Putting Jesus Into Real Life
|March 7th- A Providential Coincidence?|
“Then Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus.” -Acts 8:35
Before Booth shot Lincoln at the Ford theater there had been another encounter between Booth and Lincoln some months before, but this time it wasn't John Wilkes and Abraham, rather it was Edwin and Robert Todd.
Late one evening, Robert Todd Lincoln, Abraham's son, was standing on a crowded platform at the train station when he fell between two train cars. He would have been crushed if not for a quick rescue by the most famous actor in America, Edwin Booth, John Wilke's older brother.
Robert Todd Lincoln recounted the event for Century Magazine:
“The incident occurred while a group of passengers were late at night purchasing their sleeping car places from the conductor who stood on the station platform at the entrance of the car. The platform was about the height of the car floor, and there was of course a narrow space between the platform and the car body. There was some crowding, and I happened to be pressed by it against the car body while waiting my turn. In this situation the train began to move, and by the motion I was twisted off my feet, and had dropped somewhat, with feet downward, into the open space, and was personally helpless, when my coat collar was vigorously seized and I was quickly pulled up and out to a secure footing on the platform. Upon turning to thank my rescuer I saw it was Edwin Booth, whose face was of course well known to me, and I expressed my gratitude to him, and in doing so, called him by name.”
The irony of what happened struck the two men following the assassination. And, it is said, that the rescue proved to be some comfort to Edwin Booth, who, upon learning of the assassination remarked, “It was just as if I was struck on the forehead by a hammer.” (Edwin was a supporter of Abraham Lincoln, and his relationship with his brother John had been strained when John discovered that he had voted for Lincoln.)
Edwin's rescue of Robert Todd is so remarkable to me that I can't believe it was an ordinary coincidence, but rather a providential one.
A providential coincidence is my own term for those times in which God is orchestrating our circumstances. It is when something happens that is too significant to just be an accident. For instance, you get a phone call from a friend just when you need it. Or the Bible verse you read speaks perfectly to your circumstances. Or you are walking down the street and see someone that you were just praying for. There are a million variations, but the idea is always the same: a coincidence occurs that is so amazingly coincidental that it might not be a coincidence at all, but instead the hand of God.
I think it is quite possible that God was in that encounter on the train platform, placing Edwin Booth there just in the nick of time. Why? So that Booth could rescue Lincoln and therefore find a measure of comfort in the troubling days ahead.
We can't see God, but we can often see Him working. God is guiding and orchestrating the circumstances of our lives so that we might find Him, and that we might feel His presence.
Not every coincidence is a providential coincidence, but some are. Sometimes the events in which we find ourselves are simply too fantastic, too unbelievable to merely be a coincidence. No, instead, they are part of a plan so that you might know that the God of the universe has not left you here all alone.
There is great comfort in that fact, as I'm sure Edwin Booth could attest.