“Consider the work of God: who can make straight what He has made crooked? In the days of prosperity be joyful, and in the day of adversity consider: God has made the one as well as the other, so that man may not find out anything that will be after him.” (Ecclesiastes 7:13, 14)
One of the most important things that we learn from the doctrine of God’s providence is to live patiently in the light of God’s plan. Of course, the average person finds this hard to accept because in today’s world God doesn’t really figure at the level of everyday thinking. No one considers that God has plans which are being fulfilled on a moment-by-moment basis. And when God is taken out of the equation, the only explanation for why bad things happen is either chance or the actions of other people. Perhaps this explains why so many people have become thoroughly impatient with their circumstances.
Impatient people believe that they have good reason to be upset. When they think that they are being harmed in some way, or feel that their plans are being frustrated, they become angry and try to take matters into their own hands. The practical atheism which has become so commonplace today no doubt explains the surge in violence which seems to be endemic in our society. People feel that their plans and rights have been violated and because they can’t get their own way, they take matters into their own hands.
Solomon reminds us that the cure for the impatience that is the mark of our age is to come to terms with the doctrine of God’s providence: “Consider the work of God: who can make straight what He has made crooked?” God has a plan, conceived in eternity, which includes the actions of all His creatures, including man. Earlier in the book, Solomon has told us that all the events of life fall within God’s predetermined plan: “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven; He has made everything beautiful in its time.” (Ecclesiastes 3:1, 2, 11) If this is so, then impatience with God’s plan is nothing less than practical atheism. It is a snub against God and a refusal to acknowledge His greater wisdom.
So how should we respond when things don’t turn out the way that we had hoped? Thomas Boston, a 17th century Scottish theologian, wrote a book based on this text of Ecclesiastes, called The Crook in the Lot. He said: “There is a certain train or course of events, by the providence of God, falling to every one of us during our life in this world: and this is our lot, as being allotted to us by a sovereign God.” Should such a doctrine bring us to despair? No, definitely not. As Paul reminds us, “God is causing all things to work together for good for those who love Him” (Romans 8:28).
Consider Jesus: God put a crook in His lot, even though He was His “well-beloved Son” (Matthew 3:17). That crook came in the shape of a cross, which Jesus pleaded with God in Gethsemane to remove. God didn’t take it away, but He brought about salvation for the world through Jesus’ suffering. Christ thus reminds us of the importance of patient endurance in the light of God’s providence.