DIVINE PROVIDENCE

"Consider the ancient generations and see: who ever trusted
in the Lord and was put to shame?"         (Sir 2:10)

Providence is the care that comes from God. Everything which is done with God's providence is done in the best possible way, that is, in a godly manner. The fact that God takes care - in­deed very good care - of mankind could very well result from the following logical reasoning:

God is kind; therefore, He takes care and looks after His chil­dren (for the one who doesn't provide care is not kind). It also is in the nature of people, as well as of animals, to look after their children. The person who does not provide care is considered evil. Since God is also omniscient, He demonstrates His provi­dence for the whole creation in the most perfect way. When we witness and examine the acts of God's providence, we admire His kindness. We must glorify Him and accept all the acts of divine providence without questioning them, even if sometimes they seem unjust or incomprehensible to us.
Father Paisios told me the following story:

- Once, I had to leave Mount Athos and I was in need of one thousand drachmas to cover my travelling expenses. I had no money at all. I had instructed the post office to return immedi­ately to the senders whatever checks came through the mail in my name. While I was in this difficult situation, one of the monks brought me an anonymous check of exactly one thousand drachmas along with my mail. The name PANTANASSA was written as a return address on the envelope. When I understood that this was an indication of God's providence, I began to cry, thanking God and the Virgin Mary.

I have seen many things in my life; it is terrible. If you do not look after yourself, God doesn't even let you think that you might be in need of something. You see, this check had been sent before I realized I needed one thousand drachmas. God, our kind Father, provides whatever we need, before we realize it and ask for His assistance. His providence takes care of everything. How­ever, He must see that we trust Him. At this point, the Elder quoted the words of the Gospel: "Therefore, do not be anxious saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For the Gentiles seek all these things; And your heavenly father knows that you need them all. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well" (Mt 6:31-33), "...for your Father knows what you need before you ask him," (Mt 6:8).

"Our duty and concern must be how to please God and our fellow men; we should not be preoccupied with our needs, as God will take care of them. There is a silent spiritual agreement between God and man. He will look after us, while we will con­centrate on how to live our lives according to His will. "Cast all your anxieties on him, for he cares about you" (IPet 5:7).
One day, Mr. I.F. visited me from Germany. He had just completed a study for the construction of a fish pound in Komotini (a city in Northern Greece), and asked me to pray that he get the state's approval for it. I asked him out of curiosity to tell me about the method of the fishes' reproduction and their growth in the fish pound. He replied:

- The small fishes, Father, when they are born have a small sack in their abdomen called "lecithin utricle." The sack contains all the vitamins and necessary substances for the fishes' self-pre­servation during the first crucial days of their life. By the time the sack empties, the abdomen of the small fishes has grown enough to be able to take in food from the sea.
When I heard this I was deeply moved. During that time, I was in a state of constantly glorifying God and this became one more reason for me to be doing so. I thought to myself:

God is so kind that although He created the small fishes for us to eat, He takes care of them in such a wise way, that they can fearlessly grow up. Yet, we are so miserable, that we get dis­tressed and do not trust everything in Him. This is terrible! God looks after the tiniest detail of the smallest of His creatures. How much more He cares for us, His own images, for whom He did everything! Since we are blind, however, we are unable to see His providence which covers every aspect of our life."

"When someone leads a simple life, humbly looks upon him­self and feels the need of God's providence, then he puts aside all his concerns and worries, and has faith in Him. When God sees that this soul totally depends on Him, and not on itself, He will mercifully protect it; thus, this soul will intensively experience the sense of God's providence and feel contented.
God wants our soul to be simple, without many thoughts and too much knowledge; like an infant that expects everything from its parents. That is why the Lord said: "If you do not become like children you will not be able to enter in the Kingdom of God." We must humbly pray to God and admit our weakness, and this way we will be able to free ourselves from our concerns and worries; just as our shadow closely follows our body, God's mercy will follow our humility and faith."

"When we believe in God and have trust in His fatherly providence and concern, then we do not think of ourselves; instead, we know that God is aware of all our needs and looks after our pro­blems, from the simplest to the most serious one. The only thing we must want is to allow God's love and providence to function in our lives, when He wishes to and in the way He thinks is best for us. When we have this kind of faith and inner disposition, we are able to see God's miracles - God Himself - who is always close to us under all circumstances. In order to experience this, we must reject any form of worldly assistance or human hope and with a pure heart, unhesitatingly and trustfully devote our mind to God. Then, the grace of Christ will fill our soul at once."

