He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands

The memories of the first time I heard these lyrics have been erased over time, but the words remain in my soul. My guess would be that I heard it in children’s Church on Sunday morning as part of our worship time. We would sing the central part of the song, and then we would break it down. He has the “little bitty babies” in his hands. He has “you and me sister” in his hands. If there were enough time, we could have kept adding verses to express this one central thought; God has everything in the world in his hands.

Somewhere along the way, I slowly stopped believing the song, even if I kept singing it. I was repeatedly told to be a “self-made man” who would “pull himself up by his bootstraps” and “work as everything depended on me.” Every day I gave myself to the pursuit of MY dreams while still acknowledging that God had the whole world in his hands. My voice might have said, “He,” but my actions revealed that what I truly believed in was “Me.”

I felt I was in control of my career, my finances, my family, my health, and my relationships. Then something happened. A virus swept across the land, and I suddenly felt this loss of control, which seems odd in retrospect, since I never really had it. What really happened was the mirage of self-reliance faded, and the truth of sovereignty remained.

After doing some research, I discovered that this song became popular in the United States in 1957-58, but it was originally an African American Spiritual. While it was first published in 1927, it had existed in this country for years as a song that echoed from the lips of the slaves. Can you imagine? Every day your life is controlled by someone else. The master tells you when to rise and when to sleep. You can be bought and sold, and your world overturned in a moment’s notice. Your life feels like it is entirely at the mercy of someone else. Then you walk into the fields, and the words ring out, “He’s got the whole world in his hands.” A vocalization of God’s sovereignty and power in situations in which you feel helpless.

Lately, I have been singing this song again. This time with an enthusiasm that comes with life experience. The false concepts have washed away, and the bedrock of life has been revealed. God is in control, and the way to make it through any struggle is to lean wholly on him. Difficult seasons can remove our self-centered faith and bring us back to God. After all, “He’s got you and me sister in his hands.”

Time to Reprioritize

Much has been taken away from all of us over the last few months. Both professional and youth sports are gone for now. No travel games or competition for teenagers of any kind are happening. Going to the movies is over. Around my area, they are closing parks and recreation areas. Many restaurants are closed or only doing curbside service. Recreational shopping is no longer occurring. The list of things you cannot do right now is far longer than the list of things you can do. We are supposed to be staying inside and practicing social distancing.

When things like this happen, and your life is suddenly freed from your hectic schedule, it is time to reprioritize. This is an excellent opportunity to evaluate your life and calendar and see if the activities in which you engage are worth your time. If it can be removed in an instant, is it worth the valuable minutes of your life?

Make a list of essential things. The things that you cannot give up at a moment’s notice. Your faith, your family, your spouse, your friends, and your health will quickly rise to the top of the list. Maybe this break could be a time God has given you to overhaul the priority system of your life completely.

One day all the things that distract you will open for business again. There will be this temptation to go back to your regular habits and activities. My prayer is that you will not waste this experience as merely a time of rest before you jump into your same old schedule. Hopefully, your life after this is over will be filled with the important things that truly make this life worth living.

What I Miss About Corporate Worship

Yesterday I did something that I have never done on a Sunday morning. My wife and I got out of bed later than usual and went for a walk. We came home and enjoyed an excellent breakfast. Finally, we sat down and watched the worship program for our Church online. It was a wonderful morning, but something was missing.

I must admit I don’t miss the stress of a Sunday morning as a preacher. Most Sundays include arriving early and making sure the building is ready. Then I pray and practice my sermon. Any extra time I have remaining, I visit with people while trying to do any last-minute preparations for worship. It is a beautiful, emotionally draining time.

Each week we spend the first part of our worship program in song. It is a part of the morning that I thoroughly enjoy. I do long to hear the people of God singing praises to God. To listen to the truth of the faith being sung by people of all ages and backgrounds together is a powerful witness to the power of God.

We also take time on Sunday morning to pray and lift up the needs of our people. One high point every week is the sharing in communion. The Church focuses our attention on Jesus’ death for our sins. I enjoy all these elements when we meet together, but I can still do most of this at home.

The one thing I miss the most and the void in my life right now is for time with other believers. There is a deep joy in seeing people, both young and old coming together in the name of Jesus. We share our lives, our stories, and our personal victories. We pray for each other and carry one another burdens. We laugh, smile, cry, and open our hearts up to one another. The Church is not just a group of people who meet in the same building; we are the family of God. The absence of my brother and sisters in Jesus is weighing heavy on my heart.

This longing for community is not a bad thing. It reminds me of what I have in the Church that is so valuable. I have you.

I miss you.

Obstacles or Opportunities

The world is changing. Every day things are being forced to adapt to the changing circumstances all around us. School plans have changed, along with work plans, Church schedules, and family time. Everything is changing, and we have very little control.

We have two choices in the days that lie ahead. We can see all these changes as obstacles that will keep us from accomplishing our hopes and dreams. We could also see them as opportunities to achieve things in unexpected ways.

You could see this as being trapped at home with your family or a chance to reconnect with your spouse and your children.

You could see this as a time where children will not receive the needed education they require, or an opportunity to get involved in their education in a new and exciting way.

You could see this time as a financial setback or possibly as a time to develop a budget that focuses on your priorities.

You could see this time as missing worship every week, or you could take each week to worship as a family and be the spiritual leader you have always dreamed you would be.

