"The doctrine of providence is not a philosophical system but a confession of faith..."
-Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics Vol. 2
It’s Tuesday morning and a wave of nostalgia washes over me as I sit down with the old Campus Crusade for Christ coffee cup to assess the work for the day. Memories of weekly meetings, music, and messages (not to mention late nights at Calvary and McMillans) come flooding back. Images of Bible studies, retreats, and Spring Break trips, faces of friends, mentors, and fellow leaders fill my mind.
When I started at St. Cloud State University, I never would have imagined that I would now be a campus minister in the Christian Reformed Church. I never would have imagined that God would call me to shepherd students in this important time in life, come alongside internationals scholars and their families, provide Christian community for faculty and staff, and train and equip leaders to be sent out as witnesses to Christ and the Kingdom across the country and around the world.
But what washes over me is more than nostalgia. It’s more than the memories of my university years and the ministry I was a part of. Looking at the coffee cup sitting on the table beside the tools of my trade, a Bible, journal, and laptop, I am given a powerful reminder of God’s providence at work in my life: in my spiritual formation at a crucial time, in my calling to ministry, and in finding my wonderful wife, Christina.
These good things all came to me as a result of the almighty and ever present power of God at work in his world and in my life. And yet it was also by his fatherly hand that tough moments were woven into my story and shaped my life. Moments in which I saw old friendships fade, people fall away from faith in Christ, and engaged in difficult conversations with atheists, Muslims, and same-sex attracted individuals (including my father).
Our good God, after creating all things, did not abandon them to chance or fortune but leads and governs them according to his holy will, in such a way that nothing happens in this world without God's orderly arrangement.
-Belgic Confession Art. 13
We all have pictures, objects, and symbols that testify to God’s providence in our lives; his guiding hand, sustaining power, and loving care in bending all things—even sin, evil, and injustice—to work for our salvation and to accomplish his purposes in the world. This coffee cup—my university experience and involvement with Campus Crusade for Christ—is but one in my life. It stands alongside my tattered copy of J.I. Packer’s Concise Theology, a pair of Red Wing boots, and, more recently, a map of the world, as signs that strengthen my faith in the Triune God and help me:
To be patient when things go against me,
thankful when things go well,
and for the future I can have
good confidence in my faithful God and Father
that nothing in creation will separate me from his love.
For I am so completely in God’s hand
that without his will
I can neither move nor be moved.
(Drawn from Heidelberg Catechism Q&A 28)
What are those signs and symbols, images and objects, in your life?