"God's providence will take care of everything in our lives, if we reject everything and become wholly and undistractingly de­voted to His love. Then, God will justly serve us through His di­vine providence (as he always does for his genuine servants) and will see that we lack nothing, as He Himself said: "But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and then all these things shall be yours as well" (Mt 6:33). When someone has as his sole pur­pose in life the pursuit of God's kingdom and the acquirement of divine justice, then God, who is not unjust and does not lie, will abundantly rewards us.

Some people have the wrong impression, however; they think they can be involved in worldly matters and be attached to materi­al possessions, and at the same time, expect the help of God's providence. God's help to people who think this way can be de­structive, for it prolongs their attachment to worldly things. God helps them by letting them be exposed to temptations and diffi­culties; this will eventually make them loath wordly matters and totally devote their hearts to God.

God looks after everyone, both the righteous and sinful: "for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good" (Mt 5:45). There is a difference, however. The providence of God is always and constantly present and visible in the lives of righteous people, whereas in the lives of sinful people, it is circumstancial and some times even non-existent. God occasionally abandons the sinful ones, in order to make their soul humble through the hardships of life and the temporary and seeming absence of His providence, and thus awaken their faith and love for Him.
This is fair because the person who believes in divine justice wants God to rule his life; whereas the person, who depends upon human justice, wants to guide his own life based on his knowledge, and ignores his weakness; that is, that he can do nothing without God. "For apart from me, you can do nothing" (Jn. 15:5) and "if then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest?" (Lk 12:26). So, this person is rightfully abandoned by

God in order to realize his weakness and ask wholeheartedly for His mercy."
"I never had any money on me and at one point I was in need of one thousand drachmas. As I was cleaning up the garden, my eyes fell on the holes of a brick I had put underneath a board for my visitors to sit on. I noticed a folded piece of paper in one of the holes, which I removed with a stick. I unfolded it and found a one thousand drachma bill in it, along with a list of names to be commemorated during the Divine Liturgy.

I was deeply moved for two reasons; first, I admired how God's providence had taken care of my need long before I even became aware of it; and secondly, I admired the faith of the per­son, who put the folded piece of paper in the hole of the brick, believing that I would somehow find it. (He must have known that I never take any money and therefore invented his own way to give it to me)."

"Sometimes a thought crosses my mind, which is not of pri­mary concern; for instance, that soon I will be short of commu­nion wine, and then I instantly stop thinking about it. It is worth noticing that the very same day or the next one, someone will bring me communion wine. What moves me most is the fact that the person who brings it, comes from far away, i.e. from the is­land of Crete in Southern Greece, so he must have bought it long before I realized I would need it.

Thus, I clearly see how God takes care of everything, long be­fore we become aware of its need and decide to turn to Him for help. "For your father knows what you need before you ask him" (Mt 6:8). "...and your heavenly father knows that you need them all... Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow..." (Mt 6:32, 34)."

"We must totally rely on God's providence as this is the only way to be relieved of our anxiety and worries. Why should any­one worry, when he feels that God is taking care of everything?

In order to trust divine providence, one must free himself from all his worldly concerns and wait for God to look after him.

For example, if someone is preoccupied with saving money in or­der to either keep it for the difficult times, or to cover all his needs, then he relies on himself and his money and not on God. He must first overcome his love for money and trust in it, and then rest all his hopes on God, as he cannot do both at the same time. I do not mean that he should not make use of his money; I mean that he should not wholeheartedly rely on it."

Father Paisios told us the following story, wishing to give us an example of the way God looks after His children, while many times we get angry at Him and do not understand His actions:

"An ascetic was praying to God asking Him to reveal why the righteous and pious people are miserable and suffer unjustly, whereas the unrighteous and sinful ones are rich and contented. While he was asking God to reveal to him this mystery, he heard a voice saying to him:

- Do not ask to comprehend what your mind and power of knowledge cannot grasp and do not examine the mysteries of God, as His judgments are like an endless ocean. However, since you wish to know, go out there in the world and watch carefully the people, and you will be able to understand a small part of God's judgment. Then, you will know that God's prudent gov­erning is unexplored and inscrutable.

