God surely works His will through all of the events of our lives. While this is easy to admit intellectually, I think we often forget how real-world this is.
I was reminded of this yet again reading Gen 26. The passage states:
When Esau was forty years old, he married Judith daughter of Beeri the Hittite, and Basemath daughter of Elon the Hittite; and they made life bitter for Isaac and Rebekah (Gen 26:34-35).
I am amazed ever anew how I can miss the most obvious things in the Scriptures. Until a couple of days ago, I simply did not know why Rebecca was so adamant about favoring Jacob and encouraging him to deceive his father so that he can rob her own firstborn son his birthright.
Now I know the answer and it makes so much sense–her daughters-in-law annoyed her.
God knows everyone’s destiny. He knows all of the silly decisions we are going to make. In fact, God warned Rebecca what was to occur.
As the Scripture says:
Even before they had been born or had done anything good or bad (so that God’s purpose of election might continue, not by works but by his call) she was told, ‘The elder shall serve the younger.’ As it is written, ‘I have loved Jacob, but I have hated Esau’ (Rom 9:11-13).
Yet, God knowing our destinies, we go about and live our regular lives. The men and women we read about in the Scriptures were no different. Forty years passed without the prophecy pertaining to the elder serving the younger occurring. Rebecca was not looking to fulfill it in any way. She probably mostly forgot about it. But then, she was annoyed every single day with contentious daughters-in-law.
In response to this, her heart was motivated to make sure Jacob received her husband’s blessing–which, unbeknownst to her, set into action a chain of events that resulted in Esau paying homage to Jacob (Gen 33:15) and years later, Edom being subservient to Israel.
To end the story, after the deception Rebecca heard that Esau was going to take revenge upon his brother (Gen 27:42). Perhaps news of this would have not been enough for Isaac to bless sending his other son away, as he would not believe that Esau was capable of such a thing. Another possibility is that Rebecca did not want Isaac to find out why Esau was angry as it would bring to light her role in the deception.
Nevertheless, Rebecca was able to convince Isaac: “I am weary of my life because of the Hittite women. If Jacob marries one of the Hittite women such as these, one of the women of the land, what good will my life be to me” (Gen 27:46)?
Isaac apparently was convinced and then ordered Jacob to go:
Then Isaac called Jacob and blessed him, and charged him, “You shall not marry one of the Canaanite women. Go at once to Paddan-aram to the house of Bethuel, your mother’s father; and take as wife from there one of the daughters of Laban, your mother’s brother” (Gen 28:1-2).
Conclusion. From this whole crazy episode, I walk away thinking about a few things. First, it shows God’s providence works through all things, including our annoyances. If we reflect upon how God superintends all things in accordance with His will and He works all things for our good, then we can take greater comfort in Him in the midst of trials or simply petty annoyances.
God sometimes will allow us to struggle against our our better judgment with difficult family members, crazy employers, or terrible tragedies as there is some sort of decision we need to make. He knows what the decision will be and what it will accomplish. But, it must occur and God allows it all to come to pass.
If we are faithful, love Him, and trust in His righteousness then we have no reason to fear or despise our difficulties, knowing that they all come from God for our good and sanctification–one way or the other.
In addition to this, we must also take into account that the decisions we make often effect the lives (and decisions) of others. In the above episode, Esau’s decision to shack up with multiple Hittite women led to his parents being annoyed. This led to a chain of events that encouraged Jacob to leave house and home, with the blessing of his parents.
Let us close with this: This knowledge should grace our prayer life. The Prayer of the Optina Elders has been a blessing to me in asking for the faith to trust in God’s providence:
At every hour of this day, direct and support me in all things. Whatsoever news may reach me in the course of the day, teach me to accept it with a calm soul and the firm conviction that all is subject to Thy holy will. Direct my thoughts and feelings in all my words and actions. In all unexpected occurrences, do not let me forget that all is sent down from Thee (Arhipov, Sergei. Orthodox Daily Prayers).