Coincidence vs Providence

This post is for JS. We’d talked about this … and now I’m writing about it 🙂

What luck!

I have a friend who used to say that there’s no such thing as luck, only statistics. Winning the lottery; running into an acquaintance from home on the other side of the world; bad weather the day of your long-awaited holiday; the concert you bought tickets to getting cancelled because the lead singer happened to get sick that particular night; how solid Murphy’s law seems to be in general.

It’s all just a matter of chance and probability. What we’re really saying when we say something that happened was bad luck is that the improbable (but not impossible) negative outcome happened. What we’re really saying when we wish someone good luck is that we hope probabilities work in their favour.

Right place, right time

Then there are those moments when you really see how the stars have aligned. Yes, it’s still probability at play – but I don’t believe statistics preclude God’s involvement; indeed I believe God can work with probabilities and against them.

Bárbara (not her real name) before her first session of chemotherapy.
Bárbara (not her real name) before her first session of chemotherapy.

B, one of our clients, was diagnosed with cancer and given a 60-70% of responding to treatment and a 40% chance overall of recovering. Hospital A doesn’t generally provide chemotherapy. They were going to send B home to free up a bed, and put her on the three-month waiting list at another hospital. It’s Monday.

Improbability #1:
B’s doctor wants to treat her, and convinces Hospital A to make an exception.

B needs six sessions of chemo. Each session requires medication costing several times the family’s monthly income. B needs to start the first round by Wednesday morning or the hospital will send her home – this means we need the money to buy the medication on Tuesday. B’s high school friends have managed to raise a fraction of the cost of one session of chemo.

Improbability #2:
JS is in La Paz at the time the medication needs to be purchased, and has the means and desire to make it happen

JS is in town visiting that week, leaving Wednesday afternoon. On Monday evening we talk. I tell him about my day, which had consisted mainly of going to the hospital with a colleague to meet B, and then trying (unsuccessfully) to donate blood for B’s cancer treatment. He offers to pay for the first round of medication.

From his point of view, it’s a little that will go a long way – by our standards, it’s not small change but not a crazy amount of money either. A problem presents itself; the solution is within his means. There isn’t really any luck or probability involved here.

From an outsider’s point of view, though, you might say it’s “lucky” JS was there that week and willing to be generous.

But why?

I’m not sure exactly why JS planned his trip for those dates; no-one can say how and why B developed cancer, and why the diagnosis was made when it was made. There is nothing particularly remarkable about any of those facts in isolation, but the way the facts came together as a problem and solution is, for me, the work of God.

For me there is no doubt that God used JS to provide for B. Even if you can use the terms chance and luck to explain how He did it.

For me there is no doubt that this was answered prayer. Even if you can use the terms chance and luck to explain how the prayer was answered.

How often might that be the case for all of us – that God uses us to do a little thing that means a whole lot for another person? And we say, “Oh, it was the least I could do”; “It was no big deal, glad I could help.”

It is a big deal. The God of the Universe wants to use our lives to bless the lives of others.

So next time we’re tempted to write something off as chance or coincidence … maybe we’re unknowingly participating in something much bigger than ourselves.

Note: The day after B commenced her chemotherapy, the court handed down a 17-year conviction against her stepfather – the man who had raped B and her sister, and sexually abused their younger sister.

Any comments, thoughts? I'd love to hear from you :)

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