God's Providence — with Aaron Birk

Janet Aucoin May 31, 2024

We welcome special guest, Aaron Birk, to the podcast to talk about the sovereignty and providence of God. In this episode, we talk about this beautiful, theological topic that can be difficult to grasp. We answer some of the big questions about God’s sovereignty.

Aaron is the pastor of global missions for Faith Church and Pastor of Faith West Ministries. Aaron oversees Faith Church West, international student and family ministries, missionaries, and short-term missions. Aaron is married to Tirzah and has four children.

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Joyful Journey Podcast is a ministry of Faith Bible Seminary. All proceeds go to offset costs of this podcast and toward scholarships for women to receive their MABC through Faith Bible Seminary.


Episode Transcript



The Humbling of Job - Craig Svensson

The Providence of God - Paul Helm

Providence - John Piper

Systematic Theology - Wayne Grudem

Christian Theology - Millard Erickson

The Mystery of the Providence - John Flavel


I Sing the Mighty Power of God

Be Still My Soul


Apologetics 2: Science - Joyful Journey


Biblical Counseling Training Conference


Read Through the Scripture Challenge 2024


Jocelyn: I don't just need to feel better. I need the truth. And ultimately that will make me better.

Janet: I just want to make it as totally simple as possible for ladies to see that the Bible is really applicable to their everyday life.

Jocelyn: When they understand theology, the application flows out of it quickly with joy.

Janet: It is a journey, but even the journey itself is joyful when I'm doing it, holding the hand of my savior and trusting him all along the way. This is the joyful journey podcast, a podcast to inspire and equip women to passionately pursue beautiful biblical truth on their journey as women of God. When you choose truth, you're choosing joy.

Janet: Okay, welcome back. I'm Janet, once again, here with my trusty cohost, Jocelyn.

Jocelyn: Hey, friends.

Janet: And I'm going to ask Jocelyn to intro a special guest that we have here today, Pastor Aaron Birk. Because he is here because Jocelyn was so excited and said, we have to have him.

Jocelyn: I was. I am. I get passionate about something.

Janet: No way.

Jocelyn: And I am so excited to have Pastor Birk on the show today to talk about the topic of the providence of God. So Brian, my husband, and I were privileged to learn about this topic from him when we sat in on one of his Wednesday evening classes on this topic last year, I think it was a really challenging class, not because Pastor Birk is demanding. He's he could say the most difficult things with a huge smile on his face and be very kind, but the topic is difficult. It's difficult to understand. And then when you begin to understand it, it's difficult to come to terms with, and I was like, yeah, it was hard to come to terms with. So when I think about the providence of God, I very quickly jumped to the sovereignty of God in my mind. And I spent years wrestling with the sovereignty of God. I felt like I'd come to a really good place with that. It's hard to handle. But overall, it's super comforting to know that God is the King, who rules overall for His divine purposes. So I was actually surprised in this class with Pastor Birk to find that sovereignty and providence are not the same thing. And to be honest, I remember leaving the first class. I was annoyed, actually, because the first class we learned what providence was and how God enacts it in the world. And I was not quickly comforted by the providence of God, like I would have been like about the hesed God, love of God, or gentleness of God. Providence was a concept I had to really wrestle with, and it like humbly bend my knee to. So after I sat through that first class, I was bothered by it. At the end of the series of classes, I was like, Janet, everyone needs to hear about this. We need to train every women's worker. We need to bring every women's leader, every Bible study, every mentor.

Janet: So we've gone from not sure how I feel about it to everyone in the world must know.

Jocelyn: So I'm so excited that our listeners get to hear about this today.

Janet: So Pastor Birk, why don't you get us started, introduce yourself to our JJP listeners, and then if you could share with us why this topic fascinated you enough to study it and put together a class on it.

Aaron: Oh, absolutely. Thank you again for having me join today. I'm thankful for Joyful Journey Podcast. My wife, especially, she's an avid listener to this podcast and is blessed and encouraged by it as well.

Jocelyn: And she was a guest.

Janet: A shout out.

Aaron: Yes. My wife, Tirzah Birk. Shout out.

Jocelyn: She was a guest when we did a series on science. We can link that in the show notes, but you can go back and listen to her talking about something she loves.

Aaron: Yes, absolutely. And she's an excellent teacher and very thankful to be married to her. My name is Aaron Birk and I have the privilege to be one of the pastors here at Faith Church. I have the privilege to serve just in missions working with international students here at Purdue University.

Janet: Yes.

Aaron: I love being over, especially on Sundays, I'm usually at our Faith Church West campus, working there, which is very close to the university. And I have a privilege also serving with Faith Bible Seminary. I'm a graduate of Faith Bible Seminary which is again, a seminary here at our local church and so very thankful. Currently I guess what sparked my interest a little bit in this topic is working on a doctorate in systematic theology. And this is one of the areas of study especially under the doctrine of God. And so what we believe about God and his relationship to creation and I'm writing the area I'm hoping to focus on is in disability studies. And so this is an area, as you think of God's care and why, how He upholds even people with disabilities, why He upholds them and keeps them in a disability for their life. And so really just wrestling with those topics was what brought about this. Our youngest son has special needs and I wanted to further study providence with those with disabilities in the scripture. And this is, I think one of those topics that I think is especially precious. I remember with our son, we went to one of the doctors who was seeing him, he has a very rare genetic disorder and said, there's nothing you did, but this is really bad luck. And as you think about again.

