Providence

The old timers in my childhood often used a word I never understood. The word was “Providence.” My people could not articulate the meaning of this particular word because it had more than two syllables.

Also, it really is a difficult word to define. Even now, when researching this column I couldn’t find a concrete definition of Providence. One dictionary said one thing, another website called the word “archaic.” Today the term is so outdated that if you’re a younger person reading this I’ve probably already lost you.

So I’ll explain its meaning by telling you how the word was invoked by the rural people of my youth.

Okay. Let’s say there was no rain, the world was crackling and dry, and no farmers were making money from crops. It wasn’t “bad luck.” It was all part of heavenly Providence.

And when the rain finally began to fall; also Providence.

When two people fell in love? Providence.

If someone got cancer and died, people prayed for the family to receive solace in Providence.

Job promotion? Providence.

Finding $20 in your coat pocket? Major Providence.

My people, you see, did not believe in good luck, coincidences, or even flashy miracles. It was all Providence.

To them life was a trapeze act. Mankind was always swinging recklessly from trapezes, back and forth. Sometimes man fell, sometimes he didn’t. Either way, there was a divine reason for everything, good and bad. You weren’t supposed to know the reason. That’s Providence.

Thus we did not believe in accidents, happenstances, mistakes, flub-ups, or oversights. Neither did you merely “bump into a neighbor” at the supermarket. It was all meant to be. Mapped out ahead of time. Heaven was not an indifferent observer, but an active participant in your life. Providence.

The reason I bring this up is because I received a letter from a young woman who I will call Rebecca. She is undergoing surgery while I write this.

I won’t give details because she doesn’t want me to. Rebecca might not survive this surgery. Rebecca is 19 years old.

All week she has had chaplains in and out of her hospital room, and she’s had nurses prepping her body. Her smile has reportedly never left her glowing face. Rebecca is a brave young woman.

“I am not scared,” Rebecca writes. “I refuse to be afraid even though I want to be afraid, I am only asking that Providence be my comfort.”

Nineteen-year-old kids don’t talk this way. Nobody talks that way anymore. This is an exceptional child.

She is a child whose mother is frightened, whose father is beside himself, whose older sister spends each night lying in Rebecca’s hospital bed, telling her how much she loves her.

But Rebecca says she is not scared.

This morning, I stand outside my home, looking at a big sky, drinking coffee. I see white clouds. Morning traffic whirls on a highway before me.

I have tried to write this column fifty times already, but can’t get more than a few words out. I’ve tried to answer emails. But I can’t do that either. I’m too preoccupied, wondering about this 19-year-old child. Her heart is still beating, her brain is still flickering, and her body is laid open beneath powerful surgical lights on a steel operating table.

Nothing makes sense in this life. Not a single thing. I’ve been trying to figure this world out since I was a kid but I’ve never been able.

I went through a period of sad living, when I believed this universe was against me. I lost faith in everything: in people, in goodness, in miracles. For a while I quit believing in God. I told him this often.

But the big merciful sky was patient with me. Heaven gave me time to grow up. And over time something happened. Something changed. I can’t pinpoint when this took place. I don’t remember how it happened.

I started noticing little sacred occurrences in daily life. They came in the form of coincidences. Big ones. Little ones. Medium-sized ones. These events happened every day. Every few seconds. Every moment, a microscopic miracle which could not be explained would occur in plain vision. Nano-wonders of the natural world. Small glimmers of something “other.”

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been spared when I should have died. I can’t tell you how many times something beautiful happened when I didn’t deserve it. I can’t tell you how often destiny stepped in and changed the route of my future.

Slowly, year by year, I came to believe that I was wrong about this natural world, and my humble ancestors were right.

Life really is like swinging between trapezes, making sudden, dangerous movements midair. But there is more to it than that. Because there is also a wide and gracious net beneath us which not even hell itself could destroy. And indeed, no matter how scary this world is, I believe this net is infinitely more real than the trapeze.

Before I finish this column, my phone vibrates. An email pops up on my screen. It is Rebecca’s mom: “Just wanted you to know my baby made it through surgery and is doing great. We are taking turns holding her right now.”

Providence.

