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Raise your hand if you’re an overthinker. (I’m raising my hand with you.) My sharing in this post, from over a year ago, is just as true today. I still worry way too much about the “what ifs”, I still take things people say far too personally, and I still care too much about what other people think. Maybe it’s getting better, but it is still true.
Lately I’m realizing that my overthinking happens because I consider people to be bigger than God. (“People” includes me, too.) When these fearful thoughts hit me, God is suddenly very small and not quite as powerful.
This became really clear last week. I got super defensive towards someone because I assumed she was holding back her opinion from me instead of saying it. I felt offended by her silent criticism, when it actually didn’t really exist. My fear came from thinking I would get bad advice, that I would make the wrong decision, or that someone would have control over me.
Another friend encouraged me to focus my attention on my faith in God. It brough about the questions: am I trusting that God’s plan is bigger than any person’s? That God is in control? That even bad decisions or bad advice will not derail God?
It’s making me take another look at God’s sovereignty – his supreme power, his authority. And it’s bringing me to these conclusions:
1. God is always working for our good.
Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. – James 1:17, NIV
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” – Jeremiah 29:11-13, NIV
The lions may grow weak and hungry, but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing. – Psalm 34:10, NIV
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. – Romans 8:28, NIV
We don’t have to fear God hurting us or lashing out against us “just because”. We can instead look forward to the good that will come out of the situation. Often it refines us, brings us closer to him, and sometimes even fulfills our earthly desires as well.
Don’t mistake these scriptures, especially the last one. I believe God has good plans for all of us, even people who don’t seek him or know him yet. But we can’t find what’s really good if we’re seeking it in this world apart from him – we won’t even know it when we see it (Jeremiah 17:6). That’s a blog post for another time.
2. God works in ways we don’t understand, and often ways we don’t expect.
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” – Isaiah 55:8-9, NIV
Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? …For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength. – 1 Corinthians 1:20, 25, NIV
We can take confidence that when we are out of control, God is still in control. It actually comforts me to think that when things don’t make sense, that’s probably when he is at work the most.
3. We can make requests and impact the outcome.
This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us – whatever we ask – we know that we have what we asked of him. – 1 John 5:14-15, NIV
For he will deliver the needy who cry out, the afflicted who have no one to help. He will take pity on the weak and the needy and save the needy from death. He will rescue them from oppression and violence, for precious is their blood in his sight. – Psalm 72:12-14, NIV
The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. – Psalm 34:18, NIV
We’re not mindlessly on some sort of set course laid out for us, with no options at all. In fact, God hears us and cares about our wants and needs. In Genesis 18, Abraham pleads for Sodom, and actually impacts God’s decision. (Unfortunately it didn’t change the reality of the seriousness of Sodom’s condition.) I also think about Hannah, and how she prayed for God to grant her a child. (Later the Bible says God “remembered Hannah”.) God hears us, and more than that, he cares deeply. God “longs to be gracious to you” and “will rise up to show you compassion” (Isaiah 30:18, NIV).
4. God works through our or others’ bad choices and mistakes, for our good.
But Joseph said to them, “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” – Genesis 50:19-20, NIV
Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; do not fret when people succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes. – Psalm 37:7, NIV
Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. – Lamentations 3:22-23, NIV
God’s sovereignty surpasses our ability to mess it all up. Often when I make a mistake, or someone else does, I imagine God scrambling to fix it, as if we’ve thrown everything off course. But who am I (or someone else) to be more powerful than the God who created the universe, and keeps it all going? God even uses those mistakes to make amazing things happen.
5. God is in control, but we have the power to trust, listen, and obey.
Shadrach, Meschach and Abednego replied to him, “King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.” – Daniel 3:16-18, NIV
“For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?” – Esther 4:14, NIV
It’s a powerful thing when we choose to do what is right, no matter the outcome. A lot of us know the outcome of the story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, or the story of Esther, but imagine being them in that moment. They had no idea how God would deliver them, or if he even would. Their bold responses blow my mind, because it’s everything to do with God and very little to do with themselves.
My mind becomes so easily consumed with what I can see. I see the problems, my fears, other peoples’ and my own imperfections and bad intentions. And often I take it all a step further in my mind and assume things based on what I’ve seen or experienced, or even done myself.
But the issue is not with other people – it’s my faith in God that’s lacking. I’m still studying this all out, with a goal of trusting him and his work in my life, and obeying even if I don’t understand.
Do you have any examples of God’s sovereignty in your life that you’ve seen? Or can you think of stories in the Bible that show God’s sovereignty that encourage you?
Scriptures are quoted from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.