We have all heard the phrase “Stuff happens!” This slang phrase is intended as a simple, existential observation that life is full of unforeseeable and uncontrollable events. It implies that bad things happen all the time and for no particular reason.
But is it true? Does stuff “just happen” to us by chance or a random roll of the dice?
“I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11)
God had given the prophet Jeremiah a vision that was diametrically opposed to the wisdom of the world, which insists that the events that surround our lives are merely “C’est la vie”—that is, “Such is life!” Jeremiah had confessed, “I know, O Lord, that a man’s life is not his own; it is not for man to direct his steps” (Jeremiah 10:23). Not even a bird falls to the ground apart from our Father’s will (Matthew 10:29), and Jeremiah knew that full well.
When God promised to give Israel a hope and a future, things looked pretty hopeless for Israel! A great many of the people had already been taken captive and exiled to Babylon, and Jeremiah knew that Jerusalem was doomed to be overrun and the temple of the Lord destroyed. Jeremiah could have stubbornly insisted—as many of his countrymen did—that this disaster was a result of chance, but of course he did not. Jeremiah knew that the judgments on Israel came from the hand of the Creator; he also knew that God’s discipline was ultimately delivered for the prosperity of His people, not their punishment.
It is no different for you and me. To be sure, God will discipline us, just as a loving father does with His children. But the discipline of God is never designed to harm us or crush us. It is always designed to prosper us—to help us grow and mature in our faith and to encourage us to call out to Him.
The Bible makes it clear: what the world calls “coincidences” are actually God’s providences, which He delivers for the good of those who are the called according to His purposes and for His glory. It is a wonderful comfort for the people of God to know that “stuff” doesn’t “just happen” and that there is no such thing as “happenstance” in heaven above or on earth below. This is exceedingly comforting when we find ourselves in painful providences. To know that nothing happens to us that doesn’t first pass through His nail-scarred hands is to know a truth that is as comforting as it is centering.
To know that sovereignty happens—not stuff—is to know the truth that sets us free to live out our faith with unspeakable joy and unwavering security. God plans to prosper His people, not paralyze them with the fear of uncertainty. God plans to give a holy hope and a future to the hopeful and the faithful. And knowing that this is the promise of the Almighty is to know all we need to rise above the circumstances of life and see God’s hand in everything.
One final point: there would not be a single painful providence that would be for our good if Jesus had not completed His mission. Only Jesus is the “Yes” and “Amen” to every promise of God (2 Corinthians 1:20), including the one given us from Jeremiah. We build our hope on the truth of the perfect life of Christ, His sacrificial death, His resurrection from the grave on the third day, and His ascension into heaven. God’s stamp of approval, assuring us that our debt had been fully paid and thereby cancelled, is found in the empty tomb. Gone is the gnawing guilt and faithless fear.
Jesus paid it all, so we can have joy unspeakable even in the face of all the “stuff” that is causing us pain. The truths of the Gospel have turned our groans into gladness, our sighs into songs, and our hurt into hopefulness. What God has promised He will most certainly deliver!
So . . . what stuff have you been dealing with in your life lately that may have you disoriented and disrupted? God is at work and He will not stop one step short of completing what He began in you. And you would not want Him to do that for a minute . . . even the painful ones.
This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!