The Cost of Living & the Sovereignty of God
Everyone I have spoken to recently is, to some degree, anxious about the cost of their energy bills this year as; the temperature begins to drop, the extra layer is no longer “cutting it” and the temptation to push the thermostat up a degree (or even two!) is becoming too much to bear.
Undoubtedly we’ll try various ways to bring down the cost. We will test all the energy saving hacks we’ve read about on the internet under links titled 10 ways you can beat the energy price-rise this Winter; but even when we’ve set our heating to one degree lower than usual, reduced our shower time by five-minutes, washed our laundry in cold water and hung it to dry in the cold air instead of using the tumble dryer, there will still be that sense that we’re only pushing against a tidal-wave of the rising costs.
For some of us this will be a painful inconvenience, for others the coming months will bring real crisis. In moments of crisis, it can feel like God is not in control. It can feel this way when we experience personal crisis, but also when we go through a shared crisis as a society, or even globally when we experience wars, pandemics, natural disasters and unprecedented rise in living costs, among the numerous other atrocities that we hear and read about every day. Our human logic quickly leads us to conclude that if God truly was in control, then these things would not happen.
God is Sovereign
Throughout the vast spread of Scripture we see that God is sovereign over His creation and that Christ “upholds the universe by the word of his power” (Hebrews 1:3) meaning He has authority over everything and everything is under His perfect control; from the biggest events in our lives; the election of world leaders and the rise-and-fall of living costs, to the gentlest breeze that rustles a forest’s leaves, or the rolling of the waves that slowly shapes an unseen, jagged rock into a smooth stone over years.
In writing to the believers in Colossae, Paul reminded his readers that “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” (Colossians 1:16-17). Pastor and theologian R. C. Sproul said it this way: “there are no maverick molecules loose in the universe that could possibly disrupt His plans”. In other words, God’s control is supreme over everything, and nothing is able to disrupt or thwart His will.
Where Scripture is clear about the truth of God’s control over the universe and everything in it, our own feelings often steer us away from that truth, especially when our circumstances change for the worse or we encounter a particular crisis. In the moments when it seems as though life is out of control, we can be tempted to conclude that God cannot be in control either. If God were in control, we reason, our current crisis or hardship would not have occurred. When we do this, it is our circumstances that are shaping our view of God.
But here is the problem with viewing God that way; our circumstances are constantly changing, and our emotions are easily swayed by our current circumstances. When this happens our view of God is also subject to constant change. Whether we acknowledge it or not, when our emotions, rather than Scripture, shape how we respond to painful situations we begin to view God as not fully in control. Likewise, when everything is running smoothly in life and there is nothing happening to seemingly derail the train, it is easier for us to believe that God is in control. But this view of God is also rooted in our constantly changeable life situations taking place in an ever changing and broken world. These emotions can helpfully reveal to us if we are putting our trust in God or in something else.
If, instead of viewing God in the light our circumstances, we view our circumstances in the light of who God is, we begin to view everything that happens to us, and around us, differently. If God was not in control, then our suffering would be meaningless – the result of random events that happen by chance. However, because God is Sovereign and nothing (good or bad, easy or difficult) comes into our lives that God has not permitted, then there is nothing in our lives that God does not have a purpose for and cannot use for His Glory. Paul says it this way:
“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)
This verse can bring great comfort. Although it does not promise our lives will be free from trials and suffering, it does promise that God’s purpose is working through even the worst of those trials to bring you more into conformity with the image of Christ Jesus.
Back to Winter
When things begin to look bleak this winter; when you are paying your heating bill using money set aside for Christmas gifts, or the cost of your mortgage doubles, and when your emotions to these crises cause you to doubt that God is sovereign over the events in your life, focus your attention on Him. It isn’t a distraction technique to take your mind off the cold. It’s not self-help or a mood-boosting life hack to trick your brain into positive thinking. It is turning your attention away from what is temporary to what is eternal; from what is unsafe and unsteady to what is safe and unchanging.
Your feelings will fail you, instead place your trust in God who is unchangeable and fully in control. Your crisis is not random, and God will use it for your good and His Glory. Only He can.