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  • Karis Anne

Those Missing Donkeys

*Note: The following is a paraphrase that comes from 1 Samuel 9.*

 

When a guy named Saul was sent by his father to look for some missing donkeys, I don’t think he considered this frustrating incident to be an act of God. 


I doubt he thought to himself, “I bet God meant for something special to happen by letting us lose our donkeys.”


No, he was probably too busy thinking about how hot and sweaty he was as he searched for the donkeys with his servant. Or perhaps he was lost in frustration at the fact that he, Saul son of Kish, should have to traipse all over the country just to find a couple of donkeys.


But, no matter what exactly Saul was thinking, the donkeys were not to be found. 

Saul and his servant had looked for them (in Mt. Ephraim), looked for them (in Shalisha and Shalim), and LOOKED for them (in all the land of the Benjamites)! 


The donkeys had vanished into thin air. 


Finally, when the two had gotten all the way to the land of Zuph, Saul turned and looked back at his servant (who was probably staring glumly down at the dirty, grimy toes sticking out of his sandals). 


“Come, let’s go back,” said Saul, “my father is going to stop being worried about the donkeys and start worrying about us!”


The servant (perhaps pulling his gaze away from his aching and dusty feet) said, “There is a city ahead where a man of God is. All that he says comes to pass, and perhaps if we go and ask him where the donkeys are, he will show us!”


“But what will we bring this Seer to pay him for his time?” asked Saul, “We have nothing to give him!”


The servant grinned. “Look,” he said “I have a fourth of a silver shekel here. I can give that to the man of God when he shows us the way.”


The two started off towards the city where this Seer lived. 

And thus begins one of the most exciting tales in history. 


In the city ahead, Saul and his servant met this Seer. The Seer’s name was Samuel. And before the end of the next day, Saul, son of Kish, had been anointed by Samuel to become first King of Israel. 


I don’t know about you, but I think this beginning to the story of the kings of Israel is very interesting! 

Why would God use some missing donkeys, of all things, to lead Saul to Samuel? Why would he cause the two men to meet in such a manner? Why, why, why?


Well, I can’t pretend to know “why” God does anything. 

But I do know that God works out His will in the world for His own Glory and our good. And He begins in the details.


 In ancient Israel, this looked like God causing Kish’s donkeys to go missing. To Kish and his son Saul this may have been exceedingly frustrating. They had to spend all their time and energy looking for some donkeys

But, nope.

God had a plan…a plan He worked out through the mysterious absence of “Hee-Haws.”


The Missing Donkeys…and God’s Providence

Have you ever heard the word “Providence?” Perhaps you have heard your pastor use it or you have heard references in your history books to “providence.” Maybe you believe that the word is only important among theological scholars or in doctrinal papers. But just maybe the idea of providence, the fact that God works in and through everything to accomplish His plan, has more bearing on your life than you ever thought possible. He worked through a couple of missing donkeys. How could He work through the trials and frustrations in your life…even the minuscule-but-still-frustrating ones? 


When I break a dish because of my own awkward clumsiness, could God be working through even that? When I lock my keys in the car, could God be working through even that? When I am forced to practice an instrument that I’m discouraged about, when I forget something that really mattered, when someone goes out of their way to be rude to me, when I fail and I fail and I fail…could God truly be working out His Will in me through all of these things? Yes, my friend. He can!


Perhaps we will never know how God used the little circumstances or frustrations to accomplish His plan. Sometimes we will see it very clearly. But, whether we see it or not, it should be encouraging to know that God is working. Yes, right now. He’s working in your life. He’s working in your circumstances. He’s working in your trials and frustrations. His hand is on you and is guiding you. He’s working out His Will. 


Sometimes, I get frustrated. I want to be perfect now. I want to quit making so many mistakes. I want to quit dropping dishes. I don’t like the small annoyances in my life. But those are the exact things that God (in his providence!) uses to Glorify Himself and to grow me in my faith!


The Missing Donkeys…and Saul’s Downfall

In the case of Saul, God worked through every detail of history to give him a kingdom. He worked through the instance of the missing donkeys. He set up the anointing of Saul. He helped Saul win battles and gave him faithful subjects who would follow him. Then, when Saul sinned against Him repeatedly, God used His sovereign authority to rip Saul’s kingdom away from him and gift it to somebody who would seek to obey Him and seek after His heart: David. 


