A skunk and divine providence

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A skunk and divine providence

October 19, 2021 - Jim Denison, PhD

© Frank Fichtmüller/stock.adobe.com

© Frank Fichtmüller/stock.adobe.com

NOTE: We’d like to introduce Jim’s Blog today, a column where Dr. Jim Denison shares personal insights and experiences.

A few weeks ago, I was walking in our neighborhood when a red Jaguar nearly hit me. The driver came up behind me and veered to the right to turn left into the alley ahead. He or she either did not see me or they wanted to give me an exciting start to my day. 

This morning, I was walking on that same part of our neighborhood when a skunk started down the alley on the right toward me. We have skunks in our area—you can smell them even when you cannot see them. This one was headed for a direct intersection with me. 

In that moment, I prayed. I have learned the hard way over the years that when the Bible tells us to pray about “everything” (Philippians 4:6), it means “everything.” Part of praying “without ceasing” is praying in the moment about the moment (1 Thessalonians 5:17). 

So I prayed about the skunk and asked God for help. In that instant, the same red Jaguar that I nearly met a few weeks ago appeared in the alley to my right between me and the skunk. It forced the skunk to veer off behind some trash cans. The car then turned to the right in the direction I was going. As I walked along to its left, the car provided a barrier between me and my olfactory adversary. 

Was this a miracle? 

Three options seem obvious. 

One is a miracle of creation, that God created that red Jaguar out of thin air in that moment in answer to my prayer. God obviously can do this. We see such miracles of nature all through Scripture. If he created the heavens and the earth (Genesis 1:1), he can do with them as he wishes. 

However, as I mentioned, I had seen this particular vehicle before. I suppose God could have created its twin in that moment, but this seems unlikely. 

The second option is a miracle of timing, that God worked events this morning in such a way that the car would appear in the moment when I prayed and needed its help. We know that God can do this as well. 

In Joshua 3, for example, we read, “as soon as those bearing the ark had come as far as the Jordan, and the feet of the priests bearing the ark were dipped in the brink of the water (now the Jordan overflows all its banks throughout the time of harvest), the waters coming down from above stood and rose up in a heap very far away, at Adam, the city that is beside Zarethan, and those flowing down toward the Sea of the Arabah, the Salt Sea, were completely cut off” (vv. 15–16). 

The flooded Jordan River presented an obstacle far more dangerous than my skunk. In order for his people to cross it, God stopped the river far upstream at Adam (identified with modern Damiya), a distance of about eighteen miles. Assuming a typical flash flood water flow of nine feet per second, this would take nearly three hours. 

In other words, God stopped the flood three hours before the priests stepped into the river. In that moment, the last of the water reached them before rushing past on its way into the Dead Sea. 

All that God has ever done, he can still do (Malachi 3:8; Hebrews 13:8). Could he have arranged for that red Jaguar to appear in the moment I prayed? Obviously. 

Of course, a skeptic would argue for the third option, that the whole thing was just a giant coincidence. But as has been said, “Coincidence is when God prefers to remain anonymous.” 

Here’s the practical point: if we pray about “everything,” we can trust God with anything. 

Corrie ten Boom was right: anything too small to make into a prayer is too small to make into a worry. 

Is there a “skunk” in your neighborhood today? 

Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are from the ESV®️ Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®️), copyright ©️ 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved. The ESV text may not be quoted in any publication made available to the public by a Creative Commons license. The ESV may not be translated in whole or in part into any other language.

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