Providence is God’s “most holy, wise, and powerful preserving and governing all his creatures, and all their actions” (The Westminster Shorter Catechism Q.11). So God not only preserves all things as He sees fit, but also governs all things as well. Providence is basically God’s sovereignty in action. It is what the Apostle Paul is speaking of when he tells us that God “works all things according to the counsel of his will” (Ephesians 1:11, ESV).
Providence is a comforting truth for believers. It assures us that, no matter what happens in our lives, God is still firmly in control. And not only is He in control of all things, but He is in control of all things for our good, even for our salvation (Romans 8:28).
But that doesn’t mean that we will always immediately perceive how God is making all things work together for our good. Sometimes His providence is not only hard to understand, but at times it can also be hard to experience and endure.
Thomas Brooks (1608-1680) calls this “rugged providence.” In his classic book, Precious Remedies Against Satan’s Devices, he writes:
“As the waters lifted up Noah’s ark nearer heaven, and as all the stones that were about Stephen’s ears did but knock him closer to Christ, the corner-stone, so all the strange rugged providences that we meet with, they shall raise us up nearer heaven, and knock us nearer to Christ, that precious cornerstone.” (p.154)
What a wonderfully helpful and encouraging reminder! Sometimes God’s providence in our lives can indeed be strange, and even rugged, but we can be sure that it is always good. God’s providences in our lives, no matter how rugged, will never harm us, but will actually serve only to bring us closer to heaven.