Janet: How hopeless would that be?

Aaron: Yeah, again, and you think about but there's a view of how he thinks about God's work or lack of work in the world. But what struck me about that statement is he did not believe that God had a marvelous purpose for why he would permit our son's disability. And I think that's where providence gives so much comfort and hope. There's purpose and there's care behind what God is doing.

Janet: I love that. And just seeing as we've watched your family walk through that and just your love for your precious son and seeing how God, one of the many thousands of things He might be doing through this is giving you a desire to learn more about this subject, which blesses so many of God's people in a way that you might not have been as drawn to otherwise and I think that's beautiful.

Jocelyn: So Pastor Birk, what exactly do you mean by the providence of God? Tell us, what is it? What are its main components?

Aaron: Yeah. Great question. If you go try to look in your Bible and look up the word providence in the scriptures, you're really not going to find that word used. But I think the concept about what we mean by the word providence is everywhere in the scriptures. And so I'm going to define it in the sense that providence it's God's almighty power to purposely preserve and govern all things for His glorious purposes. And so we usually will separate this topic out from, in most theology books will be different than just the initial act of creation, and so that'll usually be a section. And then usually they'll talk about providence after the fact of creation, God creating everything out of nothing, and then now what He does toward His creation now is really talking about the area of providence. But they're very closely related. And again, a little bit distinction many times between what we mean by just God's sovereignty and how He preserves and upholds and things, but very connected to those ideas.

Janet: So how do we reconcile then the presence and the problem of evil in a world if it's providentially governed by a good God?

Aaron: Yeah, and again, this is one of those topics that I think we just have to approach people. Many times people asking this questions is because they're significant suffering. Those we love are experiencing suffering and there's the logical tension when we mean the problem of evil, there's the emotional tension that people experience following the truths affirmed in scripture. But what we mean by problem of evil, we read and believe that the scripture is tell us that God is all good. He's all loving. We believe that throughout all the scriptures, we see God is all wise. He's all powerful. And then we are confronted with the reality that evil exists. You see the suffering, we see the moral evil and not just sinful evil of people's choices, but even the consequences of sin and how it affects even this creation, natural evils like tsunamis, droughts, hurricanes, et cetera. And so we encounter these things, we experience these things. Everybody lives out and understands that this is here. And yet, how do I see what is clearly affirmed in scripture over and over again about God's character, about God's power, God's wisdom, and yet then wrestle with this reality? And so the ways that scripture say we really reconcile this is through faith. It's through personal dependence on God. And again, God's purpose and His ultimate purpose is for us to see His glory and to praise Him and to see that He's holy and to see that He's set apart. And when we approach this question, I think in our own suffering, we want to see suffering resolved. We want to see an answer for suffering. And yet the goal behind what God is doing and our goal can be very different. Where our goal is I want this to go away without somehow appreciating more of the glory of God, or I want this to go away without seeing somehow God's character and so still very much I'm at the center. And so remembering God's ultimate purposes, even through suffering, et cetera are for us to worship Him and to praise Him. And that's why I think this is such an important topic as we think about reconciling how God's word tells we reconcile. It leads to the goal of us glorifying Him and seeing that but some unbiblical ways that people try to, I think, reconcile with the problem of evil is they're going to deny or contradict what the Bible clearly teaches about the nature of God, that God is all knowing, He's omniscient.

Janet: Yeah.

Aaron: And so some might say God really doesn't know all these bad things will happen. His knowledge is somehow limited it, He only knows it when humans decide it. And I didn't think that's a portrait at all of what the scriptures would paint about our God. Or they'll deny God's omnipotence that God really is not all powerful. So He's somehow limited in His power. His hands are almost like tied to what is happening on this earth. And again, as we see, even in the scriptures, even the greatest suffering of the son of God on the cross. Is the predetermined plan of God, right? And Jesus is in control of all the details that people need to crucify Him. And He's in control of giving up His own life, right? Nobody takes it from Him. And so there's we can't deny in any way God's not all powerful or His holiness that He set apart. He's no other. And so we approached this problem wanting God to be like me, right? That's how I'm going to reconcile it. Unless God is like me, thinks like me, acts like me. Responds like me, how I would do in these certain situations and suffering. Therefore I'm not gonna believe God, trust God, but God wants me to know He's set apart. He's in a category all His own as the creator and me as a creature, right? I just always have to remember that distinction, but some people want to reconcile it by trying to minimize that distinction of a God's holiness.

