I remember when my friend Nan was weeping alone on a desolate beach in Nova Scotia and found a stone with a perfect cross on it and was comforted. When she related the story I smiled politely but thought to myself, “Well, that’s just Nan; she’s the poetic sort.”
Today I was reading my Bible and realized how I have changed my view since then:
“But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus …” (2 Corinthians 7:6, ESV).
What I believe now that I wasn’t so sure of some years ago is that God acts directly in our lives by little events that unbelief sees as merely coincidences. “You found a stone? Big deal: People find stones all the time, maybe even with perpendicular crossing ribbons of some other sediment type that resemble the tree Jesus died on.” “You got a visit from a friend just when you needed some cheering up? Big deal: That kind of thing happens all the time, even to pagans.” That was my old way of seeing; I wasn’t one to be taken in easily.
But the apostle Paul got a visit from a friend named Titus when he was feeling downcast (the Greek work for “downcast” here means literally “low to the ground”). And when their time together left Paul feeling better, he did not hesitate to say that the visit was no coincidence but a direct intervention by God to cheer him by the sending of a person.
Anything in our lives that we can possibly construe as God encouraging us is really God encouraging us. We are not imagining things. If the sight of cardinals thrills your soul, and you spot one today, you can thank God for sending it your way without feeling foolish about praying that. Any moment in a difficult conversation that you feel pressed to choose a right response over a retaliatory word you can truly interpret as a testing from God to see if you will obey and choose the right. There are no moments in which God is not involved and not near. Indeed, this way of seeing the moments of your life is the difference between belief and unbelief.
Like the apostle Paul, my friend Nan has eyes of faith to perceive God in the details of her day. And it will not be taken away from her.