Anxiety and the Sovereignty of God
We live in anxious times. Pandemics, unemployment, civil unrest, terrorism, government oppression, natural disasters – all these things and more can produce anxiety in a person’s heart due to a sense of personal danger or troubles, or fear for the future. As if these things were not enough, sometimes we are anxious and we just don’t know why. It can be a vague feeling of dread that clouds our days and haunts our steps. The Bible has a lot to say about anxiety and our response to it. In this article, we will pull back a little in order to focus on a particular facet of God’s character that ought to provide strong comfort to the anxious – namely, the sovereignty of God.Sadly, not everyone believes in the sovereignty of God. Some people imagine God sitting in heaven wringing His hands and wishing there was something He could do about all of the evil and suffering in the world, but powerless to make it happen.
The implications of this view of God are vast. As the late R.C. Sproul wrote, “If there is one single molecule in this universe running around loose, totally free of God’s sovereignty, then we have no guarantee that a single promise of God will ever be fulfilled.” (Chosen By God, 1994)
This picture of a powerless God is not the one that we find in the Bible. The Scriptures teach us that God is utterly sovereign over all things. In fact, nothing happens apart from His divine plan and foreknowledge.
Consider just three passages:
“…his dominion is an everlasting dominion and his kingdom endures from generation to generation; all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, and he does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand or say to him, ‘What have you done?’” – Daniel 4:34b-35
“Whatever the LORD pleases, he does, in heaven and on earth, in the seas and all deeps”. – Psalm 135:6
“Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.” – Proverbs 19:21
As these passages clearly teach, there is nothing outside of God’s control. When you are suffering from anxiety, it is proper and right to draw comfort from the sovereignty of God. Indeed, only a firm belief in God’s absolute sovereignty over all things can be a true comfort and bring peace and rest.
God is in Complete Control
First, the sovereignty of God is a comfort because it reminds us that God is in complete control. Nothing happens outside of God’s plan and infinite knowledge and so nothing that happens to us ever comes as a surprise to God.
God is sovereign over which socks you put on this morning, how many grains of sand stuck to your feet at the beach yesterday, the flight of birds in the air, how many babies are born in a given city in a given year, who gets elected to public office, what nations make treaties or go to war with each other, the path of stars and planets, the movement of subatomic particles, etc. In short, there is absolutely nothing that exists outside of His control.
When you are anxious, take comfort from the fact that nothing that has happened or will happen is beyond God’s knowledge or sovereign will. Our loving Heavenly Father not only knows where you are, what you are doing, and what is happening to you, He is in sovereign control of all these things.
The Sovereignty of God Gives Meaning to Our Trouble
Second, the fact of God’s sovereignty is a comfort because it gives meaning to our troubles. If God were not in control of all things, our troubles would be random events that had no higher meaning or purpose. Think about it – is it more comforting to think that the loss of your job, death of your child, destruction of your home, etc. are simply random events over which God had no control, or that He has a plan and that those events had a place in that plan? The answer is obvious.
Thankfully, we are not left to decide for ourselves which is better because God’s Word tells us in no uncertain terms that God “works all things according to the counsel of his will” (Ephesians 1:11). To put it another way, God does all that He wills, always what He wills, and only what He wills. The fact that God is in control means that our troubles have a place in His sovereign plan and therefore have great significance.
Our first response to anxiety, therefore, should be to seek God’s face in prayer and tell Him about our fears. As David put it, “When I am afraid, I put my trust in you” (Psalm 56:3). In this way, we humbly show our dependence on Him. In return, He promises not only to comfort us but to give us “peace . . . that passes understanding” (Philippians 4:6-7) that will protect our hearts from further anxiety and fear.
The peace of God is not something that the world understands. The world runs around in fear looking for solutions from worldly philosophy, politics, or basic human goodness – all of which are lies, at best. They promise a kind of peace that only God can give, but they deliver a kind of peace that is short-lived and illusory. The peace of God, on the other hand, is a truly supernatural peace that can only come from the Prince of Peace.
The second response to anxiety is to quiet our hearts. After speaking about God’s sovereignty over world events, Psalm 46:9 says, “Be still and know that I am God.” God’s identity and His sovereign power should quiet our fears and instill in us a sense of that supernatural peace mentioned above.
Sometimes, a person’s anxiety is of such a nature and degree that it requires counseling or medication to help. In such cases, it is important to make sure that you have a proper understanding of God’s sovereignty as a solid foundation on which any further treatment can be built. Simply medicating without a firm grasp of God’s all-powerful sovereign control of whatever comes to pass is like putting a Band-Aid on a gunshot wound.
If embracing the sovereignty of God as described in His word is not enough to help you calm your anxiety, then you may need further help. Find a trusted friend, pastor, or Christian counselor to confide in and talk over your fears.
Christian Counseling for Anxiety
Christian counseling for anxiety can be of significant help for overcoming anxiety. A Christian counselor will come alongside you and help you work through your anxiety, giving you the tools to combat the symptoms and regain control over your emotions. They will also consider whether you may need medication to help you through the rough spots.
If you are struggling with anxiety, seek help. You can have a life of inner peace and rest knowing that God is in control.
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