Little Toes and a Big God

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The main function of the little toe is to make sure that all the furniture in the house is in place.” I laughed when I read this. But I also grimaced, for I know this experience. I want to say “ouch” just thinking about it!

One marvels at the diverse function of the toes. Who knew that these appendages, designed for mobility, are also furniture and metal detectors? I often think of my father whose big toe had the uncanny ability to find a needle or a pin otherwise hidden in the carpet of our living room or on the stairs. Again, “Ouch!”

Yes, we are fearfully and wonderfully made. And we should also reflect “fearfully” (i.e. reverently) on God’s wonderfully ordered providence. A providence that doesn’t always appear, well, so wonderful!

In his book, The Doctrine of the Knowledge of God, John Frame helpfully summarises the biblical teaching of divine lordship by the use of three concepts: “control,” “authority,” and “personal presence.” God is in control of everything that occurs; he has absolute authority over everyone’s life; and he does this everywhere personally and fully present. Unlike myself, to whom my wife sometimes says, “Doug, you may be here, but you are not present,” God is both “here” and “present.”

God did not say “oops” last week when my little toe found the right corner leg of my bed, and he has not been taken by surprise by COVID-19 and its multitudes of ramifications. He remains in control of its spread, exercises authority over governments in their response, and has not abandoned us. He is as personally present now as he was in the garden on the sixth day of creation with virus-free Adam and Eve. In other words, he was Lord then, and he is Lord still. He is still covenantally faithful. He continues to fulfil his plan to extend his kingdom and to transform our broken world into one where everyone will one day joyfully live in the “knowledge of the glory of the LORD” (Habakkuk 2:14).

None of this is an argument for either a care-free passivity or a pagan fatalism. Rather it is a biblical recognition that Jesus is Lord all the time and this should shape our response to every circumstance. Whether a needle in the toe, or a vaccination needle in the arm, ultimately the Lord rules. And being in his hands is our hope; it is our gracious privilege.

I’m rather pedantic in attempting to avoid unnecessary pain, either for myself or for others. When my children were younger, I was careful to take the key out of the security gate in our hallway in case they might run and poke out their eye. (Ouch!) We use a painted stone to keep our front door open when the wind is blowing and, daily, I make sure it is not sticking out, concerned that one of us will stumble over it. Perhaps you can never be too cautious, but you can be too care-full. Caution is no guarantee against an accident. After all, ultimately, we are not in control. God is. And because he is, we need not be burdened with care.

Christian, we are loved and cared for by a personally present, all-controlling, absolutely authoritative, big God. Nothing takes him by surprise and nothing will thwart his plan. Including a virus. It cannot be victorious. Jesus secured the victory over sin and death when he died on the cross and then rose from the dead. And though this is no guarantee we will not stub our toe in this world, it is a guarantee that one day we will walk perfectly in a new garden, where sin and death—and needles!—will be no more. Our big God is using all things, because he has ordained all things—both big and “little”—towards this goal.

Cautious, but cared for with you,

Doug