Are the fortunate occasions of life the luck of the draw or the guiding hand of God?
I am asking myself this question as I read, The Last Lion, William Manchester's fascinating account of Winston Churchill's formative years.
Churchill dances around death the way an adept player avoids the dodge ball. Reading his life, one thinks, "This guy should be dead . . . many times over!"
- He leaps off a bridge as a child, thinking with childlike rationale that he will land on a tree and drop branch-by-branch safely to the ground. It didn't happen. Churchill lay in a coma for three days.
- He escapes a prisoner of war camp in the Second Boer War. His getaway covers 300 dangerous miles with amazing protective encounters along the way.
- He injures his shoulder while a soldier in Bombay. Later, while fighting with the British Calvary, he must pull his pistol instead of his usual sword precisely because of his injured shoulder.
And how does this death-defying daredevil respond to the shoulder incident? Manchester writes, "It occurred to him that if he hadn't injured his shoulder in Bombay, he would have had to defend himself with a sword and might now be dead." Churchill reflecting on this incident writes:
"One must never forget when misfortunes come that it is quite possible they are saving one from something much worse."
Note Churchill's words. He ascribes his fortune to the event not to God.
Manchester notes, "Pouring over his dispatches, one feels that war had become like that to him, a great Hentyan adventure, heightened here and there, by breathtaking flirtations with death, threats always turned aside at the last moment."
After narrowly escaping with his life in another Boer skirmish Churchill responds:
Did he? Was Churchill just "lucky" or was there a hand at work behind the misfortunes and near-death experiences?
How about your life? How do you account for the good and bad? Are you lucky? Having a good day? Rolling double sixes? Or in tough times, perhaps just experiencing a round of bad luck?
I don't find dice in God's story. I turn to the Scriptures and see an active God quietly at work:
- The Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will and sets over it the lowliest of men. Daniel 4:17
- It was he who gave the apostles . . . Ephesians 4:11
- And we know that God causes all things to work together for good. Romans 8:28
- Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? Matthew 6:26
- Are not two sparrows sold for a cent? And yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. Matthew 10:29
- He said, "Naked I came from my mother's womb, And naked I shall return there The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away. Blessed be the name of the LORD." Job 1:21
- "Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us" writes the Psalmist in Psalm 90:15.
As to God's hand, Charles Spurgeon writes,
Yes, he is that active, that detailed, that particular, and that involved. This is not fatalism. Reading the Scriptures we find again and again we are free to act -- and we must act. We must decide, we must choose, we must pray, and we must help.
It is the divine-human dance that is life, but in God's Ballroom they don't throw dice.
So we say "Thanks" in good times and bad. We celebrate the joys and cling to him in the sorrows. Why? He is working all things together for our good.
I'll take those odds over rolling the dice every time.
- "When misfortunes come . . ." from William Manchester, The Last Lion: Winston Spencer Churchill 1874 1932: Visions of Glory. Boston: Little, Brown and Company. 1983. Page 279.
- "Pouring over his dispatches . . ." from The Last Lion, page 324.
- "As God provides . . ." from Charles H. Spurgeon, The Treasury of David, Volume 2, page 65.