The word providence means “to see beforehand,” or “to provide for.” The doctrine of God’s providence covers several areas.
First, it covers the area of creation. The Hebrew word translated “create,” means that what God creates and brings into being, He then sustains and preserves. Therefore, not only are we dependent on God for our origin, but we also are dependent on God for our moment-by-moment existence (Acts 17:28).
Second, God’s providence has to do with God controlling all things by His sovereignty. Our culture (including the church) has been heavily influenced by the pagan view that nature operates according to fixed laws or natural causes, as if the universe were an impersonal machine that somehow came together by chance; and God, if He is actually there, is just a spectator in heaven looking down, perhaps cheering us on but exercising no immediate control over what happens on earth. But the Bible says that nothing happens by chance, and that God is in control of not only the universe and its operations but also of history. The affairs of men and nations, in the final analysis, are in His hands. He governs all things in His wisdom and goodness. What we call “the laws of nature” merely reflect the normal way in which God sustains or governs the natural world.
Third, God’s providence has to do with God providing for our needs by His sovereignty. The ultimate provision God has made by virtue of His sovereignty is the Lamb who was sacrificed on our behalf (Genesis 22:7). Because Jesus Christ died for us and was raised and now intercedes for us at God’s right hand, we have the assurance that nothing can separate us from God’s love (Romans 8:31-38). Therefore, we are not to be frightened; we are to trust in the God who will meet our needs (Matthew 6:25).
Fourth, God’s providence means that God works all things together for the good of His people (Rom. 8:28). When Joseph said to his brothers, “You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good” (Genesis 50:20), he meant that although his brothers had intended something evil, God was working through their wickedness for the good of His people. We see the same thing with Judas. Judas wickedly betrayed Jesus, but God was using the sin of Judas to bring about our salvation.
“We are not supposed to worry, but it is natural to worry about painful things and about the loss of things we value. We do not want to lose our loved ones, our health, our safety, or our possessions, but even if we do, God is working all things for our good….We find that hard to believe because we are shortsighted. We feel the pain and loss now, and we do not see the end from the beginning, as God does, yet God tells us that the sufferings we have to endure in this world are not worthy to be compared with the glory He has laid up for His people in heaven (Romans 8:18).”
[Adapted from Everyone’s a Theologian by R.C. Sproul]