It was probably the most unusual ending to a church service that I have ever seen. I had just finished preaching when a friend whispered to me that a woman in our community had just died. She had been sick for some time but the news was still unexpected.
It wasn’t nearly as unexpected as what I would hear just a few minutes later.
Another friend called me over. She was in the back of our sanctuary and talking on her phone with a concerned look on her face. I knew that she was going to tell me about the death I had already heard about. I stood patiently as she said the woman’s name. But then she told me about another woman in our church who had just died. This woman was much younger than the first. And she wasn’t sick, at least as far as I knew. But that didn’t matter.
Only a few days before Christmas, two women in our community died. I don’t know why. I can’t explain the reasoning behind God’s timing. But I do know this. Both events were under God’s sovereign control.
Churches are filled with people who claim to believe that God is in control but who simultaneously act as though the universe is governed by coincidence and superstitious acts are the sacrifices we offer up in order to avoid pain and suffering. One of those superstitions makes its grand appearance ever year on January 1. I was first introduced to this one as a small child when family members told me that if you washed your clothes on New Year’s Day, you will wash away a member of your family. I thought that this was some silly family tradition. As I grew older, I realized that I was wrong.
The two deaths that Sunday morning and the eleven others from our church community in 2018 are not the result of family members who washed their clothes on January 1. I can assure you that Jesus is not in heaven making his list and checking it twice to see who started out the year by doing a load of laundry.
Or who walked under a ladder.
Or who broke a mirror.
Or who allowed a black cat to stand in their path.
Or who didn’t like that Facebook post or forward that email.
Instead, he is holding all things together for his glory and the good of his people.
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 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. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. Colossians 1:15-18 (ESV)
But God is not simply in control. He is also loving. If he is sovereign but not loving he is Hitler. If he is loving, but not sovereign, he is your great-grandfather. According to the Bible, he is both in control and .
Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” So we can confidently say, “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?” Hebrews 13:5-6 (ESV)
The LORD your God is in your midst,
a mighty one who will save;
he will rejoice over you with gladness;
he will quiet you by his love;
he will exult over you with loud singing.
Zephaniah 3:17 (ESV)
I can’t tell you everything that will happen in 2019. I most likely won’t be able to give you the exact reasons behind the events of 2019. Beware of those who claim that they can.
Here’s what I can tell you. God will be in control over all things—even the events that hurt or don’t make sense. There will not be a single fraction of a second in 2019 when God is not in control.
There will likely be times in 2019 when it won’t feel like you are loved by the sovereign God of the universe. In those moments, instead of asking why, ask who. Take time to draw closer to God and to know him. Confess your fears and doubts. Repent of your anger or rebellion. Ask him to help you trust him. Ask him to help you to know him better.
Christian, don’t go into 2019 crippled by fear and superstitions.
Remember, the universe is governed by your Savior who loves you and who has rigged the entire system for your benefit and his glory.
Jesus, not your Maytag, is in charge.
So do some laundry on New Year’s Day.