Janet: I think that's really interesting because how often have we thought, " I would never do that". And so since I can't see a reason for it that would make it right in my mind, therefore I can't trust God because I've never thought about that's me saying God should be like me, which instead of if He's holy, of course He's not like me. And then when you talked about our goal, if my overarching goal was the glory of God and worshiping Him, I think I would think very differently about suffering. And that, so that's fascinating that I come with those preconceived agenda in my head, maybe not always consciously and then it impacts my ability to learn.

Aaron: Yes. And then there's other ways that I think people respond with an unbiblical view. They think about the nature of humanity, right? That there is they want to minimize personal responsibility for evil, minimize sin and its effects on this creation by really not thinking of natural disasters or not thinking of people's choices in the terms of even moral evil. And that somehow rectify situations for them. And again, as or even the reality of spiritual forces of darkness to minimize spiritual forces of darkness to minimize Satan's activity in the world. So we as Christians understand and affirm those things and we have to according to the scriptures and those all have a part in the broader conversation of the question of God's relationship to creation and in evil. And and then as Christians, we hope ultimately in the establishment of Christ's kingdom, a new heaven, a new earth. And so God does have plans and purposes as answers for how He's going to deal with sin and the curse of sin in this world. That's wonderful hope and God wants us to be filled with hope and He gives us answers and He gives us purpose that we need that's sufficient for us to trust. We often talk about we can apprehend, we can know what God wants us to know that He says is most important for us to live in a way that pleases Him. Even though I don't believe that comprehend everything and I never will as a creature because I am a creature. I'm not God. I'm not all knowing. And so we have to, I think, trust, right? You're trusting God and His character that he sees and understands things that I do not as His creature.

Jocelyn: I think it's so helpful because so often when I'm in a situation that's hard or I feel like I'm suffering, like literally often my only goal is getting out.

Janet: Yes.

Jocelyn: Like it's not oh, how can I see and understand God more deeply so I can worship Him more greatly? It's stop it. Get this thing done. And so it's helpful to have that reminder. The point of my suffering and the point of the presence of evil is that I would know God more, that I will worship Him more honestly. It's overwhelming to my brain.

Aaron: Yeah. Yeah. And again, part of God's, His providence, His care, His mind, His thought to know what we actually need as His creatures to see, to understand even better than we do. And it's a precious comfort.

Jocelyn: And as He's unrolling His sovereign plan for the universe for eternity, like He's the only one capable of seeing how what happens in 2000 will affect something in 3053, if we all live that long and the world is around that long or how things that happened in the BC time would unroll to be what is affecting us now in the church age. It's like only God can have the comprehension to be able to unroll what's best, including the presence of evil in the world.

Aaron: Yeah. And only God has the power to bring about many times the justice, the longing of our heart when we see the evil, to think about what I'm actually unable to change my circumstances by my own power. I'm unable to bring about even justice that I may want and long for. And to think who actually has the power, right? As God reminds Job to make the nations of the earth lick the dust, so to speak, and helping to bring about justice to bring judgment. We often sing in our worship, right? Who is worthy to take the scroll and you read that, but the whole point is, yeah, who can actually rightfully judge all the various forms of evil, the complexity of evil, the consequences of evil, and has the power to judge it rightly. It's tough. If you're in a management role of any kind in this world, thinking about how do you make decisions and all kinds of the complexity of situations of suffering. It's an incredible, incredible responsibility, incredible job. And only the Lord has the power to do that.

Janet: And when I think about, He has that kind of power. But because I don't understand it, how can I trust if His way that I bring Him glory or learn to worship Him is horrifically painful? How can I trust the heart behind that? And I can't get away from the cross. Like, how do I look at the cross and come to any other conclusion but that He was willing to do that because it was best for my soul. So anything else that He allows. He's choosing to use His power for what's best for my soul. That's amazing.

Jocelyn: It’s awesome.

Aaron: Yeah.

Jocelyn: So what are some of the key biblical passages on this topic teach us about God's governance?

Aaron: Yeah. There's a lot of scriptures we can go to, you think about God's governance and care for even small details in life. Some of our favorite passages, many times when we're worried and we're overly concerned about things that sometimes we're not even in control of, Jesus says look at the birds of the air, right? They do not so the reap or gather into barns yet your heavenly father cares for them really not care for you, right? That's a passage that shows the beauty of God's care for even the little details of life, but then, God's Providence and care is throughout the scriptures described in lots of different ways. There's texts that really talk about all the sort of the whole spectrum of areas of life that God has control and order and purpose for an example, Deuteronomy 32:39, see now that I am he, and there is no God besides me. It is I who put to death and give life, right? So that bring a death and giving life, that whole spectrum and He goes, I've wounded and it is I who heal and there's no one who can save anyone from my hand. So again, we just think about God's governance over. Every sort of spectrum of our life, He is in control over and cares about. And then again, you could go to lots of verses for 1 Samuel 2:6 the Lord brings death makes alive. He brings down to the grave. He raises up. He sends poverty and wealth. He humbles and He exalts. Or Lamentations 3:37, who can speak and have it happen. If the Lord has not decreed it, it is not from the mouth of the Lord, most high that both calamities and good things come or Isaiah 45 :5-7. I am the Lord. There is no other apart from me. There is no God. I will strengthen you though you have not acknowledged me so that from the rising of the sun to the place of its setting, people may know that there is none beside me. I am the Lord and there is no other. I form the light and create darkness. I bring prosperity and create disaster. I the Lord do all these things.

