He's Got the Whole World in His Hands

October 17th, 2013

We know that God works all things together for good for the ones who love God, for those who are called according to his purpose. —Romans 8:28

In the late 1950s, life for many was a scary proposition. The Cold War had escalated to a point where duck-and-cover drills were practiced on a regular basis in schools. Thousands of preachers were also using the nuclear age as a signal for the end of the world. Many people believed a war between the United States and Soviet Union would soon bring about the destruction of mankind. A newspaper editorial of the day signaled the attitudes of millions when it announced, “God Is Dead.” And with the power to destroy billions resting in the hands of just a few people, it at least seemed like God had stepped back and become a spectator.

In the midst of all this hopelessness, a child’s voice reassured the world that God was still in charge. Laurie London, a young British boy, stepped into the recording studio and cut an American song that was likely a century and a half old. When released, millions seized “He’s God the Whole World in His Hands” as if it were life preserver thrown to a drowning shipwreck victim. Audiences the world over simply couldn’t get enough of the affirmation that God was out there and caring about them.

“He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands” was born in the fields of the American south. It was written by a slave whose name we will never know. That man or woman likely experienced more trouble and suffering than any person in the modern age. He or she was not considered human by a society that viewed bondage as a necessary evil. So the writer of this hymn was not in charge of the present and had no control over the future. His or her owner could beat him or her to death, and there would be no punishment. He or she could be sold on an auction block on a minute’s notice. Yet in the face of a life with no promise of freedom, this slave found solace in faith. Somehow this Christian still believed that a loving God was in charge.

There is strange irony in having the words of slave, a man or woman who truly was the least of these, remind the free people living in the most powerful country in the world that God is in charge. Yet when “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands” was released, that was just what happened. Many turned back to the Bible to search for hope, and they found it. A child’s voice and a slave’s anthem were the wake-up call for millions of insecure Christians.

The world survived the Cold War. The destruction that millions predicted did not happen. In retrospect, it seemed that God was in control, and those who didn’t succumb to panic and instead relied on faith were right. Today there are still millions looking at every bump in the road as proof the world is about to end. They live in such fear they fail enjoy the wonderful moments they have been given. If a slave can see that God is alive and has a great plan for each life and if a slave can be secure in faith, then surely we can be too.

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