Sometimes we don't recognise God's providence in our lives

Fr. Brian Whelan - The Way I See It

Published 19/05/2015 | 00:00

Fr Brian Whelan
Fr Brian Whelan

I heard the following little story a while back, and I think it has an interesting message for all of us.

There was a man that lived in a valley in a little house close by the river. He heard a radio report that the river was going to burst its banks and flood the valley, and that everybody should evacuate as soon as possible. But the man said, 'I'm religious. I pray. God loves me. God will save me.' The waters rose up. A guy in a row boat came along and he shouted, 'Hey, hey you! You in there. The valley is flooding. Let me take you to safety.' But the man shouted back, 'I'm religious. I pray. God loves me. God will save me.' A helicopter was hovering overhead. And a guy with a megaphone shouted, 'Hey you, you down there. The valley is flooding. Let me drop this ladder and I'll take you to safety.' But the man shouted back that he was religious, that he prayed, that God loved him and that God would take him to safety. Well, the waters rose, and the man drowned. And standing at the gates of St. Peter, he demanded an audience with God. 'Lord,' he said, 'I'm a religious man, I pray. I thought you loved me. Why didn't you save me?' And God said to him, 'I sent you a radio report, a rowboat, and a helicopter. What the hell were you expecting?

That little story sums up how we often ask for God's help, then ignore the help that is sent our way-ignore the opportunities that we are given to help ourselves. We sometimes just resign ourselves to the theory that if God loved us, he'd help us, and all the time we miss chance after chance that God sends us, to help us in our need.

There's a difference between coincidence and providence. I believe that coincidence is the word that non-believers use instead of the word providence. Coincidence could be defined as, 'a striking occurrence of two or more events at one time, apparently by mere chance.' On the other hand, Providence could be defined as, 'The foreseeing care and guidance of God or nature over the creatures of the earth.'

A lot of the time we don't recognise God's providence in our lives. But sometimes when we look back we can recognise moments when it was indeed God's providence at work without us even realising it. I'm sure all of us could point to little moments in the past when providence was at work in our lives, incidents where we might have chosen a different path but we're glad we didn't.

It's like the Garth Brooks song, 'Unanswered Prayers' where he sings about a man who runs into his high school sweetheart at a football game in their hometown. As he introduces her to his wife, he reminisces about that past relationship and how he had once prayed that God would make her his forever. He realises that both of them have changed and then looks to his wife and realises that God knew what He was doing all along.

There's many moments too when things went wrong, and badly wrong, that we wonder is there a God at all, and if there is does he care one damn about us. The answers to these moments and questions are hidden from us. In time perhaps we'll understand, but for now we're completely in the dark. And maybe that's for the best, maybe its better that we don't know what's in store for us, because maybe we're not ready or able to handle it.

So as Brooks song says, just remember when you're talking to the 'Man Upstairs', that some of God's greatest gifts, are unanswered prayers.

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