Janet: Wow.

Jocelyn: Those are really helpful. And the part that was so hard for me in that class, I was just thinking back like, what was so hard about that class? It was the concept that God brings both calamity and good. God chooses. He chooses to allow Hitler to grow in power and take over Germany. He allowed, it wasn't that He looked the other way while it was happening. He chose that for how the world would work. And that is just hard to swallow.

Janet: Yes.

Jocelyn: Hard.

Janet: Which leads to really, and we've hinted around it, but how does the providence of God interact with an impact human suffering in the world like that?

Aaron: Yeah. And when I think of the human suffering, all of us are going to suffer, Jesus says, right in this world is a promise you're going to have tribulation, so you can't escape it. And so when I think of the comfort of purpose, we're at Providence of God, I think reminds me of purpose amidst my suffering. The Providence of God is going to help me also to then think about how the care in which God is actively showing His character in my life, even through all kinds of suffering that I'm going to encounter, He's not changing in His character and that's an incredible hope. And often when I'm meeting with people who are suffering in significant ways there's things about God's character and about God's word that I really want them to cling to in the valley of suffering, right? That God controls both good and evil, right? That this is not random. And it's not like God doesn't have power over the situation to purpose it for His good, ultimate ends. And so really resting in that, that God is in control. And so you can, again, think about if it's not God in control, then what are the other options on the table? They're even scarier.

Janet: None of them are good.

Aaron: Yeah. No, it meaning if I'm believed that I'm the one ultimately who should be in control, I'm going to be put in situations in my life that I just don't have the power to change circumstantially, people, et cetera. And yet God wants me to remember He's in control of both good and evil. So when I encounter good, I'm rejoicing in the Lord's grace. When I'm countering evil, I'm looking for opportunities to see God's character and how much I need to depend on Him. I'm finding God's promises more precious for how He's going to put an end to evil and suffering and the new creation. And so I want them to especially understand that point, that God's word tells them God's in control, but the character that God is wholly good, He's in no way evil. God reminds Abraham, will not the judge of all the earth do right? And so we can trust that God is right. That in Him, as John says, 1 John, there is no darkness at all. And while it's hard for me to comprehend how God is the creator at times uses and upholds and sustains and purposes His creation for His good, glorious ends and suffering is a part of that evil is a part of that. And yet I can trust that He is in no way corrupted. He is in no way morally evil as He's doing these things. And that's a comfort versus when I think of any other thing in creation, any other. So if I'm thinking it's just natural consequences just natural evil in this world, and there's nobody behind it where, how is their purpose? What is? There's no intent right of character behind these actions. And so it's a great comfort, I think, focusing on those two aspects.

Janet: I agree. And I think though, as you were talking, I'm like, okay, there's something inside us that is but that's not fair. And I was just recently reading the book, The Humbling of Job and the phrase that came to me is, I think, how many of us still live in the view of God that's reward retribution?

Jocelyn: Oh yeah, totally.

Janet: So if there is suffering, then God is mad at me, or what have I done wrong? Or if I do this, then God has to do So when I have that wrong view of God And I am suffering horribly, then I'm mad at him, or I'm trying to figure out what I did wrong, but that's a wrong view of God I'm bringing to the picture. And I think suffering will expose a lot of our wrong views. And then I don't find comfort in His providence because I'm thinking He's mad at me.

Jocelyn: And I think one thing to expect for our listeners is that as you start to understand the providence of God more, it will feel very raw. Wow, this is an uncomfortable place for me to be sitting right now to know that God did sovereignly organize this. And it wasn't accidental and he wasn't looking the other way. It's raw. It's going to hurt while you sit in there, but the end result is a comfort that will last all other earthly comforts that will outlast any other reasoning that we could come up with.

Aaron: And that's where I think it's very comforting when we're struggling to wrestle with the control piece or God's activity, and you look to our savior, right? And as Jesus is teaching about what He's about to do to His disciples, His suffering, His betrayal, His abandonment them. He's going to be crucified and He's going to raise, right? He's in control of all these details and the disciples, what's their response? It can't be.

Janet: May it never be.

Aaron: They can't reconcile the thought that such a righteous, powerful Messiah would do this. Suffer at the hands of evil men.

Janet: They don't have a category for that.

Aaron: Meaning and yet this is what actually is displaying. God's love. And as you see Jesus moving forward, He's out in front, right? Marching toward Jerusalem as the disciples are right following in the back and He's focused and they're all afraid, right? Look at the suffering coming, and it's who's going to be suffering more? And I think that helps me at times when when I'm going through suffering is to remind myself that God who is telling me these things is the God, who has humbled Himself by sending His right by taking on human flesh right in living among us and sympathizing with us in our weaknesses and temptations yet doing without sin. And so He knows the temptation. It is to curse God. He knows the temptation. It is right externally for in all these ways to respond in a sinful way. And yet you see a God who loves and forgives and shows compassion all the while dealing with the problem of evil on the cross for us. And I think that is just incredible comfort as you see God's control, Jesus's control, and when you see it in Jesus's life lived out, it's beautiful, amidst all the suffering, amidst all the evil and that helps me

Janet: And almost I see it more because of the evil and the suffering. I see His glory more.