73 comments

  1. MermaidGrammy - January 10, 2023 6:41 am

    Too often, people explain bad stuff, like death, by saying “it’s God’s will”, “He wanted another rose in His garden”, or “another angel in His choir”. Nope. People get sick or injured and they die. We live in a world of circumstance and consequence. If you follow that path, you will suffer the consequencesIf you don’t get the vaccine, and you contract COVID or the flu, you can die. It’s NOT because God didn’t want your family to be happy. It certainly not because God wanted your children to be without their father or mother – or father and mother. It is not always Providence. It is not always God’s will. His will is for all of us to live fulfilling, happy, productive lives. We are the ones who mess it up.

    Reply
    • Susie - January 11, 2023 12:34 am

      I’m with you, mermaidgranny.

      Reply
  2. Danny Prater - January 10, 2023 6:44 am

    To God be the glory!

    Reply
  3. Gigi - January 10, 2023 6:44 am

    Wow, you defined Providence perfectly Sean !! I’m grateful for Gods Providence and that Rebecca’s Mom called you with such wonderful news ! Praise the Lord ! This is one of your best !!!! ❤️

    Reply
  4. Julie Stroud - January 10, 2023 6:47 am

    My mother’s was named Providence. She had various nicknames Pru, Prudy, Prunie throughout her life. I didn’t know what her given name meant but someone told me it meant “God’s grace”. I like that. And one of the houses we lived in was on Providence Way, imagine the coincidence?

    Reply
  5. Dee Dee - January 10, 2023 10:09 am

    Absolutely one of your most meaningful columns yet. I don’t know how you are able to put your thoughts, feelings, insights, in to such beautiful words. You have no bigger fan than me because of columns like this one. Your humorous stories brighten my days but your depth in reaching into human souls for answers and understanding always touch this heart.

    I just prayed that your and Jamie’s 2023 will be among your best years together and that God will bless you both immeasurably.

    Reply
    • Cheryl - January 10, 2023 1:51 pm

      Dee Dee, I was going to write a note to Sean but you expressed everything I was thinking. Poetic Providence, maybe? — Cheryl

      Reply
      • DeeDee - January 11, 2023 5:49 am

        Thank you Cheryl. May God bless you and yours.

        Reply
  6. Michele - January 10, 2023 10:10 am

    Probably my favorite column yet. Thank you. My faith grows a little bit when I read some of your columns.

    Reply
    • Gigi - January 10, 2023 6:34 pm

      @Michelle ❤️

      Reply
  7. Brian - January 10, 2023 10:46 am

    We’ll done, Sir. Beautifully written piece about God’s grace’s. Thank you for the touching and meaning piece of writing. 👍🙏🏼😎

    Reply
  8. oldlibrariansshelf - January 10, 2023 11:02 am

    For Mermaidgranny: I don’t care either for people who explain away deaths of young people as God’s will. We are ALL destined to die. Sometimes circumstances of accidents or illnesses rush the event. However, I still pray for God to intervene to heal the sick and the injured because that is what faith is all about. Faith gives hope–if not for healing on Earth, then for a new body in Heaven!

    Reply
  9. Jo Terry - January 10, 2023 11:17 am

    I grew up hearing that word “providence” my whole life. I think providence is God’s divine plan. Now I don’t think God determines every move we make. He DID give us free will. We choose to sin. That’s NOT providence. But His plan WAS to allow us, using free will, to choose HIM.
    Perhaps that’s why I don’t believe things that people attribute to luck as being “lucky.” For example, you get the new job you so wanted. I don’t believe that is luck. You weren’t “lucky” when you barely missed hitting that car. Luck is playing a game of monopoly and winning. It’s probably my Christian upbringing, but nevertheless, it’s how I live. I truly don’t believe that God controls my every move. If He did, Adam and Eve would still be in the Garden. Of course God knew they’d sin. He gave them free will. But He oh so wanted them not to. So I guess I think providence is what happens in the scope of God’s will for me life. I missed a wreck by 10 seconds. Providence. God wasn’t ready for me to die yet. Luck. Finding my car keys where the baby had hidden them. Maybe.

    Reply
    • Paula - January 11, 2023 2:46 am

      Well said. Sums up my faith beautifully.

      Reply
  10. William E Bryant - January 10, 2023 11:44 am

    Thank you Jesus!
    Thank you Sean

    Reply
  11. Rebecca Creighton - January 10, 2023 12:26 pm

    Thank the good Lord for providence. I will be praying for complete healing for this young lady. ♥️

    Reply
  12. Roger - January 10, 2023 12:26 pm

    The Episcopal priest that brought me to the church… and taught me about his friend, Jesus, always said, “A coincidence is just a miracle where God chose to remain anonymous.”

