Coincidence is When God Chooses to Remain Silent
“The witness of Scripture is unanimous that the solicitude of divine providence is concrete and immediate; God cares for all, from the least things to the great events of the world and its history.” (CCC 303)
Can you remember a time in your life when you said to yourself “now that was a lucky coincidence” — like running into someone, or just making that light which would otherwise have made you late for a critical appointment, or maybe a test you didn’t study for that ultimately was postponed? These are little things that we usually pass off to coincidence. What about the bigger coincidences that occur?
I remember one night a little over 40 years ago I was sitting at a red light and something made me hesitate for a second after the light turned green before I pulled out into a very busy intersection. The very moment my car drove into the intersection, a car driving 80 miles an hour hit my car. I went spinning as if I were on ice skates. I stepped out of the car a little shaken, but otherwise fine. The front end of my car was damaged beyond repair, but but oddly enough, the damage stopped at the door of the driver’s side of the car. The police officer said “Wow, were you ever lucky. One more second and you could have been killed.” Coincidence? The story of that night didn’t end there however.
I learned more about what happened on that night two weeks later from the insurance company. Apparently two young boys were at a pizza parlor when the owner asked them to leave. The one boy got angry and pushed the glass door open with so much zeal, he smashed the glass on the door and cut his arm. They fled to their car assuming they were in trouble for the broken door. Realizing that the boy actually severed his arm his friend began to panic. Just as he was seated in the car the boy passed out apparently from a loss of blood. The other boy made the decision to drive his friend to the hospital going 80 miles an hour. This is when he collided with my car. He made the decision to keep going to the hospital rather than stop. I was told by the insurance company that the doctor explained to the young driver, his friend’s life was saved because he rushed him there in the nick of time. One minute later and he wouldn’t have survived. Another coincidence?
I read a story about a small town in Nebraska in the year 1950. Choir members who met weekly at the West Side Baptist Church in Beatrice always arrived at 7:25 p.m. There were 15 members of the choir. One particular night all 15 of them were running late; the reasons for this varied. One overslept, one had car trouble, one didn’t want to go out into the cold, one wasn’t feeling well and wasn’t sure if they would go. Because they were all waylaid, no one was in the church when a natural gas leak caused an explosion at 7:27 p.m. Coincidence?
“It would be impossible for coincidences not to occur according to probabilities. Every person interacts with so many people who in turn interact with people in so many places constantly over a life time that the intersections are incalculable. If you add an incalculable number of inanimate objects in any possibility then you have almost infinite possibilities for coincidences.” (Harvey Vague)
One morning nine years ago I woke up with severe pain on my right side — something I had never experienced before. I immediately went to the emergency room only to learn that I had a tumor sitting on my kidney that had been there for at least 15 years, possibly longer. I met with a surgeon and urologist two days later, and three weeks later I was having surgery to remove my kidney. I learned that it was a blessing that my diagnosis of kidney cancer was only at stage one. They were able to determine that I was weeks away from it spreading. In the doctor’s words, “You dodged a bullet. You were lucky.” Really? Or was it all just coincidence?
I don’t think any of this was a coincidence.
I believe in my heart that God was at the center. But how? If God were there, why would He allow these bad things to happen? Well, maybe the answer, is bad and good things happen to everyone. It’s part of being human.
Because we are human we are all exposed to pain, heartache, grief, illness, and death as well as joy. Is it God’s will that makes us have to endure all of the negative aspects of the human experience? Is it God’s fault? He created us right? I think that God’s plan is not that He wills for us to endure suffering and pain and sorrow. I think His plan is that we reach out to Him for grace and mercy as we experience life. He wants us to take the journey of life with Him beside us. God wants us to walk with Him through every experience. Perhaps it’s as simple as God wanting us to know Him when we see Him.
I lost a good friend, Dave, this past week to pancreatic cancer. He received his diagnosis three weeks ago and called me one week following his diagnosis to tell me his news. He wanted to let me know that my friendship was important to him and he was grateful to have been my friend. “In case this turns out bad for me, I want you to know that your friendship means so much to me.” We made plans to get together for lunch the following week after he was scheduled to have more tests done. I assured him we would get together and talk more about what he would be facing in the months ahead. I didn’t hear from him that next week. As it turned out, we weren’t able to have that lunch. He died five days after he made that phone call.
I was in my car driving to the pharmacy to pick up a prescription when Dave called me with his news. I reached over to grab my purse and noticed as I walked away, I left my phone in the car. It had fallen on the floor of the car. Walking back to my car I reached down to retrieve it just as it was ringing. Now as I look back, I’m so grateful I went back to get my phone and receive his phone call. I was able to hear his kind comments to me and felt blessed to have taken that call. I’m sure it was just a coincidence though. Right?
I read somewhere that “coincidence is when God chooses to remain silent.” My sister Mary likes to remind me that everything in life is about bringing us to our knees. I think she's right.