The Great Irony of God’s Providence

by Rob Tims

It took me 8 hours to replace a toilet for the very first time.

Let me explain.

I was 25, newly married, living in our first condo that needed a facelift. The master bath, we decided, was the best place to begin, primarily because the entire thing was carpeted (seriously … who carpets under a toilet and up against a shower?).

I sent my wife to work one Monday morning, promising her “significant progress,” starting with the removal of the toilet, the removal of the carpet, and all the other little things that come with demolishing a bathroom.

Now, a few things you should know about me to understand why my day went like it did.

  1. I can, by nature, be somewhat aloof and over-confident in my abilities.
  2. I have yet to graduate from the School for the Mechanically Declined.

So, combine my arrogance with my ignorance, and what ensued is no surprise. Long story short, I flooded my carpeted bathroom with several gallons of toilet water and had to use a sledgehammer to destroy the toilet and remove it piece by piece.

Why?

Because I had no idea how a nut and bolt worked.

How ironic: a smart guy with a “no excuses” work ethic resorting to a sledgehammer because he didn’t know how to use a wrench (or ratchet, or screwdriver, or some other tool I don’t understand). Sure, I started with the proper tools for the job, but when I couldn’t make those work, I pushed things to the limit and nearly destroyed everything around me as well.

Reading through the first chapters of Exodus, I see this same irony at work. In Exodus 1 and 2, the more the king of Egypt tried to curb the “problem” of a burgeoning Jewish population, the more they grew. In his frustration, he tried to use tools at his disposal that were even more harsh. Damage was inflicted for sure, but he was no closer to solving the problem. In fact, his efforts just made matters worse for him, and God used those efforts to balloon the population of the Jews even more.

You see, the great irony is that no matter what we may try to do in our power to thwart God, our efforts are futile, and may even serve God’s sovereign purposes. Acknowledging His providence humbles us into willing submission and faith, while fighting against His sovereignty leads to frustration and destruction. It’s a reality that God’s people and their enemies bump into time after time in the Bible, and one that we do as well. May the Spirit replace our arrogance and ignorance with humility and wisdom so that we choose to submit to the sovereign will of God and experience the joy that comes with it.

Rob Tims is husband to Holly and father to Trey, Jono, Abby Jane and Luke. He’s the author of Southern Fried Faith: Confusing Christ and Culture in the Bible Belt, and manages the team behind smallgroup.com at LifeWay Christian Resources in Nashville. He writes regularly at RobTims.com and blogs every Friday at Forward Progress.

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