    Reply
    • Amanda Le - January 13, 2023 1:47 am

      That is just lovely. Thank you for sharing!!

      Reply
  13. Dereck Barnes - January 10, 2023 12:33 pm

    Hi Sean, My name is Dereck Barnes. We met when you spoke at Lead Academy. You even wrote about me in one of your columns. I am the blind piano player who played that night. The next time that you have one of your events in the Northwest Florida area, I would love to accompany you on the keyboard. I do not want any compensation. I would just love to be a part of the event. My wife and I enjoy your column on a daily basis. You have such a unique way with words, but most importantly, what you write is from the heart. May God continue to bless you and your entire family.
    Warmest regards,
    Dereck Barnes

    Reply
  14. Brenda Bradner - January 10, 2023 12:37 pm

    Providence must be the pseudonym for God The Father, don’t ya think?
    Just like Mother Nature is the pseudonym for God The Father,don”t ya think?
    For some reason ..not sure why ..people keep using those words instead of giving Him the proper credit!!

    Reply
  15. stephensauer1gmailcom - January 10, 2023 12:45 pm

    Thank you Sean, and God bless you.

    Reply
  16. DeDe Harris - January 10, 2023 12:51 pm

    Simply beautiful!! You are a GIFT to all who know you! Please know that! GOD is glorified through your work.

    Reply
  17. Sandra Mosolgo - January 10, 2023 1:00 pm

    Reformed churches regularly teach on Providence. Knowing I am not at the mercy of chance or luck is a daily comfort. Psalm 31:15 “My times are in your hands…”

    Reply
  18. Erin - January 10, 2023 1:02 pm

    Your words touched my heart.

    Reply
  19. Trudy - January 10, 2023 1:03 pm

    Praise the Lord that this young, intelligent and faithful young woman made it through surgery. She is an inspiration and so are you, Sean.

    Reply
  20. Katrina Butler - January 10, 2023 1:04 pm

    Yeh, buddy. Just like De Nile ain’t just a river in Egypt, Providence ain’t just a town in Rhode Island!

    Reply
  21. An IT Guy (Who fell from the sky) - January 10, 2023 1:07 pm

    Providence
    Pro
    Pro-Life
    Pro-Creation
    Pro-fessional
    Pro-fessor
    of Truth

    Pros & Cons

    Con
    Con-fessional
    Con-secretion
    Con-centration
    Con-versation
    Con-artist

    Providence
    Evidence
    Evidently
    That
    Eventually
    Everything
    Everyone
    Becomes
    Pro-evidence.

    Evidence
    That there is more than meets the Eye.
    That there is more than meets the guy who lives in the Sky.
    The Cloud
    That there is more than the data we store in “the cloud”.

    Providence
    Pro-evidence.

    Of a Holy (Wholly) owned Spirit
    Of a Wholly owned Ghost.
    Of a Holy Owned Self.

    Reply
  22. Don Bedell - January 10, 2023 1:12 pm

    Presbyterians have a word for it — Predestination. I was raised a Presbyterian, have migrated to a different belief in God 65+ years later. When I was a teenager, I thought it was a bunch of crap…. a cop out. Now that I’m approaching 80, it’s making more sense as does this column that you wrote.

    Reply
  23. Pam Williams - January 10, 2023 1:26 pm

    ♥️

    Reply
  24. Anne Arthur - January 10, 2023 1:31 pm

    This is a beautiful column; sweet, tender, and filled with the love of God and his people. Providence.

    Reply
  25. Jo Ann - January 10, 2023 1:34 pm

    Thank you for letting us know that she made it through the surgery. Lovely column today. I had a saying posted in my kitchen for years-to paraphrase, “coincidence is when God doesn’t want to use His name.”

    Reply
  26. William Peacock - January 10, 2023 1:35 pm

    Super story as usual !
    Bill from Detroit

    Reply
  27. neesa2020 - January 10, 2023 1:39 pm

    I look forward every morning to your words–wry, moving, uplifting and very down to earth all at the same time. Thanks for being you!

    Reply
  28. mccutchen52 - January 10, 2023 1:46 pm

    You couldn’t write the column till Providence intervened. Hey you can’t make this stuff up..

    Reply
  29. Yo - January 10, 2023 1:52 pm

    Dear Mr. Dietrich,
    Your stories never fail to move me, but today—today you hit that nail square and brought me to tears. Providence and the net–what comforts they are. Thank you.

