The very short answer to this question is an unqualified “yes”. If God is not sovereign over all things, then He is not God. It is really as simple as that. But I do understand the question, especially in light of what is currently happening around the world. A virus that strikes indiscriminately, without regard to gender, age, socio-economic status, or ethnicity seems to many people to be the very definition of chaos. And chaos seems the very antithesis of omnipotent sovereignty. So what do we make of the reality that there are things that seem or feel out of control and reconcile that to a sovereign God? That is a very good question. Let’s try to give a somewhat satisfactory answer. Note: I did not maintain that you will like the answer. I simply believe there are some clear answers in God’s Word.
In my view, there are two major problems with Believers who seem to waffle in their belief that God is actually in control of all events. And I will also say that this lack of faith can be seen regularly in a place where you would think it the least likely… amongst evangelicals. As long as everything is running as smoothly as we want them to, we have no problem lauding God’s sovereignty. We have no problem proclaiming from the rooftop that God is in control. However, when things go off our script and end up in a place that causes us fear, panic, and worry, then we begin to see just how much we actually believe God is in control. Then we start trusting in secular constructs and processes. Which is all fine and good until that process lets you down… which it will.
But there’s a huge problem here. God cannot be sovereign only when things are good and go exactly as we want them to. That’s not how sovereignty works. And that leads to the two problems we have with trusting that God is in control, even in the midst of chaos. First, we tend to see things that are outside of our control as chaos. In other words, we define chaos in a certain way but never really stop to think if we are defining chaos from a Godly perspective. We tend to look at these moments or events and define them as chaotic, without ever stopping to think… “I know it looks like chaos to me, but is it chaotic to God?” That is the right question. Second, we have a terrible tendency to let our emotions dictate reality. We are bombarded every day by a culture that thinks with its heart. Think about that for a second (using your brain, of course). We let feelings dictate reality instead of allowing reality to influence our feelings. Feelings are not arbiters of truth because feelings can be wrong, lied to, and manipulated. So, if things feel chaotic and outside of God’s sovereignty, then that must be true. Both of these shortcomings are not scripturally based at all. And, like always, when we deviate from His Word, we will not find the truth. No matter how it feels.
So let’s take a quick look at these issues in order to rest in the truth that God is, indeed, completely sovereign and in control at all times (Romans 8:28; Matthew 10:29-31; Colossians 1:16-17; Isaiah 45:7-9). Let me first ask a simple question: if something seems or feels chaotic and out of control to us, does it then follow that it must seem that way to God? Of course not. We seem to sometimes know that cerebrally but have a difficult time juxtaposing that with God being in control. But anytime we assume that something must affect God the same way it affects me, we are creating a God in our image instead of remembering that we are created in His. Our definition of chaos will be drastically different than God’s. Because, in God’s mind, there is no such thing as chaos. To admit that would be to admit that there are things God cannot control.
Let’s take a few examples. In Isaiah, we read, “I form light and create darkness; I make well-being and create calamity; I am the Lord, who does all these things” (Isaiah 45:7). Note that God Himself clearly states that He actually creates calamity. And calamity causes chaos. And chaos has us doubting that God is actually in control. But if God creates calamity then, by definition, it cannot be chaotic because God is in complete control of the calamity. We, as humans, see no need for chaos. It’s scary and it’s anxiety-producing. What God seems to be saying here is that there really is no chaos, as we define it. It simply does not exist. He chooses to use whatever He desires to accomplish His will, whether that thing seems chaotic or not.
Jesus Himself tells us something similar in Matthew. Using the analogy of sunshine and rain to symbolize good things and bad things, Jesus in His famous Sermon on the Mount said, “For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matthew 5:45). Jesus is saying that good things (sunshine) happen to good and evil people. He also says that bad things (rain) happen to just and unjust people. See, this seems to us like chaos and injustice. Bad things should only happen to bad people, and good things should only happen to good people. But that is not God’s way.
So, just because something seems like chaos to us does not mean it is chaos to God. It’s funny how we almost completely trust God’s being in control, so long as everything goes the way we think it should. The moment reality deviates from our norm, we cry out: “God, where are You?” And the answer is always the same: “The same place I was when everything was going great.” That is the truth. Circumstances cannot dictate our theology. Our theology (Biblically-based, of course) must dictate how we view our circumstances. Jesus made this very clear during another famous event that most of us miss.
In Mark’s version of Jesus calming the sea, he quotes Jesus saying, “Let’s cross over to the other side” (Mark 4:35b). You know the rest of the story. About halfway across the Sea of Galilee, a terrific storm arose. It was so bad that the disciples, many of whom made their living on that sea, came to wake a sleeping Jesus. They then cried out, “Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?” (Mark 4:38b). Note the verbiage. They didn’t say they might die or they could die… they said they were in the very act of perishing. Jesus rouses Himself from His slumber and makes the now-famous statement, “Peace, be still” (Mark 4:39).
Immediately the storm ceases and they are rescued from the danger and chaos of the storm. Then Jesus actually chastises them and questions their faith. On the surface, this might seem a bit harsh. After all, they were about to die, were they not? The reality is… they were not in danger of death at all. How can we be so sure about this? Jesus told them before they ever entered the boat when He said, “Let us cross to the other side.” He had given them all the information they needed to know before they left. He told them that He would get them to the other side. He never said they wouldn’t encounter a storm or that they wouldn’t fear their lives were in danger. He never said they would not encounter a coronavirus pandemic. And He never promised us that either. The boat appeared to be sinking in the midst of a violent storm. They appeared to be dying. It looked and felt completely out of control. And Jesus? He was asleep. Do you think it felt out of control to Him? It did not. There is no chaos when it comes to God, no matter how much it seems that way to us.
This event on the Sea of Galilee serves as a picture of a God Who is in complete control. When we put our faith in Him, He makes us a solemn promise. He tells us that He will get us to the other side. He never promises that we will not encounter difficulties, pain, fear, loss, or disease. What He does promise is that He will never leave us nor forsake us (Deuteronomy 31:6) and that He is with us always, even unto the ends of the age (Matthew 28:20). No matter what it looks like… no matter how bad it seems… no matter how much it may hurt us… no matter how out of control things look… God wants us to know they are never out of His control.
How cool is that?
Dr. Purvis started Growth Project after spending 20 years on active duty as a Chaplain in the United States Navy. After many moves and multiple deployments, he settled in St. Cloud, Florida to do God’s will. A glutton for educational punishment Danny has a BA in English from Carson-Newman College, an MDiv from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary; a ThM from Princeton Theological Seminary; and a PhD in Organizational Leadership from Regent University. He has been married to his wife Kimberly (whom he met when they were 6 years old) for nearly 30 years and they have four wonderful children.