God Will Provide?

A friend of mine recently sat in a dental office as a woman, whose child was headed to Columbia University, was complimented on being a good parent. He wondered if the kid should be left out, for having worked hard herself. The parent responded that she could only thank God. He, a Catholic, thought she had overcompensated in the other direction. While she could also thank God, he thought, her own and her child’s role were still relevant.

Whether religious or not, you have probably come upon the expression “God will provide.” It is an idea some people find comforting. On an individual level, it can be helpful. Unfortunately, it often isn’t, and on the wider, social level, it usually isn’t.

First of all, it’s statistically untrue. Someone whose nine children are starving in Haiti today cannot expect, on the tenth, God will reverse their fortunes. Sure, one of the many hard-working charitable organizations trying to feed them in God’s name may get there before tragedy, but that often doesn’t happen. For the world’s population in poverty, the notion that “God will provide” may be more an expression regarding “the strength to endure” than the physical things you need.

I have no children myself, and have been asked more than once why. I would like to have them. However, I cannot afford to do well by them. I have been told in response that no one ever “has enough” for children, a lovely sentiment if you’re in a six-figure household. I have also been told “God will provide” – as aforementioned, a statistical falsehood. Nor do I blame the people who have children despite having little. It is not, after all, money that buys happiness, but poverty can buy a whole lot of sadness.

When it comes to finding work, having children, or engaging in any of the difficult challenges of life, let’s not discredit the people who worked hard facing real uncertainty about whether they would be successful. Let’s remind the ones who succeeded and forgot the uncertainty, honor the ones who succeeded and remained mindful, and remember the ones who faced that obstacle and lost. One can do this and be humble at the same time. Whatever our affiliation, let’s stop saying “God will provide.” If you’re religious, God already provided quite a bit – let’s use it to do well by each other now, instead of hoping for more later.

3 thoughts on “God Will Provide?”

  1. Eloquently put. I took me a while to pinpoint what your message here was, and my summary would be: Let’s not trivialize others’ hard work, nor the element of luck in our triumphs. As far as advising others to trust “God [to] provide,” I agree that (assuming God exists) God would want us to be self-reliant and use wisely that which he has already given us. I believe in the phrase, “trust in God,” meaning never to lose hope and gratitude, no matter how dismal your circumstances may seem, but expecting God to provide so your life is always “easy” seems a foolish and irresponsible hope.

  2. I agree, and very much like your last line – an “irresponsible hope.”

    People have a need to engage with one another. Hoping for something to excuse us from having to engage is indeed irresponsible. While it’s wise to pick our battles, avoiding our good challenges is actually bad for us.

    1. I agree, we need to engage with each other, and telling others, “God will provide,” may cause us shift the responsibility in our minds, thereby forgetting that.

      We discussed in church the other week that, when God answers prayers, it is typically through other people that he answers them. We often refer to this as, “We need to be God’s hands.” I like this reminder that people have helped God answer my prayers, so I have an obligation to help others as well. (Matthew 25:40)

      It does bother me when people discount the magnitude government aid has played in their lives. To benefit from government assistance and then to resent others for receiving assistance is a poorly considered attitude. If God answered your prayers through lawmakers and the government, then we should think twice. Of course, I’m not mainstream Christian, so maybe other congregations don’t teach that God answers prayers through people.

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