Hindsight is a wonderful thing, isn’t it? It enables us to see and understand so much more about our lives than we might otherwise! It is through hindsight – perhaps much further down the road, but eventually – that we can appreciate that the ‘curses’ in our lives really did have resulting good come out of them. The Lord teaches us that He’s got our backs: His Providence, although invisible to our eyes, surrounds everything we do in order to protect us from ourselves, to help us through our lives and onward to heaven.
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. Seeing Divine Providence from behind but not face to face is seeing it after the fact but not before; and seeing it when we are in a spiritual state and not in a materialistic state is seeing it from heaven and not from this world. Everyone who accepts inflow from heaven and recognizes Divine Providence (and especially people who have become spiritual by virtue of their reformation), on seeing events in their amazing kind of sequence, virtually sees Providence from a deep recognition and confesses it. Such people do not want to see it face to face, that is, before things happen, because they are afraid their own volition would interfere with some element of its orderly sequence. (Divine Providence 187.4)
I offer three examples from my own life to demonstrate this phenomenon. The first is my bicycle accident: I fell from my bike at the age of 20, broke my kneecap, and although it ‘messed up’ my plans for the coming year, two huge side-effects were courting the man who is now my husband and confirming my faith in the New Church.
Fast-forward twenty years to the second incident which involved moving our son from one primary school to another: we loved his first Montessori school, but in the course of time the administration underwent major changes and we were compelled to pull him out, even though he only had another 18 months of primary schooling left before he’d have to change schools again. We considered our options and decided to move him to another Montessori school. Despite the angst my husband and I felt at the time, and the undoubtable apprehension and fear our son experienced, he quickly acclimated to his new environment, made two great friends and had most of his class later join him at his out-of-area high school – where he previously would have known no-one.
My third example is more of an ongoing one, something which began before the birth of our son and still affects us to this day: infertility. I’d always thought we’d have a gaggle of kids, but, despite our best efforts, we don’t. This affected me deeply, for many years – it can still elicit a lump in my throat and a tear in my eye. In retrospect, though, we can appreciate all the more that we are blessed to have the one child we have, we are able to travel so much more and with so much more logistical ease than we would have otherwise, and we’ve learned to relax our own planning and follow the Lord a little more willingly – we’re fond of saying, ‘we make plans and God laughs’.
Challenges are just part and parcel of life: they can really sting at the time, and they can keep stinging for a long time after they happen. As the ancient Greek philosopher Epictetus wisely said, “It’s not what happens to you but how you react to it that matters.” We will all encounter traumas and hard times; believing that these are blessings in disguise and trusting that it will all work out in the end will help us endure them, and ease our mental burden.
Peace has in it confidence in the Lord, that He directs all things, and provides all things, and that He leads to a good end. When a man is in this faith, he is in peace, for he then fears nothing, and no solicitude about things to come disquiets him. (Arcana Coelestia 8455)