On the Providence of God

Posted August 9, 2010

God, by his providence pre-plans all that happens to us. Recognizing that theological and scriptural truth can help us face the daunting challenge of trusting in his love. “Lord, all your ways are prepared in advance, and your judgments are with foreknowledge.” (Judith 9:5). But knowing that God (by his positive or by his permissive will) is in some way the source of our hurts and our troubles, does not mean that we should succumb to the heresy of quietism, by doing nothing at all to improve a bad situation; Vatican II made that clear in the Pastoral Constitution, Gaudium et Spes. Otherwise, we would have to close down all orphanages, schools, hospitals, courts, prisons, voting booths, etc.

Calm and rational concern that seeks ethical solutions to problems is not anxiety, but maturity. Anxiety is a negative emotion, corrosive and stressful. “Have anxiety for nothing,” says Paul in his prescription for inner peace (Phil. 4:6-7). Five times, anxiety (called “worry”) is forbidden by Jesus (Matt. 6:25-34).

In his commentary on that gospel passage, St. John Chrysostom asks, “Of what use would all our cares, anxieties, and troubles be to us if they only served to torment us? Our anxiety about a problem only increases the pain that arises from the problem itself. Anyone invited to a banquet doesn’t worry about going hungry. The providence of God is an inexhaustibly rich banquet, so do not be uneasy; do not cherish any misgivings. Be at peace in knowing your needs will be fulfilled. Place your trust in the Providence of God, aborting any anxiety; such worry only tortures your mind uselessly. Whether or not you are disturbed, God remains ultimately the source of these troubles; he may even increase them until you learn to trust his loving providence without anxiety.”

St. Augustine, commenting on psalms 6 and 38, writes, “If God provides for the wicked—his enemies—“sending his rain on the righteous and the unrighteous” (Matt. 5:45), won’t he take care of you who are not evil-minded? He created you; won’t he take care for you? He took care of you before your problem; will he stop his care for you now, during your hurt—and afterward?

John H. Hampsch, cmf