Almost twenty years ago, I was in an airplane descending to Heathrow Airport, London, England. We were still far above the clouds, and the sun shone brilliantly. No words can describe the beauty of the sun’s rays reflecting off the billowy clouds that stretched as far as the eye could see. It was glorious.
From a previous visit to England, I knew that below the cloud line, the scene was probably quite different. Most likely, a dreary rain was falling on London, and once on the ground I would see a forboding and gray sky.
As I considered this, I was also reminded of the trials that awaited me below the clouds. I knew that in many respects, England was a dark, spiritual wasteland in which I would encounter various challenges while assisting missionaries and churches for the summer. Yet, the glory of the sun above the clouds reminded me that no matter what happened below, God was still on His throne—victoriously and gloriously reigning over all.
I shared this story with my children this morning as we were considering how God providentially carries out His decrees, not only for individuals, but nations as well. In Genesis, we find that God had foreordained every detail of Joseph’s tumultuous life for the good of the nation Israel. After rising to second in command in Egypt and successfully preparing the country to endure a famine, Joseph said the following to his brothers, who had sold him into slavery years earlier:
“As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive.” (Genesis 50:20)
God was sovereign over even the “bad” that occurred in Joseph’s life in order to accomplish His benevolent purposes. Joseph did not look at his life-altering trials with anger, bitterness, or dismay. He saw them as part of the intricately woven plan of God’s good for His people.
William Cowper (1731-1800) expounded on these truths as He wrote the words to the hymn titled “God Moves in a Mysterious Way.” As our family has been singing this hymn, I have been encouraged by the simple and beautiful language that Cowper uses to describe the Lord’s providence in our lives. I especially take heart with knowing that the “clouds” I dread are “big with mercy.” I share this with you so that you, too, may be encouraged as you read, sing, and ponder. (These words can be sung to the tune “O God, Our Help In Ages Past.”)
God moves in a mysterious way His wonders to perform; He plants His footsteps in the sea and rides upon the storm.
You fearful saints, fresh courage take: The clouds you so much dread are big with mercy, and shall break in blessings on your head.
Judge not the Lord by feeble sense, but trust Him for His grace; Behind a frowning providence He hides a smiling face.
Blind unbelief is sure to err and scan His work in vain; God is His own interpreter, and He will make it plain.