Jocelyn: This is making me want to respond well when life is hard, like I want to remember this. I want to look for the providence of God. I want to see His character and it's reminding me of Mary, the mother of Jesus. It was announced that she would carry the Messiah. And her response was, I am your humble servant. And then she responded with a magnificat, which is at this endless litany of God's character and why she could choose to trust what would undoubtedly ruin her life. Humanly speaking, would ruin her existence.

Janet: That’s right.

Jocelyn: And what came from that ruinous decision is the salvation of mankind. And so I want to respond like that. So it's empowering and encouraging if I can keep my head wrapped around it correctly. James 5:11 teaches us that we count those blessed who endured. You have heard of the endurance of Job and I've seen the outcome of the Lord's dealings that the Lord is full of compassion and is merciful. So what does Job's story in the scripture teach us about God's Providence?

Aaron: Yeah. I love that verse because it reminds us you read Job chapters one and two and you see just such incredible suffering in the life of Job. He loses family. The suffering and temptation from his wife to curse God and die. As you think about the physical suffering of boils on his body. He gets incredible suffering and men, there's people in this world who've experienced credible suffering. And I think when you can point them to example like job, they go, I see myself, but he seems like he suffered even more than me.

Janet: Yep.

Aaron: But in to see that there's purpose though, right? So God, what I love about that verse, the outcome of God's dealings with Job. As you read toward the end of Job, God is His merciful character, His compassion to restore to Job. And as Christians, we understand the full restoration, right? What we long for and hope for is coming in the new heaven, the new earth, the new creation is even better than the compassion and mercy that we see just illustrated in just the material restoration in some ways of Job's flocks and herds. Seeing in the story of Job, I think you, one that's encouragement for us about God's Providence is He's in control over things like Satan.

Janet: Yes. Praise God.

Aaron: That God knows more than Satan does. He knows Job will pass the test. He knows when he's tested. He is a righteous man and Job, God's declaration of Job as a righteous man has proved to be true in how he responds in faith. And so I think that's a great comfort of God knows and is more powerful, but is in control of Satan and proves Himself to be not a liar as Satan would I think accuse a God of that. That he really doesn't know Job and Job only loves Him because He blesses him basically has provided a hedge of protection around him. And so I think that's an incredible reality of Providence in that story is the secondary, we might call it causes of suffering in our life, right? The Satan is going out and you see the fire from heaven. You see the Sabians coming and taking away Job's things. And you're supposed to see, I think all of these other things like the Sabians, et cetera, coming are result in some ways of the activity of Satan in creation and with his creatures. And that's one thing about the story I think that is highlighted about God's providence. And yet how God is caring for Job throughout all of this. For Job to see things about God and His character that God wants Job to see. And we see things about Job's character that God wants us to see that is going to be, as James says, God is purposing even Job's life for Christians and generations of believers who are coming after. For James says to be encouraged by his example of perseverance.

Jocelyn: It’s amazing.

Aaron: Right? His suffering, I don't think Job probably when he's going through suffering is thinking my story is going to be told to all Christians of all times, as an example of encouragement. But there's incredible purpose behind God's providential care there.

Jocelyn: That’s amazing.

Janet: As I was reading that, cause you have to wrestle with God is the one who starts it.

Aaron: Yeah.

Janet: As I was reading that, cause you have to wrestle with God is the one who starts it.

Jocelyn: Yeah.

Janet: Look at Job. And so then there's this, what is he like a puppet? And he's using him to show him and then to see in the end, because honestly, as I read James 5:11, just this year, I thought when I think of the book of

Jocelyn: Yeah.

Janet: That's what I'm supposed to see. And then as I think about the book, it is God who started that. And then he gave Job the painful privilege. When I look at the end of it, not only does Job know God better, Job. is able to intercede for his friends. His friends know God better. I'm going to suggest most likely his wife knows God better. And to think I'm confident that Job would look back at that now and just say, totally worth it. And to think that's what God was doing. Satan thought he was getting the upper hand. God's letting me do this. And really God used Satan to strengthen God's people.

Jocelyn: That’s amazing.

Janet: To love Him better and know Him more. And Satan was the puppet in that. And that's amazing to me. And it allows me to begin to understand the beauty of His providence.

Aaron: Yeah. And encourages us, I think as Christians, as you are suffering, To think the care of God to use me as a demonstration of His power and His mercy, His compassion, His grace that's going to be manifested in my weakness as I suffer like Job. And I think that is an incredible comfort and gives you incredible focus amidst your suffering. That this isn't meaningless, that there's all kinds of things that God is doing here out of His care to show His glory. And I want to be actually looking out for those things in my suffering and not trying to ignore.

