A few months ago, I was wheeled into an operating room. Two nurses began to vigorously scrub my chest with antiseptic solution, prepping me for surgery. In just a few moments, a surgeon would be making an incision in my chest to implant a life-saving device. I needed the surgery because a genetic heart condition placed me at a high risk of suffering a massive heart attack. My arms and legs were strapped down so I wouldn’t move. An uncontrollable trembling took over my body. Anxiety began to grip my heart. I remember in those moments trying to recall as many Scriptures about God’s sovereignty, His divine providence, and His promises of peace as I could. It was my attempt to calm myself. I knew God was sovereign. I had preached on the sovereignty of God. Yet, in that moment I didn’t feel as if He was in control. My emotions got the best of me. Despite my distress in the moment, God’s Word and His glorious promises washed over my troubled heart. The peace of God, like a warm blanket, stilled my anxious soul.
Of course God is sovereign. That is an immutable truth emblazoned throughout all of Scripture. Dr. R.C. Sproul frequently reminded us that “there are no maverick molecules loose in the universe that could possibly disrupt His plans.”1 He is in complete control of all His creation. Nothing operates independently of our great God. When we say that God is sovereign, we are declaring that He has absolute authority over all His creation, that His rule extends to every nook and cranny of what He has made. To say that God is sovereign means that there is nothing in the vastness of the universe that can thwart His rule or will.
Regarding the supremacy of Christ, Paul reminded the believers in Colossae: “For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together” (Col. 1:16–17). Everything in the universe, seen or unseen, exists because of Christ and for the glory of Christ. The universe doesn’t implode because Christ “upholds the universe by the word of his power” (Heb. 1:3). Such lofty realities are too much for our feeble minds to comprehend—but they are nonetheless true. God’s sovereignty is the pillow on which we rest our weary heads and our anxious hearts. It is the governing and central truth that guarantees He is able to do everything He determines to do, that He will fulfill all His promises.
The unexpected events of life happen, sending our emotions on a roller-coaster ride. Our grasp on the truth of His sovereignty can slip when our lives seem to be spiraling out of control. When things are not falling into place as we feel they should, or when we are affected by a crisis, we waver in our confidence of God’s sovereignty. We aren’t necessarily doubting His sovereignty, but in the moment our emotions tempt us to feel as if He isn’t completely in control of our situation.
Let me encourage you with you a few things about the immense blessing and comfort that God’s sovereignty provides when you are struggling with feelings that tempt you to doubt that He is sovereign over your situation.
Your Emotions Can Deceive You
We are hardwired by our Creator with a wide range of emotions that are part of the human experience. These emotions are indicators, much like the gauges on our automobile dashboards. Emotions give us a reading of the state of our hearts. Emotions can reveal whether we are trusting in God. Feelings of doubt, anxiety, or frustration are indicators that our trust might be misplaced. Our challenge, even as children of God, is that our emotions are tethered to our fractured humanity. Even as we are being conformed more and more into the image of Christ (Rom. 8:29), our emotions can sometimes present a false reality to us. In the moments that we don’t feel as if God is sovereign, we need to remember that what we are feeling is an indicator of what’s going on in our hearts, not that God’s sovereignty or providence has diminished.
Pain and Trials Have a Purpose
Because God is sovereign, nothing in our life is purposeless. We know that we will experience trials, suffering, and challenging circumstances. How terrible it would be to face these things without the assurance that God is in control of them and has a purpose in permitting them. That would make pain and suffering meaningless. Sadly, many Christians go through life believing this lie.
The truth is that there is nothing that comes into our lives that God cannot use for His glory and our good. “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (Rom. 8:28). “All things” means all things. It means the good things and the not-so-good things. All things are being worked out by God to bring us into conformity to the image of Christ and for the glory of Christ. Only a sovereign God can bring that about. That is one of the most comforting things we can lay hold of to put our hearts at rest in the midst of a fiery trial.
God Is Glorious
When your emotions cause you to waver, you must acknowledge God’s sovereignty over all of life. This reminder will stir up worship and deepen your affections for Him. Would we want to worship a God who is not in control? I think you would agree that a god who is not completely sovereign over all matters of life doesn’t deserve our worship. A.W. Pink wrote: “Who can worship such a truncated and pitiable deity? A ‘god’ whose will is resisted, whose designs are frustrated, whose purpose is checkmated, possesses no title to Deity, and so far from being a fit object of worship, merits naught but contempt.”2 That is not a description of our God. The psalmist declared, “Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases” (Ps. 115:3). Our God is supreme, sovereign, and worthy of our worship. When your feelings flutter and you lose control, focus your worship toward your great and glorious God who is in control.
You will go through times when you don’t feel as if God is sovereign, but take heart, saint of God—He is. Don’t place your trust in feelings that will fail you; rather, place your trust in the unchangeable reality of the sovereignty of God.