Throughout the Bible, in the trials of Abraham, the shripwreck of Paul, and in countless other places, we are reminded that divine providence is at work in the world. One of my favorite verses, Jeremiah 29:11, assures us that God has a plan for each and every one of us.

But in the frenzy and stress of our daily lives, it is easy to forget this promise. We view our triumphs as isolated incidents of good fortune, and we blame our struggles on our ineptitude or on plain bad luck. Rarely do we take a step back and look at the big picture for long enough to consider how God might be working in our lives – working among the high points and the low points – to bring about His plan for us.

This morning I was reflecting on my own life, and on all of the ups and downs that brought me to where I am today. There was one struggle in particular that, at the time, seemed like the end of the world. Looking back, however, it was clear to me that this struggle changed me for the better. It molded me into the person that I am today and set my life on a track that has since brought me a lot of happiness. As I reflected, I wanted to kick myself – if I had only been able to see back then how the struggle was working within God’s plan, my life could have been so much less stressful!

It is important, though, that the Bible gives us not only stories of people experiencing God’s providence in their lives, but also of people who, like me, failed to see His providence working until after the fact. In Chapter 12 of Acts, we are told that Peter was imprisoned by King Herod. An angel came to lead Peter to freedom, but as they escaped, Peter “had no idea that what the angel was doing was really happening; he thought he was seeing a vision.” It was not until the angel had left that Peter finally “came to himself and said ‘Now I know without a doubt that the Lord sent his angel and rescued me from Herod’s clutches.’” As he was escaping from prison, Peter didn’t understand what was truly happening. It wasn’t until afterward that he realized that God had been guiding him all along.

Peter’s story assures me that my inability to see God’s providence in my day-to-day life is actually a common problem. Even Peter, who had been one of Jesus’s closest companions and had witnessed His miracles, couldn’t see that God’s hand was guiding events in his life until after the events in question were over.

Peter should have been able to see God’s plan in his escape from prison – and we should all learn to see the angels leading us in our own lives.

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