Janet: Yeah.

Jocelyn: One of the things that's so overwhelming about the book of Job is how long it is and how full of terrible stuff in it.

Janet: Right. It wasn't a four chapter book.

Jocelyn: It was not. It's not like Ruth. But I think that's helpful because what God wants us to come away is the Lord is full of compassion and is merciful. And you experience that end as you also walk through the reality of the pain with Job.

Janet: Yes.

Jocelyn: That it wasn't quick, it wasn't light, it wasn't easy. It changed his entire world and his entire life. And we're at privilege to see how raw and difficult that actually was as it validates our own suffering. We're not supposed to be so pious as we look at our suffering and say, oh, God is providential. He's unfolding the creation of the governance of the creation of the world. Like we're walking through pain and also relying on God's governance.

Janet: Which leads me to actually, okay, then what are ways that we should or should not respond when we can't comprehend the good and wise purposes of God in our own affliction or evil?

Aaron: Yeah. From Job's example, right? The, one of the should nots is we don't want to be the type that curse God, right? For evil that occurs in our life and assigning Him as a moral evildoer. God only does what is right. And so we have to be careful. And what's so great about that example in Job's life is we can think, I need to know in order to respond in a way. If I don't know all the intricacies of the details of this sin and suffering in my life, if I don't understand why this happened in a particular way, that is what I absolutely need to respond righteously. And you look at Job's example in the first two chapters for how he responds so righteously amidst his suffering.

Janet: And he has no idea.

Aaron: And he doesn't.

Jocelyn: We have no indication that he ever finds out.

Aaron: About whether or not, how this whole interchange with Satan was occurring. And that's what's amazing is it's just an encouragement to us. I think to think, oh, I actually, I might think I need to know some certain particulars about a certain situation of sin or suffering in my life in order to respond righteously. And Job shows I don't have to curse God in this moment, even when I don't fully understand.

Janet: Yeah.

Aaron: I don't have to curse God. That's a great encouragement. I don't have to blame him. The aspect of, I think there's a common temptation to doubt and to want, to despair. And so thinking in those moments, I need to be reminded of God's wisdom. I need to be reminded of precious promises of God's power. His abiding love. And those are truths that we see the psalmist are regularly preaching to their heart while they're fighting despair and they're fighting the why question. And they're doubting and they're questioning God's goodness of whether or not it's failed. Whether or not his love will remain. And I think that's again, a reminder for us not to neglect God in this whole thing because of confusion or frustration that we experienced in the midst of affliction to want to distance ourself and really not think about God because it's hard but actually you need to be drawing near to God in that suffering.

Janet: Yeah.

Aaron: Rather than trying to distance yourself from the character of God in His work, but instead to be even more so looking for His character on display, looking for ways He's at work in this suffering and not trying to minimize or neglect God in the picture or to in any way absolve God from His ultimate responsibility as being in control. He is. All that is happening in the Lord, there is purpose and devastation, calamity, evil. I want to make sure that I'm viewing God rightly as still in control and He's sovereign and he is good. And I think those are important aspects to be thinking about in Job's situation.

Jocelyn: I think it's so helpful to not to know that I don't need to understand God. But then I understand God then I can view my circumstances. And I think it's so easy when we get in the middle of hard stuff, we start judging who is God really based on how this has unfolded. And that's a terrible way to understand God. We understand God through His word, not through what is happening in our life. And it helps us to go into a difficult experience with more hope and purpose and power and strength because we're trusting in God like Mary, that example of Mary, like we are His humble servants. We understand His character better because of this thing.

Aaron: Yeah, absolutely. And appreciating God's character of seeing I think when you're suffering is not the primary lens in which you're thinking about everything in your life right now, you're going to be looking and seeing actually all kinds of ways. The psalmist says in Psalm 42, by day, you're right. You're directing your loyal love toward me. There's all kinds of Providence. It's so amazing. Every aspect of my life. So yeah, even though I'm experiencing even the pains of boils, God's still upholding my legs and God's still allowing me to speak and God's still allowing me to see. And you just start, when I start thinking about God's care for so many details, so many facets of every part of His creation, you start to see His kindness just in so many ways that helps you. It helps you to trust even though when I can't see all the good things that what God is doing right now, but if I look outside of my present suffering, there's so many other good things. Praise God that my worship and my life is not dependent just on me and my experiences in life that I can rejoice because of what God is doing in other people's life. Even though I'm experiencing incredible suffering, that there's ways God's goodness is at work

Janet: As you're talking, I'm just thinking, so what blinds us so that we're unable to do what you just said? Because what you just said is beautiful, but that's not my typical go to. And what blinds I think is, what surfaces is, what is it that I'm really living for that's not worshiping God? Because if what I'm really living for is protecting myself from pain, now I can't trust God. Because He didn't promise me that and now He's not good and now I'm terrified of everything now I'm exactly what you said not to do. I'm distancing myself from God.

Aaron: Yeah.

