In writing about Father Joep van Beeck, S.J., in a previous post, I was reminded of a class he taught on the Providence of God. Joep grew up in the Netherlands, and he suffered with his family due to the Dutch famine of 1944 during World War II. In speaking of why God’s providence permits such suffering, he said (and I disagreed then as now) that God simply does not intervene with His providence in most cases. He is not like a child putting his hand in the cookie jar.
My view, to the contrary, is that God’s providence is intervening to help those who are suffering, even as He permits the suffering. He intervenes with providence in many ways, despite not intervening in the manner and to the extent of ending the suffering.
But as Joep was explaining his views on providence, which is essentially that God stands at a distance and does not intervene in many matters, small or great, he was standing in the row of desk-chairs, with one foot on an empty chair. (The class was one of the more advanced courses in theology, which tended to have fewer students.) And just as he said these words, denigrating God’s providence, a girl in the class exclaimed, “Oh!” as if startled. He said, “What?” And she replied, “The light over your head just went out.” And, indeed, the florescent light in the hung ceiling right over his head went out just as he said that God’s providence does not intervene very often in our lives.
I took that to be a sign from providence contradicting his claim. He simply laughed it off, as did most of the class.
God permits many sufferings in this life. We are fallen sinners. To one extent, we deserve to suffer. To another extent, we suffer innocently, like Christ. But this does not mean that God is not helping us in our suffering. He intervenes innumerable times in each person’s life, more so in the lives of those who avoid grave sin and who pray devoutly. But He intervenes many times even in the lives of great sinners. Providence encompasses all things. And we should trust, and not doubt, the ineffable wisdom of God in permitting many things that we ourselves would rather not suffer.
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