Ultimately, God was the One who ordained Saul as king and He is the One who stripped Saul of his kingdom.

 

Why would He do that? Why would God work through some missing donkeys to give Saul a kingdom if He knew that Saul would turn against Him and not obey His commands? 

In fact, why would God even allow Saul to exist in the first place? 


There are no easy answers to these difficult questions except for this one: God is God. Everything that He does is right. He may not always be fair, but He is always just. 


It is important to realize this, because sometimes Christians want to think that all the good things in life are from God, and the bad things…well, those are from the devil. God can’t possibly have meant for that to happen. He can’t possibly be providentially working through this. 


But hold on a second. If God is truly working through all things, then even in those things that just don’t seem right or fair, God is working! God allows “bad” people to become dictators, and he allows “good” people to suffer the horrors of concentration camps. He causes rain to fall on the unjust and the just. And that is okay. 


God is God. He is providentially guiding history, and His decisions will grow us in our faith if we stay close to Him. 


Isaiah 46:9-11 says, “Remember the former things of old: for I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, my counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure:...yea, I have spoken it, I will also bring it to pass; I have purposed it, I will also do it.”


The Missing Donkeys…and You

Me? you might be wondering, how does God’s providence through missing donkeys have any bearing on how I live my life? Well, it actually has everything to do with you. In fact, understanding God’s Providence could radically change your life! 


First, it allows you to rest in God’s care. If God is providentially working through every single trial and circumstance in your life for your good and His glory…why would you worry? God knows what He is doing! He has your good in mind, and knows what will help you to draw closer to Him. Jeremiah 29:11 reminds us of this: “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’” God wants to use you to do His Will in the earth!! And He is orchestrating your circumstances so that you can truly glorify Him. That is pretty amazing. 


Second, it allows you to rest in contentment. If you understand that God knows everything and ordains everything to happen the way that it does, there is no reason to complain about what He has sovereignly placed in your life. Whether God has given you a trial, placed a hateful authority over you, or put you through a frustrating situation, you can rest assured that He is providentially allowing it…at least for now. In Philippians 4:12-13, Paul tells us this: “I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed…both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.”


I am not saying that God will not give you trials or that everything will always turn out looking like sunshine and roses.  I am also not saying that you should never try to improve your situation or that you should never fight against injustice. Those things can also be God’s will for you. But I am saying that whatever God does send your way, it is within His Will and for His glory. He is working in the minutest details of your life (even in frustrating “missing donkeys” situations) to draw you closer to Himself and to work out His perfect plan!


I also can’t pretend to have covered every nuance of the doctrine of providence…not even close (see the disclaimer at the bottom of this post)! This is a deep and far-reaching topic that theologians wrestle with. There are some difficult questions you might be asking, and that’s okay. If you are interested in learning more about God’s Providence and its far-reaching effects on your life, maybe you should do some personal study on it. If you decide to look at this amazing truth a little bit closer up, I would be really interested to hear about it! 


We have looked at just one example of how God providentially worked in Saul’s life through tiny details: the missing donkeys. He continues to work providentially in your life and in the world today! 


Personally, I want to respond to this truth by being willing to rest in God’s plan for me and through being content with whatever He sends my way – whether that is a trial, a hardship, or a blessing – because I know that ultimately, God wants what is best for me. 


I am sure that in every detail of my life, my Savior is working. And I know that He will ultimately use my life – my failures, my strengths, my trials, my personality, my minutes and hours and days – to work out His will in the earth. 

-- Karis Anne


Disclaimer:

 I realize that the Providence of God is an immensely enormous subject, and I truly don’t understand it enough as a young person to even dialogue about it! It is in discussing things like this that I realize my own inadequacy and unlearnedness. That being said, I hope that just looking at this one little side of God’s Providence has helped you to appreciate it more.


 If you are confused about God’s Providence and are not sure how He is using the trials in your life for His Glory…or if you just can’t understand why a good God would have ordained certain events in your life, I want you to know that I do not mean to give shallow “self-help” points and state truth flippantly. 


I do not want you to turn away from God because you believe that He wants you to stay hurting. I do want to encourage you to study further about God’s Providence. I pray that you would come to grasp the truth about God and His Will for you on a level that I couldn't even understand. 


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