to God’s hidden providence – accomplishing His good purposes in subtle ways.
Hope Amidst Life’s Disasters
After recounting these stories, Kyle reflected on how the doctrine of providence can give us hope and transform our lives.
He acknowledged that Genesis is filled with human brokenness and disaster. From Adam and Eve’s disobedience, to Cain murdering Abel, to the Flood wiping out a corrupted world, to the Tower of Babel rebellion – we see sin, evil, and darkness.
In our world too, it often feels like bad news unfolds every day. Conflict, violence, and selfishness abound. But Genesis reveals a greater reality – even when people fail, God remains faithful to His promises.
God pledged to make Abraham into a great nation who would one day inherit the Promised Land. Despite every obstacle, God fulfilled this through Joseph bringing his family to Egypt. God consistently works through both miracles and quiet providence to keep His covenant.
Therefore, despite bleak circumstances, we can have hope. God weaves even human evil into His mysterious plan for redemption and restoration. He will fulfill His purposes no matter what happens. We can rely on His steadfast faithfulness.
Learning Daily Trust
Besides hope, God’s providence also teaches us trust. Joseph’s life shows that for people of faith, trusting God is not optional – it is an absolute necessity.
When Joseph was thrown into a pit and then prison, he had no control over his fate. His only hope was to trust God for rescue and provision. And though dramatic miracles didn’t come, God sustained him step by step.
Like Joseph, we often wish God would intervene with miracles when life gets hard. But God wants us to learn absolute dependence on Him in all circumstances. Even basic functions like breathing and eating testify that we rely on God’s provision moment by moment. Recognizing this leads to gratitude and trust.
When we face modern “pits” and “prisons” – financial strain, health crises, broken relationships – we can trust God to sustain us. He is ultimately in control, not chance or karma. As Joseph’s story shows, waiting patiently on God’s hidden hand working through any hardship cultivates deep trust.
The Pathway of Forgiveness
Besides inspiring hope and trust, Kyle suggested Joseph’s life also reveals how understanding God’s providence enables forgiveness.
Joseph suffered a grievous injustice when his brothers turned on him. Not only did they sell him into slavery, but they deceived their father into thinking Joseph was dead. Their betrayal was compounded by years separated from family and homeland.
So when Joseph finally gained power over his brothers in Egypt, he was perfectly positioned for retaliation. But rather than vengeance, he forgave. What made this restraint possible? Recognizing God’s hidden hand at work even through others’ sin.
In his moving speech, Joseph told his brothers not to fear, saying “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good.” Though they meant evil, God worked through their jealousy to save lives.
When we grasp this truth, it frees us to forgive those who have wronged us. Their intent may be malicious, but God incorporates even others’ sin into His redemptive plan. This revelation brings healing and the power to extend grace.
Kyle also unpacked key principles for what genuine forgiveness requires:
- It can be requested but never demanded. The offending person must sincerely seek forgiveness.
- The wrongdoing must be acknowledged and not minimized or swept under the rug.
- It’s an ongoing process requiring guidance, counsel, and time to rebuild trust. Expressing instant “cheap forgiveness” without truth and change is not enough.
But when forgiveness happens, lives are transformed. We conquer evil with good, just as Joseph cared for his betraying brothers. God’s powerful providence at work makes restoration possible.
The Hidden Hand at Work Today
In closing, Kyle reminded us that Joseph’s story is also our story. We all experience disappointment, injustice, despair. We cry for God to intervene with dramatic miracles. But the doctrine of providence offers deeper hope and comfort – God is subtly working in every detail for our good.
Though we face trials and tragedies, God has promised to complete His covenant plan to redeem and restore all things. No matter how far we stray, His purposes in sending Jesus will come to pass. Even human evil will not thwart God’s providence.
Therefore, we can live with defiant hope, knowing God’s hand guides the details. We can let go of bitterness and revenge, trusting God to right wrongs in His timing. And we can forgive others as we grasp God’s amazing power to bring good from any circumstance.
The world’s brokenness reminds us we desperately need Jesus to make all things new. But God’s faithfulness displayed through providence points to that glorious day when every tear will be wiped away. No pit or prison can stop God from fulfilling His beautiful plan to dwell with us forever.
In your struggles today, take comfort that His hidden hand holds your life securely. And though you can’t trace His working, know that every detail unfolds under the wing of His steadfast providential care.