“Every change and variation in the state of the human mind produces some change and variation in the series of things in the present, and so in the things that follow. . . . It is like an arrow shot from a bow, which, if it should depart in the least at its start from the line of aim, would go far wide of the mark at a distance of a thousand paces or more. This is how it would be if the Lord did not lead the states of human minds every least moment.” Divine Providence #202
Chess is a nerve-wracking game. It is not enough to make one good move. You have to anticipate one of several moves your opponent might make, and think of possible responses to each one of them. And that is just looking one move ahead. No player can anticipate all the possible moves an opponent will make through an entire game. And that is a situation involving only two people for a very limited time. Imagine if you tried to plan all the moves of your life ahead of time. You would soon throw your hands up in despair. You cannot predict what one person will do, let alone the many people you have contact with in a typical week.
Some students like to plan out their academic careers. It is wonderful to see people lay out projects that will take years to complete. Some of them will follow the path they have set out for themselves. Most will find that some unforseen circumstance arises that changes everything.
As the quotation from Divine Providence suggests, the slightest error in the original aim of an arrow will result in a huge error at the target. This is where divine providence comes in. Using our finest reason and best laid plans, we are not capable of anticipating every possibility in the future. It is amazing to think that the divine providence can do just that.
Rather than try to figure this point out rationally, I find that I only have to look at the sequence of events in my own life to notice marvelous ways in which I am being led. Recently someone missed an appointment. Rather than worry about it, I relaxed. A few moments later someone just happened to walk in the door hoping to find me free. The timing was perfect, and was not at all what I had expected. When I lay out a plan for the coming week I realize that some things will take place as anticipated. Others will just fall into place at exactly the right time. Having observed this for many years, I find myself content, knowing two things:
1: I cannot possibly plan out every detail of my life
2: God is still in charge.
All I have to do is to use my mind and heart to the best of my ability, resist negativity and lies, and let providence do its work.
There is one weakness with the bow and arrow illustration. Once the arrow leaves the bow, it continues on its course with very little to alter it. There may be a puff of wind, it may deflect off of a branch, but once the arrow has been sent on its way these changes are beyond the control of the archer. It seems that the divine providence does not just launch us into life with an infinitely perfect aim. Isn’t it more a case of the divine providence working with us every moment, subtly guiding us along the way, making adjustments for our errors so that we can get back on course.
The modern day arrow is something like that. When a rocket is sent into space, they of course take great care to launch it in the right direction, at the right time and speed. They also have built into the rocket thrusters and other means of making corrections along the route. Without this capability, it would be impossible to land a vehicle at a precise point on a distant planet.
As far as our spiritual life is concerned, we cannot know the course of future events with all of their complexity. All we need to know is that it is important for us to do our best in the present moment, resisting the negative, and attempting with all of our power to do what is right. The Lord will do the rest. This is the way we cooperate with the divine providence.
—Rev. Frank Rose, Former Pastor of Sunrise Chapel, Tucson, AZ