One of the women in my Tuesday night Bible study will regularly comment that “God is in the detail.” She uses the expression to describe how God lovingly cares for even the smallest item in our lives. Having always heard, “the devil is in the details”, I like this expression better and was curious about its etymology.
According to Wikipedia “God is in the detail” came first and means that details are important. It has been attributed to different people but one of the earliest forms, "Le bon Dieu est dans le détail" ("the good God is in the detail") is generally attributed to Gustave Flaubert (1821–1880).
The “devil is in the details” was derived from “God is in the detail” and relates to the complication that can arise when the smallest detail goes awry. It sounds so typically human to take a positive expression and turn it into one with “negative” vibes.
Regardless, I like the original and my friend’s interpretation that God lovingly cares for the smallest and dearest.
Every so often I will read a Bible story and God’s lovingly care of the smallest detail will jump out at me. I was reminded of this recently with the Genesis story of Jacob moving his family to Egypt in the wake of the Middle Eastern famine. Joseph and his brothers are reunited. Joseph, being the second banana in Egypt and having Pharaoh’s blessing decides to have his whole reunited extended family move to Egypt so that he can care for them and ensure that they and their livestock survive. Jacob cannot believe that his beloved son Joseph is alive and when it finally sinks in, “his spirit revived.” An old man now, Jacob prepares to go to Egypt to see Joseph before he, Jacob, dies.
As is true with many of the Bible stories, what is not said is just as important as what is. Geneses 46 begins with Jacob beginning his journey. God speaks to him in a dream telling him not to be afraid, that God will go with him and that his son Joseph would be with him, even upon his death. He calls him, Jacob, his birth name. It seems to me a precious time similarly to when children are upset or anxious. As parents we soothe them by telling them, “Hush now child. I will be right beside you every step of the way.” We even call our child by our special nickname. Even if our child is justified in being anxious- perhaps it is a situation that has occurred before- we remind them that we will be with them.
I love to imagine the scene: Jacob has started on this journey- excited to see his son. But as is typical for most of us, in the middle of the night he begins to fret. “Is this such a great idea?” I imagine he is thinking. Jacob may have been recalling that both his father and grandfather had difficulties when they went to Egypt in the past. He may have been weighing the anxiety and fear of those experiences with the possibility of seeing his beloved son again. God lovingly addresses those concerns, calling him his birth name, “Jacob, Jacob… I am God, the God of your father. Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for there I will make you into a great nation. I myself will go down with you to Egypt,” (Exodus 46: 3-4)
God is in the detail. He was there every step of the way for Jacob and the family, just like He is in the detail of your life and my life. As Saint Augustine said, “ God loves each of us as if there were only one of us.”
Many times I find myself chuckling quietly on how God takes care of the seemingly unimportant details. Things that are not important to the big scheme of life yet are things that touch our hearts or make us feel special. Recently we acquired a piece of property and, as with any purchase of something significant, I was feeling, “did we make the right decision?” As we were cleaning through the house, I found a Hawes watering can left by the previous owner. For me, that was a sign that all was and would be fine, for this English gardening brand was something I had obsessed about many years ago. (Shallow, ain’t I?) I wanted to acquire one and seeing it there just said to me that God even cares about the smallest things I care about. Down to the smallest, insignificant detail.
What about you? Do you see God in the details? Have you ever experienced His loving care of what you care about? Have you ever stopped and reflected on the minutiae of your life? Do you see God’s hand in it?
I am trying to appreciate each day as it unfolds. I am trying to listen for God’s voice as Jacob did when God called him and he answered, “Here I am.” I am trying to recognize how God is speaking into the smallest details of my life. And, I am trying to remember to thank Him for it.