“Coincidence is when God acts anonymously.” –Unknown
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” –Romans 8:28
In light of Romans 8:28, a person might well conclude that nothing is random, that all over the world, God is making use of everything, harnessing events great and minuscule alike, to bring off his plans. It seems impossible―and it is. We’re talking about limitless power, knowledge and awareness at work all the time, everywhere. God doesn’t take coffee breaks, and if he drank coffee, he would be able to drink it at perfect leisure even while he went about coordinating a billion disparate events, constructing a vast embroidery in time and space.
The first time I truly grasped the scope of Romans 8:28, I was still living in Anchorage, running errands in my car for an entire day. About mid-morning, I pulled up behind a purple, late-model station wagon at a stoplight. On the bumper was a large, prominently displayed bumper sticker that read: With God All Things Are Possible. I took note of the bumper sticker and went on my way.
As I continued on, my errands took me all over Anchorage, a city of 300,000 people. Over the course of the day, I pulled up directly behind that same vehicle three times! This occurred at different times of the day at three different locations (miles removed from each other). I asked myself: How many purple station wagons could there be in this city? Station wagons are a dying breed as it is, and purple is not a common color. But even if there were more than one such car in Anchorage, what was the likelihood that there could be two of them with the same bumper sticker placed at the same exact spot on its bumper? And even if there were multiple purple station wagons with the same bumper sticker placed identically, what was the likelihood that I would pull up directly behind one or another of them three separate times in a single day, in different parts of a city that encompasses 2,000 square miles?
Approximately zero, unless there is an omnipotent Being up there who does things like this from time to time just to awaken us to who and what he is. I’m convinced that God is doing this far more often than he gets credit for. We usually reach for natural explanations or call it a coincidence. Often, I believe, God is pulling strings to give us special blessings (and teaching us about life in the bargain).
One night, years ago, I was leaving Anchorage’s Egan Convention Center at 2 a.m. after working the big New Year’s Eve bash. These are always festive, boisterous affairs that keep the servers there into the wee hours serving drinks and cleaning up the ballroom as the crowd thins and finally departs. That morning, after removing all the glassware, disposing of the trash, pulling the linen off the tables and putting all the equipment away, the servers were finally dismissed, and I gratefully headed home.
I walked to my vehicle, tucking my scarf in against the mid-winter chill. As I pulled out onto Fifth Avenue and drove toward “L” Street, I spotted two young couples on the sidewalk ahead, frantically waving their arms. I pulled over to find that they were simply seeking a lift home. Something about their body language rendered thoughts of risk ludicrous. They were just savvy Norwegian world travelers who knew from experience that it is next to impossible to get a cab at 2 a.m. on New Year’s Eve.
I gladly let them into my car, overwhelmed by the simple charm of the situation. Here were four complete strangers from half a world away, reaching out to me for a ride and getting trustingly into my car in the middle of the night! It’s the kind of thing that happens in movies. While we drove to the house where they were staying, I engaged them in conversation. Their English was excellent, and they were open and friendly. One of them was a violinist who had played in the Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra.
When we arrived at their destination, the one who had sat in the front with me pulled $15 out of his pocket and offered it to me. I told him I didn’t want it. In a way that I couldn’t possibly express in the few seconds it took them to get out of the car, I had already been compensated richly for my trouble. How often had I been able to enjoy a drive with a carful of Norwegian people? But when I tried to refuse, the gentleman simply placed the bills on the dashboard and climbed out of the car before I could object. From the back seat, his wife chimed in with a thick Norwegian accent, “You should take the money.”
You can’t buy entertainment like this. As it has been said, “The best things in life are free.” I believe it’s true, but that doesn’t mean those things are random. I think God delights in arranging things for us that we couldn’t bring together with all the money in the world and a billion lifetimes. All we can do is say, “Thank you.”
Love the story — and I love taking Romans 8:28 a notch higher, that God is in the business of turning the “negatives” in life into “positives” as the bigger picture unfolds. Delightful surprises in life are definitely a part of his gifting to us, but equally important is his redemptive action behind the scenes of our lives.