A few years ago, one of my final seminary submissions required me to address the concept of divine providence, and it seemed to perfectly fit my present situation. The reason it seemed fitting had a lot to do with where I worked at the time—the Fort Bragg Warrior Transition Battalion. In this battalion were combat wounded, injured, and ill Soldiers with a wide array of issues. Within the realm of divine providence, many cannot move past the question: Did God cause this, or did He allow it to happen? If so, why?
In looking beyond my limited view on the subject, I came to view divine providence through the lens of my peers—those who have served in combat and have seen the evil that men are capable of enacting. Lieutenant Carey H. Cash, a chaplain serving with the United States Marine Corps in the initial invasion of Iraq, defines providence as “the idea that behind all of our decisions, and even in some sense behind the decisions of others, there stands a God who is lovingly directing the course of events in our lives to bring about good in the end.”(1)
In light of this definition, the answers to the questions mentioned above does not seem to come more easily than before, since it is difficult for the human mind to grasp how God can allow such things. Later in his book, Cash tells a story of his unit losing a beloved young leader just days after a large number of them were baptized. He states, “despite the sadness I felt, I couldn’t help but reflect upon the providence of God in it all;” this was due to the fact that God equipped many in the unit to successfully come to grips with this tragedy by welcoming them as believers a week prior. They now had His unfailing love to comfort them.(2)
In another book on my office shelf, Stephen Mansfield recounts a General Order issued
by George Washington to his troops that speaks of the promises offered through divine providence. In this order, Washington stated, “the blessing and protection of Heaven are at all times necessary but especially so in times of public distress and danger.”(3) This holds true for many believers during times of distress, especially in combat. Knowing that the ultimate reward beyond death is Heaven and eternity with Christ provides a sense of peace and comfort.
Finally, Dr. Edward Tick described the role divine providence played in warfare for the
Israelites. He states that “for the early Israelites, the God who created the universe was the same deity who led them into battle.”(4) While no theologian himself, Dr. Tick does provide a glimpse into the power and comfort that can be found in the belief of divine providence.
In conclusion, even as a small act of divine providence in itself, this assignment served as a reminder for me that God knows all things, and will use all things for the good of those who trust in Him. From that point forward, this promise has always been a sweet comfort to me regardless of where He may send me next.
1. Carey H. Cash, A Table in the Presence (Nashville: W. Publishing Group, 2004), 41.
2. Ibid., 93-94.
3. Stephen Mansfield, The Faith of the American Soldier (New York: The Penguin Group, 2005), 86.
4. Edward Tick, War and the Soul: Healing Our Nation’s Veterans from Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (Wheaton: Quest Books, 2005), 38.