God’s Providence

God’s Providence is a topic that gives us a fresh perspective on evil, and a correction on what many people attribute to God’s will. The basic mistake in the latter is to think that everything that happens, happens according to God’s will, that God willed it. If this were true, then we would have (and there are many people who think they have) an easy explanation for bad things happening to good people: “It was God’s will.”

This is very damaging to the one who is suffering, and to whom we might say this, thinking it will comfort them. They are probably already angry with God, and now their anger is confirmed, “It is God’s fault!”

Within the overarching mystery of God’s Providence is God’s will and his acquiescence, and between the two is the gift of free will in his creatures. What happens is not always what God wants (or wills), and what God wants does not always happen. There are two particular New Testament verses that address this:

That we may lead a quiet and tranquil life in all devotion and dignity. This is good and pleasing to God our Savior, who wills that everyone come to the knowledge of the truth and be saved. (1 Tim 2:2-4)

The Lord does not delay his promise, as some regard “delay,” but he is patient with you, not wishing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:9)

God’s willfree willGod’s acquiescence
Evil is not a something but a lack of something: a lack of good where good ought to be. It is a good that a bird can fly because it is part of a bird’s nature to fly. When a bird cannot fly, there is a lack of good, therefore, an evil, a natural evil. On the other hand, the fact that humans cannot fly is not the lack of a good, because it is not human nature for us to fly. Therefore, it is not an evil.

Now, there are three kinds of evil in the world: natural evil, man-made evil, and angelic evilnone of which are from God (God is good, and can only create and emanate good.) These three forms of evil come from one source: free will in the nature of rational creatures (humans and angels.)

You might question this: “What about natural evil, storms, disease, earthquakes, birth defects, or mental disorder, etc.?” Read carefully St. Paul’s letter to the Romans 8:18-23. In this passage, there are three concepts important to our considerations:

  1. Creation, subjected to corruption, is awaiting the redemption of the children of God … the redemption of our bodies (our soul is redeemed on the Cross, our body, according to St Paul, is awaiting the Second Coming of Christ, and resurrection of the body);
  2. Creation will be set free from the slavery of corruption at that time;
  3. Creation was not subjected to corruption “of its own accord, but by the one who subjected it to futility.” It is not of the nature of creation to be corrupt, therefore, there is a lack of a good.

To understand this third concept, we must look at a couple of verses from Genesis. In 3:17-18, after the disobedience, God said to Adam: “Curse be the ground because of you … Thorns and thistles shall it bring forth.” This is not a pronouncement of a punishment, but the announcement of a result of Adam’s disorder (tendency towards self-gratification in the material world rather than God) due to the loss of sanctifying grace. Because God created Adam from “the clay of the earth” (i.e., the stuff of creation), he has an intrinsic connection to creation. Adam’s disordered human nature, due to original sin, affected his body, and reverberates in creation through the intrinsic bond between the human body and creation. Adam is the one who subjected creation to futility (cursed be the ground {creation}, thorns and thistles, representing all natural evil, bad things, things harmful to man, in nature.)

There are three evils: first, man-made evil, and second, natural evilboth a result of Adam’s misuse of his free will; and third, angelic evilthat which comes from the spiritual realm, and the result of the misuse of angelic free will. All angels were created good by God, they made a bad decision resulting in an eternal disconnect from God (condemnation), and their revenge is upon mankind.

God’s willhuman and angelic free willGod’s acquiescence
Why, then, does God acquiesce? To not allow evil would require the suppression of free will. Without free will, we would not be human, and we would not be able to freely turn to God in response to his grace, and to love him for who he is. A second consideration is that there is a type of knowledge and formation that comes from experience. In the Vatican II document, Gaudium et spes, we gain a deeper understanding of this form of pedagogy, and its purpose. Speaking of the new heaven and new earth prophesied in Isaiah (65:17ff), 2 Peter (3:13-14), and Revelation (21:1ff), the Council Fathers say this:

For after we have obeyed the Lord, and in his Spirit nurtured on earth, the values of human dignity, brotherhood, and freedom, and, indeed, all the good fruits of our nature and enterprise, we will find them again, but freed of stain, burnished and transfigured, when Christ hands over to the Father: “a kingdom eternal and universal, a kingdom of truth and life, of holiness and grace, of justice, love and peace.” On this earth, that Kingdom is already present in mystery. When the Lord returns it will be brought into full flower. (GS 39)

A final consideration as to why God acquiesces is that at each glimpse of evil, we turn and “run” to God. In order to know God (the Good), and willfully turn to him, we must know evil.

Understanding God’s Providence? … It is very simple.

Deacon Peter Trahan, MATh About Deacon Peter Trahan, MATh

Ordained in 2008 to the Archdiocese of Miami; MA Theology from The Augustine Institute, Denver, CO; Master Catechist with the Archdiocese and Coordinator of Adult Faith Formation at St. Bonaventure Parish. Member of the Fellowship of Catholic Scholars.


  1. Avatar Martin B. Drew says:

    Thank you Deacon Trahan for your article on God’s Providence. . In Job one of the wisdom books there is the fact that Job did not blame God nor turn away from God for the thefts against Job nor the lies about Job and the lack of truth in the gossip about Job.. In this book Job knows and practices Wisdom that is Job practices the Law of God or the ten commandments .. This is shown by the good opinions of his friends in their speeches.