The Power of Providential Thinking

The Power of Providential Thinking January 22, 2024

Léon Pierre Urbain Bourgeois, “Joseph recognized by his brothers,” 1863 {{PD-US-expired}}

This post is about the need for providential thinking. As important as positive thinking can be, all the more important is providential thinking. It makes a keen difference not simply when we take personality tests, but also when we endure tests to our persons in life.

Yesterday marked the third year ‘anniversary’ since our family’s lives were turned inside out and upside down. On January 21st, 2021, we received a crisis call from our son Christopher’s wife Keyonna that Christopher was rushed by ambulance to the hospital where he underwent life-saving brain surgery. I remember that call and the conversations with medical staff and others that evening like it was yesterday—actually, today. It’s strange what the brain recalls and what it blocks out related to trauma.

I often think about that day and its aftermath while going about my daily routine. I can’t block it out, nor do I try to do so. But whenever I think about it, I try to seize the moment to break through the blockage of so many obstacles to find opportunities to flourish by God’s providential love and power. In all honesty, I think my wife and I are stronger mentally than we have ever been, which is quite miraculous and in response to God’s mercy and so many people’s good will, care, and prayers.

Case in point. This past week, I had to complete a personality test for my denomination. Perhaps they picked up on the fact that I lack personality and are trying to assess how large the deficit is in order to construct one for me. This test ‘asked’ me at different points if I felt my life sucked and if I was worse off than many others around me. I answered “no” each time, which was my honest response, but still rather surprising. I am not able to share with you everything that has gone wrong the past three years (or what is wrong with me!). Nor am I able to share with you all the gritty growth that we have experienced as persons. There is not enough time and space in this post!

But here is what I will share with you. A few days after completing the personality test, I was talking with my pastoral counselor and EQ coach, Tom Schiave, affectionally known as my “Italian Godfather.” He’s always doing me “favors” by picking up the phone to listen and impart wisdom to me. I only hope he never calls on me to return the favor, if you know what I mean. Watch “Godfather I” to get my point!

I shared with Pastor Tom how surprised I was by my responses to those personality test items on whether I view my life positively or negatively. Tom and I agreed it wasn’t because I was being dishonest and hiding from reality. Nor was it primarily a matter of the power of positive thinking. Rather, it is primarily the result of the power of providential thinking and the power of forgiveness. If you will allow me, I will try to explain.

Certainly, positive thinking has its place. I seek to look at life as a cup half full rather than cup half empty. That plays a role in looking for the good care Christopher receives from various people in his minimally conscious state. I could fixate on the TBI (traumatic brain injury) and fail to consider the TLC (tender loving care). I have no power to go back in time and safeguard Christopher from enduring the TBI. But I do have the power, ultimately from God, to go forward in time with Christopher and his family in pursuit of meaningful recovery for their lives. Without the tender loving care so many people are providing, my son and his family would never be able to recover.

So, there is some measure of the power of positive thinking in how I am operating. That said, I do not discount all the evil and indifference, pain and suffering. But it must never become my focus where I fixate on these dimensions. If I do allow the power of negative thinking to prevail, it will sap my energy and keep me from doing good in support of Christopher, Keyonna, and their daughter Jaylah.

Certainly, positive thinking, the kind that does not discount or fixate on suffering and evil, is very valuable. However, far more valuable and powerful in my estimation are providential thinking involving God’s tender loving and all-powerful care along with the power of forgiveness. They play the most critical roles in my daily life in supporting my son and his family and in addressing the various other weighty challenges we face presently.

Pastor Tom has often said to me he has never seen someone go through so many challenges all at once over such a lengthy period. But he would also be the first to say that he has no question in his mind that God is more than able to make a way out of no way for us in what we are enduring. I concur.

God’s light and love show up most dramatically amid darkness, hatred, and indifference. To riff off Joseph’s words to his brothers in Genesis 50:20, what people meant for evil, God meant for good for the saving of many lives. Joseph’s brothers had sold him into slavery based on jealousy. Rather than fester bitterness and get even with them, he got better by forgiving them. He didn’t get even. He sought to make whole when he was elevated to Pharaoh’s right hand in Egypt. The outcome was deliverance for his family, and for countless families throughout Egypt and across the known world.

I am looking to see how God is going to work amid these trials and tribulations to bring about much good through his tender loving, all-wise, and powerful care. God has been at work—even three years ago today in saving Christopher’s life that night through emergency surgery. God continues to be at work. As I said to Christopher at his bedside this week, “God spared your life that night for a reason, Christopher.” I am so grateful God did. While I have no idea why God has allowed so much evil, pain and suffering, I also have no idea how God has brought us to this place. It is miraculous! We are not dead or dying. We are gaining more strength for the battle that rages!

Even as I type these lines, I am pounding the keyboard with enthusiasm and energy, confident and expectant that God will bring us through this ordeal somehow and someway for the saving of many lives. In view of this firm hope in the power of providential thinking, I move forward with the power of forgiveness. Forgiveness helps me not to take matters into my own hands, but place everything in God’s hands so that God can take me by the hand and direct my steps to bring about good, not evil.

So, whether I somehow fail the personality test or prove to those testing me that I lack personality, I am confident that God who is so deeply and profoundly personal will make this fourth year of life following the traumatic brain injury a year of much growth personally—for Christopher and for all of us. I am confident God will never fail the providential test. God will continue to make a way out of no way all the way.

About Paul Louis Metzger
Paul Louis Metzger, Ph.D., is Professor of Theology & Culture, Multnomah University & Seminary; Director of The Institute for Cultural Engagement: New Wine, New Wineskins; and the Author and Editor of numerous works. You can read more about the author here.
"Interesting, but I would be careful about accepting Taylor's views on society. They are mostly ..."

Reenchanting Patient Care in a Disenchanted ..."
"Our God is a loving and a caring God. "God keeps saying hello to us, ..."

Stimulate Growth by Grace
"Mary's prophecy is revelatory in a way that all the phony 'pastors' who predict the ..."

Christmas to 2nd Advent: The Austere ..."
"Beautriul. Just beautiful."

Advent: Full of Mixed Emotions

Browse Our Archives