But as laypersons we also use the term in specific and personal ways. We use it to speak of God’s extraordinary gracious interventions in our lives.
Take, for example, the story of Ruth in the Old Testament, told in the book named after her. She was a Moabite, widowed from her Israelite husband. She insisted on relocating to Bethlehem with her mother-in-law, Naomi.
As a result of her decision, she eventually married Boaz, and the two of them became the grandparents of David, king of Israel. Her story shows that bad things may happen (Ruth’s widowhood and alienation), but providentially they may also lead to good consequences.
A story I heard a while ago reflects events that were alarming yet turned out to bless wondrously.
As the story goes, on a certain Saturday night a pastor was working late at his church. He decided to call his wife before leaving for home. It was about 10 p.m., but his wife didn’t answer the phone.
The pastor let the phone ring many times. He thought it was odd that she didn’t answer, but decided to wrap up a few details and then try to phone again a few minutes later.
When he tried again, his wife answered after the first ring. He asked why she had failed to answer earlier. She said that the phone had been quiet all evening. They agreed that it must have been a fluke.
The following Monday the pastor received a phone call at the church office. It came in on the phone he had used the previous Saturday night. The call was from a stranger who wanted to know why the pastor had called on Saturday night.
The pastor was puzzled until the caller said, “My phone rang and rang Saturday night but I didn’t answer it.” The pastor remembered calling his wife and realized he must have called the wrong number.
The man interrupted the pastor’s explanation, “That’s okay,” he said. “Let me tell you my story. You see, I was planning to commit suicide on Saturday night, but before I did I prayed, ‘God, if you’re there, and you don’t want me to do this, give me a sign now.’” At that point my phone started to ring. I looked at the caller ID, and it said, ‘Almighty God.’ I was afraid to answer!”
The reason it showed “Almighty God” on the man’s caller ID was that the church the pastor was serving was called Almighty God Tabernacle.
Was that “wrong number call” just a coincidence or a providential interruption to show grace to the caller? My readers can ponder and decide…
Photo credit: Dejan Krsmanovic (via flickr.com)