Janet: Because I only trust me and I think so what it does is surface in me what I'm living for that's not God. And I need to see that as a mercy because now I can deal with that, if I'm willing.

Jocelyn: One of the things that you mentioned is like the need to understand. That's what comes up in me is what boils up in my heart is I can deal with this as long as I can understand what God is doing. As long as I see.

Janet: As long as it makes sense to me.

Jocelyn: He has a purpose.

Janet: That I agree with.

Jocelyn: I'll grind through this. It's okay, I will evaluate God's actions based on what I think is appropriate.

Janet: Yes.

Aaron: Yeah. And I lovingly joke with my wife sometimes, cause we, even as we think about the new heavens and the new earth and the new creation, there's the longing of then I'll understand. And then you go, but what if God doesn't want to tell you?

Janet: I feel fair.

Aaron: Yeah. There's a part of that says we're still never the Creator, right? We're still never right omniscient in the same way that God is, we're still creatures. And that's a hard thing to wrap our mind around, even as we think about glorified bodies being in the glorified state that He is still God.

Jocelyn: But so often. It's so true.

Janet: I don't become God.

Aaron: Yeah. Yeah. I don't become God when I go to heaven.

Jocelyn: My hope is in the new heavens and new earth, the passage that says the truth will be screamed up from the rooftops.

Aaron: Yeah.

Jocelyn: Then I'll know! I need to know!

Janet: And here's what the truth is probably. You'll never get it. That'll be the truth.

Aaron: God is so good where Jesus reveals so many purposes, so many ways He's at work, so many ways that He is good. We have so many reasons God is telling us and revealing all kinds of things He's doing through suffering and yet I still don't know every single one of those. But yeah, it gets back to, yeah, when you're dependent on the Lord as His creature, there's a great trust and freedom. I don't actually have to know.

Janet: If it's good for me, then I will know it. And if it's not best for me, I don't need to know

Jocelyn: And if I'm idolatrous, you idolatrously worshiping a desire to know, I probably need to give it up.

Aaron: We need to give it up, but God's still worthy to be worshiped even if He doesn't tell me why.

Jocelyn: I do so appreciate though, at your very first answer talking about how the providence of God is related to God as our Creator because He is our Creator, He gets to organize all of this the way He thinks is best to go. And so we're trusting in the Creator that made us, which we had no, no oversight over no ability to impact. Like God allowed me to be created for my parents for whatever purpose He allowed that to happen. And He's unfolding it because He is our creator.

Janet: Yeah.

Aaron: Yeah. And it's just, the power of God, it just, it should lead us to praise and to worship. That this is just God's character, irrespective of what He is doing in creation. He's always worthy of worship just for who He is. He's always worthy of praise just for who He is. And at times knowing that how God sees, how God is acting is such a comfort. I think of when the Israelites come back into the promised land and the rebuilding and Ezra's reading the law and the people are struggling as they're looking at the temple and it's nothing like the glorious temple that they saw before coming. And I just remember that phrase the joy of the Lord will be your strength, right? As the people are mourning, what's He helping? You need to be praising, right? You need, God gives you the strength to respond as He wants you to. Because of His response like how does God feel about what He's doing right now? He's pretty happy.

Jocelyn: Yeah.

Aaron: Right? And so even though they weren't in that moment responding because of what was happening I think in the way that God would want it to that the joy of the Lord was their strength and I think that's getting back to the character of God. If we're depending on God and His character that's where there's so much comfort is because that His character is not changing, we know it over and over in the scripture, how He reveals Himself to be and that's the anchor of our soul.

Jocelyn: This keeps making me think of Philippians 2:13, for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work according to His good pleasure. Like He is making us want to do the things that He wants us to do to accomplish His good pleasure. It's so cool. It's so encouraging. And in our class, you referred to a couple of really cool hymns that have been written to help us understand this really complex topic better. Can you tell us about some of those hymns?

Aaron: Sure. Yeah. I love hymns. I love reading. I'm a history guy. And so I love reading old hymnal books and histories of hymns and things like that. But again, one of the ones that I love about the providence, "I Sing the Mighty Power of God", talks about again this element of God's care and His creation and His power. I'll read some of the verses here. We sing the mighty power of God that made the mountains rise, that spread the flowing seeds abroad and built the lofty skies. We sing the wisdom that ordained the sun to rule the day. The moon shines full at His command and all the stars obey. We sing the goodness of the Lord that filled the earth with food. He formed the creatures with His word and then pronounced them good. Lord, how your wonders are displayed wherever we turn our eyes. If we survey the ground, we tread or gaze upon the skies there's not a plant or flower below but makes your glories known and clouds arise and tempest blow by order from your throne. While all the borrows life from you is ever in your care and everywhere that we can be, you, God, are present there.

Jocelyn: That's so beautiful. That's so beautiful.

Janet: We will link in the show notes a YouTube video to each of these hymns as well.

Aaron: Yeah, that's one of, again, one of the ones that just worship as you just think of His order for all of these things, even the concurrence. We talk about concurrence. God is not only actively upholding these things, but keeping even ordering the properties of the creative, the forces in the world, right? The creative things that we study in science that He is upholding those very things while also ordering them and purposing them.