You can see this time as missing the Holy Week and Easter with your Church, or this could be a chance for you to share a sermon online with a person who would never walk into a Church building.

We are all experiencing the same struggles as spouses, parents, and believers. The difference is that some people will use this time as an opportunity for good to grow. Others will only see obstacles and miss the chances God is giving to us. The choice of which type of person you will be is strictly up to you.

We Know How the Story Ends

The idea of seven years of famine seems unfathomable. Yet, that is what happened in Egypt. Pharaoh had a dream that was interpreted by Joseph. There were then seven years of plenty. (I like that part of the story) followed by seven years of famine. That is not seven weeks or months; instead, it is years.

The lack of food and water was forcing people to take extreme measures. They were selling their livestock and farms. People were giving up everything to survive, and through Joseph’s leadership during those years, there was enough food for everyone.

Joseph’s brothers came down to Egypt because they heard there was food there. Little did they know that the man handing it out was their brother that they had sold into slavery years before as a teenager. They were shocked when he finally revealed himself, and they were also fearful for their lives. In the final chapter of the book of Genesis, their father has died, and the brothers are still afraid, and Joseph says something that rings through the ages. He declares, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. (Genesis 50:20 – NIV 2011)”

His words offer us an interesting perspective on the whole experience. The unfolding of a lifetime is summarized in his one statement. With the vantage point of time, Joseph can now see the hand of God working through all of the bad experiences to bring a positive outcome. The end of the story is that God is working to accomplish his good work for humanity, even in the dark nights of pain and confusion.

Life right now seems to be full of struggles. There are weeks of isolation, disruption of routine, financial setbacks, job layoffs, and the threat of sickness. The good news for today is that we have the same God in charge as in the days of Joseph. Different struggles, but with the same God, it doesn’t matter. We know how the story will end.

The Fight Against Loneliness

If you have ever seen the movie Castaway with Tom Hanks, then you know the need we all have for connection. Even on a tiny deserted island, he creates Wilson from a volleyball so that he has someone to talk to each day. God, in the opening chapters of Genesis, says, “It is not good for man to be alone.” We are created with this desire for interaction with other people.

With that said, the current situation calls for us to remain home in quarantine as much as possible. To keep the virus from spreading, we are being called to isolation rather than connection. The result is that people are getting lonely.

I have seen the effects of this every day for the last two weeks. I have started working at home because someone would see I was at the Church building and want to stop and talk. The hours quickly melted away, and I could get no other work done. Recently I have been spending hours on the phone because every five-minute conversation has turned into a thirty-minute one. The number of texts to my phone has now more than quadrupled. Don’t take this as me complaining, as I am just stating the facts. People are longing for connection.

Let me give you three simple ideas to fight loneliness.

  1. Take time to PRAY for other people. This will get you out of your head and force you to think about other people.
  2. Use a piece of PAPER and a PEN. Take out an old-fashioned paper and pen and write a letter or card. Texts are easy. Emails are a little better. If you sit down and take the time to write to someone, you will be more personal and more invested. When I receive a card or letter, it lets me know that this person put in time and effort.
  3. Reach out in PERSON. This doesn’t mean a visit right now, but the phone is always available. Personally, I have been calling my mom each day. As time wears on and we run out of the usual chit chat, I find we are starting to talk more about our thoughts and feelings. Don’t wait for someone to reach out to you, take the initiative, and make the call.

I hope you are not feeling lonely, but we are looking at 30 more days of this “stay at home” order. It is bound to start having an impact on you emotionally. When it does, take the opportunity to use one of these tips listed above. Here is the exciting thing, as you search to cure your cabin fever, you will find that you are a blessing to someone else. Being isolated does not mean that we are alone.

When You Feel Like You Are Losing Control

Lately, it has seemed like I am losing control over everything.  My schedule is at the mercy of public officials and the decisions they make.  The choices of others are limiting my free time.  No more going to the movies, out to eat, casual shopping, or time with friends.  My money is being affected by stimulus decisions, the stock market, and the increased cost of everything.  My children’s lives have been thrown into chaos, and my wife and I are left to clean up the mess.  Even the Church I lead is having to cancel its Easter programs despite my best efforts.  Life is spinning out of control, and I have no way to slow it down. 

Does any of this sound familiar?  Each day brings a new set of changes and challenges.  None of these are things you would have planned, and you are definitely not prepared to happen.  What do you do when it feels like you have no control?

I supposed the most significant thing to do is realize you never had control from the beginning.  You only had the illusion that you were in charge and running the show.  God had allowed you the freedom to make decisions, but that did not give you complete and total control.  You were always at the mercy of the maker and sustainer of all things. 

One thing this virus should do for each person is to realize they have no control.  These current events have the power to drive us to God.  Just like a visit to the doctor can reveal our lack of control.  The same way a random accident reminds us, we have no control. Our lives right now are only showing what has always been true. We are in the hands of a merciful God who is working for his glory in all things. 

When you feel like you are losing control, you need to connect to the one who is running everything.  Only he can make sense of this time.  Only faith in him can give your life peace. Only our dependence on him will relieve our anxiety. 

The bad news is that you and I are not in control.   The good news is that one who is in control loves you and wants you to trust in him. Our faith in him will help us make sense of all of this one day.