When I was a small child singing of the God who had the whole world in his hands, it filled me with awe. The whole world, after all, was a big place. It included grandma’s house in Cincinnati and grandpa’s cottage in Pentwater–the two farthest points on a map I knew. As I grew older, the world as I understood it grew as well. I discovered Florida on a family vacation and learned about Chile as we sponsored a little girl named Juana. We saved our money as we learned about poverty in South America. We prayed for peace as we learned of trouble across the world. With each day or newscast, the world grew in scope and depth.
Unfortunately, my awe for the one who held it all in his hands did not always grow along with it. In fact, it often faded. As the world grew increasingly bigger, so my anxiousness for the world increased. In the shadows cast by a looming globe, God’s hands seemed somehow smaller. I did not see the expanding world as an opportunity for expanded faith.
At times, this is still the case for me. While the need for God’s hands is heightened with news of each developing war or suffering community, this is usually not the first analysis that comes to mind. In times of uncertainty, the world begins to seem much more than a handful–for me and perhaps even for God. An editorialist for the The Atlantic Journal expresses similar sentiments:
“The world is too big for us. Too much is going on, too many crimes, too much violence and excitement. Try as you will, you get behind in the race in spite of yourself. It’s an incessant strain to keep pace… and still, you lose ground. Science empties its discoveries on you so fast that you stagger beneath them in hopeless bewilderment. The political world is news seen so rapidly you are out of breath trying to keep pace… Everything is high pressure. Human nature cannot endure much more.”
His words express the difficulty of living in a world marked by modern momentum, where advances in media and the influence of globalization keep us hyper-informed but exhausted by the sheer number of newsworthy events. “The whole world” is a different place today than it was when I was a child in awe of God’s embrace. Or maybe it’s not that different at all. Ironically, this editorial was first published on June 16th, 1833.
It is perhaps much easier to sing of a world that in his hands when the world is calm and at rest. But that is not the world into which Christ came, nor the world that God carefully holds in his hands. “In this world you will have trouble,” Jesus told his disciples. “But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).