    Reply
  30. Diana Kinser - January 10, 2023 2:02 pm

    Rebecca, you have discovered something most people your age still haven’t grasped: that no matter what happens, God’s love for you is all-encompassing. Your faith rests on the confidence that no matter the outcome, His love and presence will be with you. Jesus himself said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” (John 14:27 ESV)
    I am praying that all of us can see the circumstances of our lives in light of His never-ending love and providence. God is good — all the time!

    Reply
  31. Sean of the South: Providence | The Trussville Tribune - January 10, 2023 2:24 pm

    […] By Sean Dietrich, Sean of the South […]

    Reply
  32. Francina Fluker - January 10, 2023 2:25 pm

    I read a book years ago that made me realize that ‘coincidence’ does not exist. Everything happens for a reason, even if us lowly mortals do not have the perspective to see far enough to grasp the big picture and understand how we fit into the plan.

    Reply
  33. Trent - January 10, 2023 2:26 pm

    Read the book “God-Winks”

    Reply
  34. Donna - January 10, 2023 2:28 pm

    Thanks for this Sean. We need to affirm that God is reallllly there – in the midst of each other’s struggles and challenges. We need to share HOPE for one another! I’m praying for lots of “Rebecca’s” and today your column gave me a lift. 🙏🏼

    Reply
  35. Laurel F Johnson - January 10, 2023 2:37 pm

    Praise Jesus – His mercy is unchanging!

    Reply
  36. Carolyn Shomaker - January 10, 2023 2:41 pm

    AMEN!!

    Reply
  37. Priscilla Rodgers - January 10, 2023 2:53 pm

    Thank you Divine Healer! Amen

    Reply
  38. Tara Robinett - January 10, 2023 2:54 pm

    Providence is a most comforting thing, to know there is a God, He has a plan, and His plan is good.

    Reply
  39. Norman Turnipseed - January 10, 2023 3:02 pm

    Pure T wonderful
    GOD is wonderful and looks after us in so my ways.
    I have experienced his watching over me before and after my acceptance of him as my LORD and Savior.
    Praise to the LORD.

    Reply
  40. Mimi Love - January 10, 2023 3:09 pm

    Good Morning Sean. On New Year’s Day I began a journal that I’ve titled “Gratitude”. Each day for the coming year I plan to enter (with description) a person, place, or thing that enriches my soul and for which I’m grateful to have in my life. Sean, you are on my short list. Mimi Love

    Reply
  41. Peggy M. Windham - January 10, 2023 3:15 pm

    What an awesome God we have indeed! I’m so glad her surgery went well! Providence!

    Reply
  42. kingswaydaughter - January 10, 2023 3:20 pm

    I opened my email on my ipad this morning, and the title of your article jumped right out at me. You see, I have recently started reading this 700 page book by John Piper, called Providence. I can not go into detail as to exactly what drew me to this book. The fact that it is was a long read was, at first, a turnoff. But God kept nudging me, and finally I ordered it. We always hear about the sovereignty of God, but rarely the providence of God, they are actually different. I am taking this book slowly, simply because there is so much to absorb. Let me just say, Rebecca “gets it “. She understands, and though I am many years older and have loved the Lord for a long time, I am starting to “get it”. Beautiful article – thank you.

    Reply
  43. Nancy - January 10, 2023 3:23 pm

    My daughter looked up quotes on Providence after reading today’s post.

    The ways of Providence being inscrutable, and the justice of it not to be scanned by the shallow eye of humanity, nor to be counteracted by the utmost efforts of human power or wisdom, resignation, and as far as the strength of our reason and religion can carry us, a cheerful acquiescence to the Divine Will, is what we are to aim.

    GEORGE WASHINGTON

    Reply
  44. imcdbw - January 10, 2023 3:44 pm

    Praise God Almighty!
    Sean, you gave the absolute BEST definition of Providence EVER! Love you and your sweet Jamie always!!

    Reply
  45. Peggy Coffee (87yr old widow) - January 10, 2023 3:46 pm

    Thank you so much for your belief in God, in miracles, in providence, and in people!
    God IS Good, and He works thro your writing to draw people to Him. Please keep on! Don’t give up! God is using you to bless each one of us!!

    Reply
  46. Roger Wells - January 10, 2023 4:13 pm

    Love the honest tone of your thoughts, the uplifting attitude of the young lady and the overwhelming graciousness of “Providence” or, as I have come to define Him, GOD. The Gracious, One/Only, Divine entity and Creator of all that is. Delighted to hear of “Rebecca’s” successful surgery and pray her attitude continues for whatever her future holds. BTW, another author I have appreciation for has often stated that, though raised in church, he was drawn by God to Himself through nature, music and the love of his wife. Sounds as though you guys may be “kin”. 🙂

    Reply
  47. Don Gardner - January 10, 2023 4:14 pm

    Providence. Absolutely!

