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Divine providence works to turn everything toward good, but how much is providence really involved in every little thing? Are traffic jams and coin flips, for example, really part of the divine design?
In this episode, hosts Curtis Childs and Jonathan Rose explore a series of questions about divine providence that should help give us a better understanding of how it operates.
To begin with, does divine providence really influence everything, and how does it affect what we think of as luck?
When an apparently lucky event happened to me, I was told by angels that it happened because spirits of that type were present, and when something unlucky happened, that the influence of those spirits predominated. In addition, evil spirits have used their skills to discover how to generate a sphere of influence producing misfortunes that look exactly like the results of chance. (Secrets of Heaven §6493)
For more on these evil spirits and our relationship to them, check out our recent episode “The Angels and Evil Spirits With Us.” If you’re interested specifically in understanding why bad things happen to good people, check out our episode of the same name.
I also learned that the Lord’s providence directs all events, even the smallest of all events, down to the smallest of the smallest, including our actual footsteps. When anything contrary to providence succeeds, misfortunes happen. The angels confirmed that there is no such thing as chance and that apparent luck or good fortune is providence on the lowest level of the divine design, where everything is relatively unpredictable. (Secrets of Heaven §6493)
There is a great deal to know about this Luck (which . . . is divine providence in outermost matters) that I am not free to disclose. This has showed me . . . that divine providence is present in the slightest details of our thoughts and actions. If divine providence is at work in the slightest details of such trivial . . . matters, what else can we expect in the details of matters that are not trivial and inconsequential? (Divine Providence §212:2)
So if God is really behind everything that happens, why are we not able to get a glimpse of his divine providence?
Divine providence works in this invisible, unfathomable way in order to allow us the freedom to ascribe events to either providence or chance. It would be dangerous for providence to act in a visible, fathomable way, because our eyes and minds might lead us to believe that events are providential, but afterward we might change our mind. So truth and falsity would unite in our inner self. (Secrets of Heaven §5508:2)
There is a reason why divine providence works so subtly that hardly anyone knows it is there—to keep us from dying. That is, our own self-importance, which is what motivates us, never cooperates with divine providence. Our self-importance has an inborn hatred of divine providence. (Divine Providence §211)
So even though divine providence works through everything, our ego can get in the way. But it’s divine providence that prevents it from leading us to our ruin.
God won’t tell us how to live our lives, directly interfering with our will—he’ll just provide us with more options, introducing better ones so we can move toward what is good.
All this happens invisibly, but is divine providence ever visible? Sometimes, but as we tend to look at things in a superficial way, it makes it difficult for us to see what’s going on beneath. If we work on approaching things from a deeper, more spiritual perspective, we will start to see how divine providence bends them toward good.
We are allowed to see divine providence from behind but not face to face, and when we are in a spiritual state, not in a materialistic state. (Divine Providence §175:2)
So looking back in hindsight and being lifted up into a more spiritual state might be the best way to see that providence at work.
What is it, then, that keeps us from seeing divine providence?
The wall that prevents us from seeing divine providence, according to Swedenborg, consists of our “trust in our own shrewdness,” “longing for wealth/important positions,” “accepting outward appearances,” and “sense of self-importance.”
As love reaches us in new ways, we can knock down this wall and step into a wonderful state of peace and trust in divine providence.
So what are the benefits that come from seeing divine providence?
This truth, which I am calling peaceful truth, is divine truth itself from the Lord as it exists in heaven. It affects everyone there, without exception, and makes heaven heavenly. Within peace, you see, lies trust in the Lord: trust that he is in complete charge, takes care of everything, and leads it to a good ending. When we believe this, we are at peace, because we then fear nothing and have no worries about the future to disturb us. The more we love the Lord, the more we enter this state. (Secrets of Heaven §8455)
If you don’t have that, you’re stuck in a cycle of dissatisfaction that keeps you seeking new ways to satisfy your worldly appetites. But this complete alignment and awareness with divine providence opens you to a better world that’s characterized by bliss and happiness.
About the state of peace existing in heaven it can be said that by its very nature it is indescribable and that as long as we are still in the world no worldly concept can introduce it into our thoughts or perceptions. It transcends all our earthly senses. The calm disposition, contentment, and cheerfulness that success brings are nothing by comparison. These have a merely superficial effect, whereas peace affects our very deepest elements, our first substances, and the rudiments of those substances. From there peace branches and pours out into developments from those substances and rudiments, lending charm to them and joy and bliss to the wellspring of our thoughts and consequently to the purposes of our life. In this way it makes our mind a heaven. (Secrets of Heaven §8455)
Related Swedenborg & Life Videos
“The 10 Commandments: God’s Name Explained”
“The Angels and Evil Spirits With Us”
“Who Was Swedenborg?”
“Why Bad Things Happen”
Free E-Book Downloads
Divine Love and Wisdom
Heaven and Hell
Secrets of Heaven
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About Swedenborg & Life
In a lighthearted and interactive webcast format, host Curtis Childs from the Swedenborg Foundation and featured guests explore topics from Swedenborg’s eighteenth-century writings about his spiritual experiences and afterlife explorations and discuss how they relate to modern-day life and death.
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When we wake up in heaven, Swedenborg tells us, angels roll a covering from off of our left eye so that we can see everything in a spiritual light. The offTheLeftEye YouTube channel uses an array of educational and entertaining video formats to look at life and death through an uplifting spiritual lens.
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