“Every blade of grass will sing.” – David Crowder Band
A coincidence occurs when multiple things come together without any apparent intentionality among the persons involved in a such a way that they create a meaningful pattern. Everyone has experienced this phenomenon. We’ve all ran into a family member in an unexpected place, or discovered that we have a close mutual friend with a new roommate, or worn the same shirt to a party as another person, or something like that. Coincidence is a fairly regular part of the human experience.
People respond to coincidence in two extremes. Some say there is no such thing, meaning that God orchestrates all of these situations, and that there is a hidden meaning in all of them. Others attribute coincidence to utter randomness. They shrug their shoulders and move on. I want to suggest that both extremes come from the same failure to recognize the sovereignty of God.
The first group tries to unpack hidden meaning in every little coincidence, such as, “My car just happened to break down, and then I was able to share the Gospel with a man who was on the street. It was totally a ‘God thing.’” These kinds of stories are prevalent in evangelical circles. The irony is that by trying to infuse meaning into these circumstances and events – by trying to provide evidence that God works in the world – they imply that God is not at work in all the other events, the “average” days. So although this group tries to cast a vision of the providence of God, the result is often that they rob the doctrine of providence and belittle the vision of God’s sovereignty in this world. That is the irony.
So what is a coincidence? Why did God create a world in which human beings experience this phenomenon?
Here is my suggestion.
A coincidence is a dramatization of the reality that God is at work in the world; it is a dramatization of what is going on in every moment of our existence, namely, God is moving and orchestrating. A coincidence is therefore not an exception to the normal pattern of randomness (as the “God thing” approach ironically implies); rather, a coincidence is a little picture of the entirety of our reality. In the end, when we have a full perspective on our story – the story of creation and history – we will see that there was no such thing as true randomness; every dust mite, every flippant decision, every gust of wind, every blade of grass – all of these, we will find, have been perfectly orchestrated; all of these are a “God thing,” as it were. All creation groans, longing for the revelation of the sons and daughters of God. All things work together for the good of the children of God. No thing does not work together for this. Of course there is no such thing as a coincidence! This very criticism pulls the rug from under those who consider certain events here and there to be “God things.”
The doctrine of meticulous providence is exhaustive typology’s close cousin. Not only does God design all things as an image of his Son to display his glory; he also moves all things and orchestrates all these so that they proclaim the glory of his Son.
Generally, evangelicals tend to believe that there are a few images here and there in Creation. Maybe a river or food or water are images of Christ, they say, but most things belong to everyday life and have no symbolic significance. Edwards would say that typology is a pervasive reality, meaning that there is no thing that is not an image of the truth of God.
Similarly, evangelicals tend to believe that things here and there are “God things.” Edwards would say that each moment, infinitely down to the details and motions of atoms and molecules, are orchestrated by a Father who loves his Son, and who works all things for his glory, and for the good and joy of the sons and daughters who have been united to his Son.
Don’t settle for occasional God things . “The earth is Yahweh’s, and the fullness thereof.”
It is my personal belief that there is no relationship between multiple things in regard to time and space that is truly insignificant and of no consequence. The amount of the word “the” on a page, the number of square feet in my room, the color of the chairs in the room, etc. The point is not that we should try to interpret all of these relationships and facts. The point is that we ought to believe that the fundamental meaning to all of these relationships is the love of a sovereign God for his sons and daughters. We ought to stand in awe at the power of a God who loves us in an infinite capacity. The point is thanksgiving.