    Reply
  48. Stacey Wallace - January 10, 2023 4:21 pm

    Thank the Good Lord for Rebecca’s successful surgery. Praying that she recovers completely and that God blesses her with a long, happy, healthy life. Thanks, Sean. Love to you, Jamie, Marigold, Otis Campbell, and Thelma Lou.

    Reply
  49. Pamela Davis - January 10, 2023 5:00 pm

    Sean, I too believe that things don’t just happen. God plans for everything in our lives. Some days are just too wonderful to take in and others bring you to your knees. But God is always in control. He is always there to hold you close to Him.
    Thank you for another wonderful message!

    Reply
  50. Waneta Giesbrecht - January 10, 2023 5:11 pm

    Thank you for your article on Providence. So many things find an answer in life if we believe in it, and we can quit trying to control our lives knowing that providence (God’s care) will take care of us. It also helps us accept things without trying so hard to figure out why, knowing there is a reason.

    Reply
  51. sjhl7 - January 10, 2023 6:46 pm

    What a wonderful description of the One who created us and knows us best!

    Reply
  52. Sharon Smith - January 10, 2023 6:56 pm

    Amen ❤️

    Reply
  53. Linda Moon - January 10, 2023 7:01 pm

    It is very providential that I read “Providence” just now. You see, I will be having my fourth surgery for cancers I’ve had, beginning in 2004. But, I’m not 19. I believe in but don’t always fully understand God. Please tell Rebecca’s Mom that I’m “hugging” them right now, and they are welcome to “hug” me back soon!

    Reply
    • PMc - January 10, 2023 10:43 pm

      Linda, you are in my prayers for complete healing and I hope you are on the mend very soon!🙏💕
      Peace and Love from Birmingham

      Reply
    • Nancy M - January 11, 2023 1:10 am

      Linda Moon, hugs to you and prayers for you. ❤️🙏

      Reply
  54. Anne Arthur - January 10, 2023 8:12 pm

    Linda Moon, praying that your surgery goes well and that God heals you once and for all.

    Reply
  55. 1018le - January 10, 2023 8:22 pm

    Sometimes, I think Providence moments are really God moments. 🙂

    Reply
  56. lindadmiresean - January 10, 2023 8:41 pm

    Coincidence is when God chooses to remain anonymous.

    Reply
  57. Ann - January 10, 2023 8:43 pm

    Amen!🙏🏻

    Reply
  58. Linda Moon - January 10, 2023 10:54 pm

    Thank you, Anne Arthur.

    Reply
  59. Sarah Dyck - January 10, 2023 11:01 pm

    God is good, all the time! Even though we don’t understand! Enjoy your articles!

    Reply
  60. MAM - January 11, 2023 12:39 am

    I don’t know Rebecca, but happy tears flowed, and yes, Providence is always with us. Mostly we call providence our God, our Lord, our Savior. But the word providence, really says it all, and it includes all those coincidences, you speak of. I might start using providence more often. It’s a good word! And Linda Moon, I often enjoy your comments, so I’ll send some prayers up for you, too.

    Reply
  61. Jane Elder - January 11, 2023 2:06 am

    AMEN

    Reply
  62. Paula - January 11, 2023 2:42 am

    Thank you for that, Sean. If you hadn’t let us know I would have worried your email to bits, requesting an update on Rebecca. Bless her for her faith.

    Reply
  63. Melissa Brown - January 11, 2023 8:06 am

    What an awesome God we serve !! So happy for Rebecca that she made it through surgery. Praying for a complete recovery for her. Thank you for your writings and that you share your belief in God !!! You are a wise man Sean.

    Reply
  64. Judy Cobern - January 11, 2023 3:01 pm

    ❤️

    Reply
  65. sflouden - January 11, 2023 3:37 pm

    I do believe in “providence”…everything and every creature has been preordained by God…He gave us choices and those choices change what happens in our lives…but God knew this before we were even making those choices…He does what we allow Him to do in our lives…but His Will will be done…so glad to hear her faith was part of her story as it will strengthen her and her family. Sean you did it again and brought tears to my soul….thank so much! And have a great day!

    Reply

Leave a Comment