Jesus, our blessed mediator, knows full well what fear is, and when we are afraid, even brief reflection upon his death for us and in our place, gives us much needed perspective if we are ever tempted to recoil upon hearing the words, “God is in control.” Our kind and gracious intercessor is, after all, the man of sorrows.
“God is in control.”
These words can be of wonderful comfort to people struggling with common phobias, natural fears, apprehension of impending bad news, or even deep-seated terrors resulting from past trauma. A biblical reminder that God is sovereign over all things often brings great relief. That nothing can happen to us that does not first pass through the will of God is comforting in many fearful or worrisome situations.
But there are times when the words “God is in control” might actually make matters worse. A terrified Christian may have already wrestled with the fact that God is sovereign, yet since their fears have been realized, they arrive at the misguided conclusion that God is punishing them, or worse, that God has abandoned them to the very things which terrify them. At the root of such fear and anxiety is not whether God is in control of all things (a doctrine most Christians readily accept), but a fear that God really is in control of all things. “Why would God allow my fears to become my reality?” “Perhaps God hates me or has rejected me” they reason, only ratcheting up the intensity of their own dread and terror. The reality is for some that the awareness of God’s sovereignty may not be a source of relief—only another source of doubt, frustration, fear, or even anger at God. Fear can do this to people, even Christians, who intellectually know better.
There are a couple of points I think worthy of consideration when confronting our fears in the light of God’s sovereignty. The first is to undertake a brief refresher course as to what those biblical passages actually say when they tell us that God is “in control.” There are many such passages and we can but survey them here. When we have a good (or better) grasp of the extent of God’s control over all things, we are reminded that nothing which comes to pass is either random or outside the will of God. The Psalmist reminds us, “for I know that the Lord is great, and that our Lord is above all gods. Whatever the Lord pleases, he does, in heaven and on earth” (Psalm 135:5-6). In Proverbs we read that God’s sovereignty extends even to seemingly incidental things. “The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord” (Proverbs 16:33). This information is given to remind us that nothing—no matter how seemingly insignificant—can happen to us which is outside the scope of God’s eternal decree.
God knows when a sparrow falls from the sky, and if he cares for them, how much more does he care for us? (cf. Matthew 6:26). Paul tells us that “for those who love God all things work together for good” (Romans 8:28).