When the ascetic heard all this, he left for the world. After walking for a while, he reached a meadow. There was a fountain nearby and an old tree with a large hollow. He hid inside the hol­low, in order to watch the busy street passing by the meadow. After a while, a rich man passed by riding his horse. He stopped by the fountain to drink some water and rest. While he was sit­ting there, he took a purse out of his pocket containing one hun­dred golden coins, and started counting them. When he finished counting, he mistakenly left the purse on the grass instead of put­ting it in his pocket. After he ate, he rested and slept for awhile, and then he took off without realizing that he had left his purse on the grass.

After some time, another passer-by appeared. He stopped by the fountain, and when he saw the purse with the golden coins, he took it and left running in the fields. A few minutes later, a third man came along. As he was tired, he too went by the foun­tain to drink some water and sat to eat a piece of bread. As this poor man was eating, the rich man came back to look for his purse. He had an extremely angry look on his face and went straight to him, shouting in a rage and demanding his purse. The poor man, though, who had no idea about the purse and the golden coins, assured him that he had not seen it. Then, the rich man began beating him up so badly that he finally killed him. He searched through his clothes and found nothing. He left feeling very sad.

The ascetic was watching the incident sitting inside the hollow and was astounded. He felt very sad and began to cry, feeling sor­ry for the unjust death of the poor man and prayed to God:

- Lord, what is the meaning of this will of Yours? Let me know how Your kindness can tolerate such an injustice. Someone lost the coins, another man found them and a third man was un­justly murdered!

As he was praying and crying, an angel of the Lord appeared and told him:
- Do not feel sorry for the poor man, nor think that this inci­dent is not the will of God. Bear in mind that some things occur, either because God permits them to, or in order to instruct peo­ple or because He causes them to happen for our benefit.

Now, listen: The man who lost the golden coins is the next door neighbour of the one who found them. He owned a farm worth one hundred golden coins. The rich man, who was an avar­icious person, forced him to sell his farm to him for only fifty golden coins. The poor man, feeling helpless, prayed to God to punish his unjust neighbour on his behalf. And God rewarded him in double. The second man, the tired and poor one, who was unjustly killed, had once committed a murder. He had honestly repented and lived the rest of his life according to God's will. He constantly prayed to God to forgive him and said to Him: "God, let me have the same kind of death as the one I gave." Of course, our Lord had forgiven him since the first time he expressed his re­pentance for his sinful act. However, He was moved by the sensi­tivity and righteousness of this man, who not only tried to live ac­cording to His will, but also wished to pay back for his sinful act.

So, God fulfilled his wish and gave him the chance to experience a violent death, - as he himself had ask for - and took him to hea­ven by His side, granting him a glorious laurel for his deep and responsive repentance!

The third man, the avaricious one, who lost the golden coins and committed the murder, had fallen in two sins, avarice and stinginess. God permitted a violent murder to be committed, so that he may experience pain, which in turn, would lead him to re­pentance. The sin of murder turned out to be the cause for his de­cision to leave the world and become a monk.
So, where and under what circumstances do you see that God was unjust, merciless and cruel? You should not examine God's judgments, as He always makes them correctly and according to the way He knows, whereas your misjudge them and find them unjust. You should also know that many things happen with God's will for reasons we do not know. Therefore, the right thing for us to say is: "Righteous art thou, O Lord, and right are thy judgments" (Ps 118:137).

Father Paisios told us the following incident:

When I was young and still residing at the monastery, the fathers sent me to try to persuade an old father, who was living in a cell near by, to come to our monastery so that we may look after him. I went to him and said:

Father, it must be so hard for you to look after yourself. Why don't you come to our monastery? We will take care of you. What do you think, will you come with me?
He replied:
- Father, God takes care of the small little worms and provides food for them to live. Won't He take care of me, the big old worm?
The pilgrims, who visited the Elder, always brought him food. In the beginning, he refused any kind of presents and told them to take them back. They felt unhappy, as they thought that Father Paisios did not accept their presents because they were sin­ful people. So, he felt in a way compelled to keep them; when the visitors left, he gave their presents to the next pilgrims and asked them to offer them to some poor old monks who lived in the area.
Once, a group of pilgrims, to whom he had given a few things to take to an old father who resided just across the Scete of Saint Panteleimon, asked him:
Father, why don't you keep some of the presents your visi­tors bring you?

          One of the reasons is that if I kept all those things, I would end up opening a super-market. Secondly, I always think of God who helped the Isrealis and provided the "mana" for them on a daily basis; those who were distrustful and kept some for the next day, always found it had gone bad. This was God's way to make people totally rely on His providence and care, and free them­selves of their own pathetic concerns and worries

 

 


 

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