Some people believe there’s no such thing as coincidence. Others say that’s all there is. My thinking leans toward the middle, a combination of coincidence and divine intervention. I believe God allows us to hold the steering wheel but sometimes gives it a nudge or takes over.
To me it’s seldom clear how to interpret specific events. That’s why I’ve embraced a comment made in our men’s Sunday School class a few years ago. Steve Sanders said, “I’ve always heard that coincidence is when God chooses to remain anonymous.”
There have been incidents in which I believe God anonymously intervened to rescue me from my foolishness. Sometimes it took a while to realize I had errantly attributed his quiet mercy to good luck. And sometimes I never knew. I believe his unseen hand has taken the wheel more often than I’ve understood.
God has let me exercise free will even when it took me on paths he didn’t approve. Through it all, however, there’s evidence his mercies are new every morning. Otherwise the consequences would have been more severe. I’m sure I’ve not given him enough credit.
A couple of recent experiences prompted me to write this column. They may seem insignificant, but felt affirming to me. Both occurred the same day and helped me realize how easy it is to overlook little moments that subtly point to God’s involvement.
On Friday, July 8th, I posted a weekly column titled, “Prevention – Part 2.” It addressed the abortion issue in what I hoped was a respectful way. I had written a previous article about abortion a year or two earlier but never published it. I don’t enjoy controversy, so I had put it aside.
After Roe vs. Wade began making headlines, I felt an ongoing tug to revisit the matter. I started fresh and tried to write something that might encourage civil dialogue about saving life rather than ending it.
Even after submitting the article to the newspapers, I wondered if I had done the right thing. A part of me kept questioning if I should have left the topic to others. When I posted it online uncertainty still lingered.
Whether the column accomplished what I hoped, I have no idea, but here’s what I believe is more than coincidence. After posting the article I ate breakfast then read that day’s devotional from Open Windows. The scripture was Psalms 139:1-12, but my attention was drawn to the next four verses, which I had marked almost 30 years earlier.
That passage is where David acknowledged that God knew him before he was formed in the womb and had planned his days ahead. The next day’s scripture included those verses. Maybe I’m wrong, but I took it as God’s affirmation, perhaps not for content but at least for intent. Too many times I’ve chosen silence because it was the easier route.
The other thing which seemed out of the ordinary that Friday involved a column I was working on titled “COVID.” I had reminisced about my late friend Jimmy Langford in the draft, but wondered if I should, since I had previously written about his untimely death.
While pondering that thought I got a text from our daughter, Carrie, checking on my brother and me. We both had COVID at the time and he was in the hospital with other health issues. Jimmy Langford was mentioned in her text, which struck me as odd. At first I thought I’d accidentally sent her something meant for my laptop, but I soon realized that wasn’t the case. I took it as a sign it was okay to write about my good friend again.
Those obviously aren’t earth shattering events, and I can’t say for sure they are anything more than coincidence. It’s possible they are simply cases of uncanny timing. I’m refreshingly convinced, however, that God’s delicate finesse sometimes disguises his involvement in my life. There’s no doubt I’m behind on giving him thanks.
My belief is we don’t have to routinely choose between coincidence or divine intervention, and that we can’t always know. I believe God in his wisdom often deems it best to include an element of uncertainty. But when we wonder about things we’re unsure of, that Sunday School comment seems an ideal approach. Steve said, “I’ve always heard that coincidence is when God chooses to remain anonymous.”
And I say, “Thank you God for mercies that I sometimes fail to see, for patience undeserved as you keep watch over me. Amen.”