Jocelyn: That’s crazy.

Janet: I know.

Aaron: All at the same time.

Janet: What?

Aaron: And as I taught a lecture at the BCTC on food, right. And it's a reminder again, that God gives us food as a gift and food sustains life only in the sense that God upholds it to, right? So your food only gives nourishment to your body if God is upholding your body to take in that nourishment. To many of us who have loved ones, we've been with them in their last days, it's not that they had a lack of food.

Janet: Right. Food was not enough.

Aaron: That's not where our life is found. It's actually in the upholding of this whole thing brings us.

Janet: Wow.

Jocelyn: That's so cool. I appreciate hearing that hymn as a poem, although I'm not a huge poem girl. I appreciate hearing the words outside of the music because sometimes the old hymns, the oldness of the music is eh, but when you hear the words, it's that is beautiful. That's art. That is so precious.

Aaron: And "Be Still My Soul" is one of my favorite hymns And there's a part in the line where it talks about even though all is veiled within the veil of tears, right? And just a reminder of when dearest friends depart, right? And he talks about through the sufferings of our life, it's like a veil of tears. I just love that imagery. It's like a veil of tears. But then it says, thou shall know now better his love, his heart, who comes to soothe your sorrows and your fears. The same, and he goes on in the hymn to talk about He's the one who rules the waves while He dwelt below in the grave, right? That's your Savior. That's your Heavenly friend is the one who has that type of power while He's even suffering and dying, right? For us on our in the sins. As God, He's still upholding the world by the

Janet: It's giving the soldier breath, who was nailing him to the cross.

Jocelyn: Growing the tree that was used for His cross. Governing creation to accomplish His purposes.

Aaron: His purposes, every aspect and not nothing of in His creation deserves this type of care.

Jocelyn: Yeah.

Aaron: Deserves this type of thought, right? It's because of just God's goodness that exists and it's upheld and it's purposeful and it's so pleasurable. It's just, again.

Jocelyn: So before we go to our next question, can you remind us the definition of Providence? We've talked about it.

Aaron: Yeah.

Jocelyn: Let's come back to it. What did you say it was?

Aaron: Yeah. So God's providence is God's almighty power to purposefully care, right? So there's the preservation aspect, right? He preserves and then He governs. And so it's not just the upholding and sustaining of everything. Now has the power, the governing authority than to even direct and purpose all those properties and things that He upholds and sustains for His glorious purposes. Almighty power. So purposeful preservation is a key part, I think, of the definition when we use it and then governance, right? How He orders and directs it. So it's not that it's just sustained without an end goal in mind.

Janet: Yeah.

Aaron: So, there's the purposeful governance aspect too.

Jocelyn: So it's the preservation and the governance of creation for His glorious purposes. That's really cool.

Janet: Yeah.

Jocelyn: That's really cool.

Janet: So do you have any resources that you would recommend for our listeners if they want to study this topic more?

Aaron: Yeah, I think one of the good places to start is there's a lot of systematic theology books. There'll be usually a couple pages talking about just divine providence and lots of scriptures related to those. So you know, a Grudem systematic theology or an Erickson will usually have a section under their doctrine of God or under area of creation. Usually it's in one of those sections. They'll talk about Providence, so that's a good place to start if you're just looking for a sort of a short summary of the doctrine. And then there's whole length books on this, where it's for example Paul Helm wrote one on the providence of God. So if you want further study. John Piper wrote a huge book. It's almost 700 pages, but it's very, it's readable. I wouldn't probably, it's not, but it's extensive work that in, again, what he's showing in that book is just, he talks about providence, like it's pretty, that purposeful sovereignty of God. But that's a great resource. There's even older resources. John Flavel, who's a Puritan, if you think about that, he wrote one on the providence, The Mystery of the Providence of God. So those are some good books. I think I would start with if you're really wanting a deeper dive into this, but an entry point I think is a good system at theology book will be cover some of the essential verses, et cetera, if you want to study those verses.

Jocelyn: What a great conversation. It's so encouraging. There are so many things to think about that would make me worry. And one of the best ways to stop worrying is to realize that God, who created all of this can preserve it and govern it in a way that's going to bring Him glory and be good for all of us.

Aaron: Amen.

Janet: So, for any of our listeners, I hope you were encouraged by the conversation as well. We will link the resources that Pastor Birk mentioned along with those hymns because if you're struggling right now, it might be good to just spend some time meditating on the words of those hymns and let that wash over you that whatever is the hard that's going on right now, it's not outside the good affectionate sovereignty of God and providence of God. So thank you for sharing with us today.

Aaron: Oh, absolutely.

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Janet Aucoin


Janet is the Director of Women's Ministry at Faith Church (Lafayette, IN); Host of the Joyful Journey Podcast (helping women learn that when you choose truth you choose joy); ACBC certified; teacher in Faith Community Institute; Coordinator of FBS seminary wives fellowship, retreat and conference speaker; B.S. Human Resources, University of South Florida.