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.”