Several Scriptures describe the hand of God moving and guiding people (1 Samuel 5:11; 2 Chronicles 30:12; Job 19:21; 27:11; Ecclesiastes 2:24; 9:1). These passages do not mean that God literally has a hand that is visible to everyone. The Bible declares that God is spirit (John 4:24), that He does not, in His essence, have a physical form. However, this does not mean that God is incapable of taking on a physical form; numerous times in Scripture God does take a physical form. The hand of God is not speaking of a literal body part. Rather, just as a father lovingly guides and patiently disciplines a child with his hand, so are we guided by the hand of God which is often not visible to our eyes.
In John’s gospel, Jesus told the people gathered in the temple courts: “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.” (John 10:27-30) He described the gracious disposition and happy state of his sheep; they heard and believed his word, followed him as his faithful disciples, and none of them should perish; for the Son and the Father were one. Thus he was able to defend his sheep against all their enemies, which proves that he claimed Divine power and perfection equally with the Father. The words “out of my hand” in verse 28 express God’s strength which protects, guidance which leads, and comfort which cherishes. (cf. Isaiah 40:11.) Out of this hand none shall snatch. Yet we are to bear in mind that the sheep itself may wander from the shepherd’s care, and that all the fullness of these promises depends upon the human will, which is included in verse 27, “My sheep listen to my voice . . . and they follow me.”
The invisible hand of God seems to be one area in which the saying “hindsight is 20/20” is particularly true. Often when we are going through a difficult or confusing time, we are unaware of how God is guiding us. Years later it becomes very clear why God brought us through that experience the way He did. Looking back, the hand of God can be clearly seen moving, guiding, protecting, etc. A time of trial is rarely enjoyable. At the same time, there are many instances where a trial or struggle is looked upon as the most meaningful spiritual time in a person’s life. This is why James exhorts us to “consider it pure joy” (James 1:2) when we encounter various trials, because they are immensely valuable to our spiritual lives. According to Paul, the Christian response to suffering is to rejoice: “. . . but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.” (Romans 5:3-5) Likewise, Peter assured the early Church: “After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you.” (1 Peter 5:10)
How can we better recognize the invisible hand of God moving in our lives? First, we must familiarize ourselves with God’s Word (2 Timothy 3:16-17), which tells us about who God is and what He does. Similar to how an instruction manual helps us to understand a particular device, so reading God’s Word helps us to understand how God works and how we should respond to Him.
Second, we must communicate with God through prayer. We can ask God for wisdom (James 1:5). We can ask God to help us recognize, and submit to, His hand. We can thank Him for how His hand has guided us. We can ask Him to help us learn His lesson, in His time, for whatever time His hand is bringing us through.
Third, we must trust God. Just as a son often rebels against the guidance of his father—not trusting his judgment or not accepting his discipline—so do we often fight against the hand of God: “Why did You allow this? Why must I do that? Is there not another way?” While it is not wrong to ask these questions in a spirit of humility, it is wrong to doubt God’s goodness or the quality of His plan. Many times in our lives, we make an ordeal worse by not trusting and obeying God and by not quickly learning the intended lesson.
The idea of God reaching out His hand to help us in our time of need is a central theme of Scripture. In Psalm 63 we read: “Because You have been my help, therefore in the shadow of Your wings I will rejoice. My soul follows close behind You; Your right hand upholds me” (vv.7-8). The psalmist felt God’s divine help like a hand of support. Some Bible teachers believe that King David wrote this psalm in the wilderness of Judah during the terrible time of his son Absalom’s rebellion. Absalom had conspired to dethrone his father, and David fled to the wilderness (2 Sam. 15–16). Even during this difficult time, God was present and David trusted in Him. He said, “Because Your lovingkindness is better than life, my lips shall praise You” (Psalm 63:3).
The hand of God is a symbol of God’s guidance, instruction, and discipline. The more we recognize the hand of God, the better we will be able to follow His lead. Through the study of God’s Word, a strong prayer life, and an abiding trust in God, we can learn to recognize, trust, and enjoy the hand of God moving in our lives. More importantly, we should allow God’s invisible hand to guide us so that all our life’s pursuits may come to benefit His kingdom.
Let us praise God with the song “On Eagle’s Wings”: