The Sovereignty of God: A Critical Truth for Calming Fears

As a human, you have three main components to your being: mind, soul and body. Of these two, the subconscious part of your mind and your soul are by far the two alpha elements (see The Supremacy of The Subconscious & The Soul). It’s very helpful to understand this about yourself, because to deal with fear effectively, you first need to identify which of your elements is fueling that fear. Pretty much all fear can be tracked back to either your subconscious or your soul. Which element is fueling the fear will be revealed by the kinds of anxious questions that are circling around in your head.

If all of those anxious “what if” thoughts are focusing on the concept of your physical safety, then you are dealing with subconscious fears, because your subconscious is primarily concerned with your safety.

If you find yourself worrying about your relationship with God (“What if He hates me?”) the character of God (“What if He’s some kind of monster?”), the power of demons (“What if they are really in control of this world?”), and what is waiting for you on the other side of death (“Am I going to wake up in Hell?”), then you are dealing with soul fears. It is your soul that is concerned about supernatural beings, the afterlife, and understanding “big picture” questions like where you came from and what the point of your existence is.

Responding to the Alphas

Now once one of the alpha elements of your being becomes very stressed, the rest of your elements will become stressed in response. It’s rather like how you find yourself automatically tensing up and feeling uncomfortable when two people start having a heated argument in front of you. You’re not the one being yelled at or doing the yelling, yet just being up close to all of that tension upsets you. If the two people happen to be people who you really like, you’ll feel even more upset. If they also happen to be people who you feel dependent on in some way, then you’ll be even more upset by their conflict.

Since all of the elements of your being feel interdependent on each other, when one element becomes very stressed, all of the other elements become very stressed as well. Once all of your elements become uptight and anxious, it’s easy to focus on the wrong one, and people do this all the time. A woman develops stress migraines as her body reacts to the fact that her subconscious is extremely upset. She then focuses on the migraines as the source of her misery, when really they are just a side factor. No matter how many pills she takes, the migraines just keep coming, and the woman finds this very frustrating and confusing. But if she were to become educated about what the alpha elements of her being are, she could then realize that her physical problems are very likely just a case of her body reacting to one of the alpha elements being upset. She could then pay more attention to her thoughts and notice that she is constantly worrying about someone breaking into her home and attacking her. This anxiety over physical safety clearly indicates it is her subconscious that is upset. Once she identifies which alpha element is fueling the fear, she can then take steps to work directly with that element. In this scenario, the woman won’t solve her problem by popping pain pills. There’s nothing wrong with trying to alleviate physical symptoms, but when those symptoms are a result of your body stressing over what’s happening in your mind or soul, you must deal directly with the element that is fueling the fear.

Double Trigger Fears

Now in real life, many situations cause both of your alpha elements to become extremely upset, and this quickly turns fear into terror. Let’s use Molly as an example here. Molly is a young woman who works as a waitress. One day a man came into her restaurant who immediately made her uncomfortable. When he started asking her a bunch of personal questions, she felt even more alarmed. She tried to be friendly and dodge as many questions as she could, yet the man kept staring at her very intently even after she left his table. After that, the man began coming into her work every day, always requesting that Molly wait on him. Happily Molly’s supervisor stepped in and refused to accommodate the man’s requests. In fact, he even told the man that he was making the staff uncomfortable, and would no longer be served at their establishment if he didn’t stop hassling the waitresses. After that, the man didn’t return, which was a great relief to Molly until she caught sight of him waiting on the other side of the street when she left her work and started to walk home. Much to her horror, the man followed her all the way to her apartment and remained outside for hours, looking up at her window. She closed all of her blinds and hoped he would go away. But the next morning when she left, he was there waiting for her. After a week of this, Molly called the police only to be told there was nothing they could do. “We understand your distress but there’s nothing illegal about him using the same streets and buses that you use,” they told her. “We can’t intervene until he actually attempts an assault.”

So how would you feel in Molly’s situation? Molly is terrified. Her subconscious sees the man as a serious threat to her safety, so now her mind is constantly racing with anxious thoughts and horrifying possibilities. At the same time, Molly’s soul is feeling abandoned by God. Why is He letting this creepy character hound her without doing anything? Surely it would be a very simple thing for God to make the man ill or get him hit by a car or have some other bad thing happen to him so that he’d be forced to stop hassling Molly. And yet it seems that God is doing nothing to help Molly even though He knows how upset she is. Is God failing to act because He can’t? Is this evidence that demons are stronger than God? Or could it be that God simply lets demons have their way in this world and doesn’t care how many humans suffer at their hands?

Molly is dealing with what I call a double trigger fear. With single trigger fears there is just one element that is throwing your entire system into distress. If you help that element, everyone else will calm down. But in cases of double trigger fears, there are two elements freaking out for different reasons, and until both elements get help, you won’t be able to calm down.

The Issue of Power

Battle situations, fatal illnesses, sexual assault, terrorist attacks, being sent to prison over something you didn’t do, and natural disasters are all situations that commonly cause double trigger fears. And by the time you have both your subconscious and your soul feeling extremely upset, there is an urgent need to deal with the issue of power. How is it allocated in this world? Who is the top dog and how secure is that being in his position? What are your chances of getting in with the guy who is running this place and what is an alliance with that being worth?

Our friend Molly is so stressed because she feels unequipped to defend herself from an enemy who is constantly hovering. There’s not much Molly can practically do to become physically superior to her stalker, because she just doesn’t have the desire or coordination to become the queen of martial arts. And even if she was confident in her combat skills, she can’t escape the fact that she can’t be on ready alert 24/7. She has to sleep and eat and concentrate on other things than anticipating her stalker’s next move. What Molly really needs is for someone else to take on the role of her bodyguard: someone who could be trusted to be constantly on the job, someone who could be at her side 24/7 without things getting awkward, and someone who was far more powerful and capable than her stalker. If Molly could somehow get someone like that on her side, then both her mind and her soul would have the chance to calm down. But where could she find someone like that who would be willing to work for what she could afford to pay, which is nothing?

Here is where God comes into it.

Far from being a distant, uninvolved, and uninterested Creator, God is the sort of Being who is in your personal business 24/7 and who is extremely interested in every detail of your human experience. God knows all about Molly’s quandary, because God is the One who led her stalker to her in the first place and kicked off this whole mess. Of course none of us like to think of God being the cause of our problems–we just want Him to be the Hero who swoops in to solve them. But take some time to really think about it and you’ll realize that it is a far better situation to have God be both the cause and the cure of every problem you have.

If you believe that God does nothing but cause you problems for the sake of making you miserable, then you are thrust into the terrifying, hopeless position of being the victim of a Creator who made you for the sole purpose of maliciously toying with you. Many people fear that this is exactly the position we are all in, but happily, they are wrong.

If you are going to say that God never causes any of the problems that plague you in life, yet He created this place and all that is in it, then you have a God who tossed you into the midst of a pack of wolves like so much dog food, knowing full well they’d rip you apart and apparently not giving a toss about how you’d manage.

If you say that God didn’t want this place to turn out as badly as it has, but that it was demons and humans who wrecked His original paradise while He looked on in horror, then you have an utterly impotent God who moronically makes creatures who then run amuck on Him.

If you are going to say that God is equal in power to the demons who humans are so in awe of, then you will have no basis on which to count on God for anything. After all, if He can’t even save Himself from being overpowered and outsmarted by demons, how can He possibly be counted on to save you? On God’s good days, He’ll be there. On His bad days, you’re on your own until you manage to find some way to rescue Him. The Christian religion often depicts God this way: as Someone who relies on the assistance of His followers to keep demons and evil humans in check. Listen to the wording of Christian prayers and notice how much time they spend directing and commanding God. How humans talk to God reveals what they really think of Him, and among humans who believe in a Supreme Deity, most don’t view that Deity as being very capable. Once you think God is some bumbling dunce who needs advice from halfwits like us, it’s quite impossible to feel safe in His care.

What I’ve just outlined are the most common views of God’s power and abilities. But what does God say? God says that He is a sovereign Deity, meaning He rules with absolute power and control over all that exists. Yes, demons are malicious little critters who are obsessed with making humans miserable. Yes, the world is full of humans who want to do harm to other humans. But according to God, these beings only exist because He wants them to, and they can only ever choose between options that He gives them–options which He ensures will always further His will, therefore it is truly impossible for anyone to create a problem for God.

Choice & Power

People often struggle to understand how real choice can exist alongside absolute power. Here’s where I like to use an analogy of playing cards. Suppose I’m holding a deck of 52 cards. I look through the deck and select three cards which I place on a table in front of you. I then invite you to choose one of those cards, and I tell you that each choice will result in different consequences. In this scenario, is your choice a real choice? Of course it is. I’m not forcing you to choose one card over another. I am giving you the freedom to decide. But at the same time, I am in control of the situation because I chose the options I am giving you and I made sure they were only options that would work for me.

A common way people go wrong with this issue of God and choice is by viewing Him too simplistically. As humans, we usually have only one way that we want a certain situation to go, while we view all other possibilities as negative. For example, when you go in to see how effective your cancer treatments have been, what you really want to hear is that you are now tumor free. That’s the only option that you would consider to be a truly good one. Hearing that the thing has shrunk would be a real letdown from the ideal scenario. Hearing that it hasn’t changed in size would be totally depressing.

Because it’s very rare for us to be in a situation where there are multiple ways a situation could work out that we would find equally satisfying, we struggle to imagine how this could be true for God. And yet it’s not only true, this is His normal situation. To God, there are always multiple ways that a situation could turn out that are equally interesting, satisfying, and productive. The Creator perspective is quite different from the creature perspective. To God, giving us real choices is very appealing because it gives us an active role in affecting how the stories of our lives will unfold. But just as you make sure there are fences securely in place before you let your two-year-old run free, God always ensures the choices He gives us are suitable for creatures of our limited capacities. God never leaves it to us to make the really important calls–the ones which require true wisdom and an ability to calculate longterm effects. God also does not allow us to control the choices of others or the way that He chooses to interact with others. You can pray all day for God to give your neighbor a vision of Heaven, or heal your friend’s child, or give your brother that great promotion. But God never lets us control the options that He will give someone else, nor does He view our advice as wisely as we do. God knows that we have no idea what we’re talking about most of the time, and He sees the true motivations of our requests, which mostly come down to making ourselves feel better.

What God Says

According to God, He isn’t just sort of in charge. He is absolutely in control over all that exists at all times. According to God, the difference in power between Himself and created beings is immeasurably great. If God is a military tank, demons are defenseless snakes sitting in the path of that tank who can’t do a darn thing to harm or stop it. If demons are wimpy snakes , humans are like the even wimpier mice that those snakes are always hunting down and wanting to eat for breakfast. But while demons are constantly trying to harass us, they are incapable of destroying us. Why? Because demons are stuck in the same situation we are when it comes to choice: they can only ever choose among the options that God gives them.

Molly’s stalker is stalking her because of his own unprocessed stress (see Understanding Stalkers). He doesn’t just want to follow her, he wants to interact with her as well. But what the man wants to do and what he is being allowed to do by God are two very different things. If Molly could see how much God is restraining the man, and how effortless it is for God to keep him in check, she would feel a lot less afraid. You see, while demons are trying to amplify Molly’s distress by constantly portraying her stalker as a free agent who will strike at any moment, in reality, the man is completely boxed in by God’s absolute power. He can’t do anything that God doesn’t allow Him to do, and if God ever allows him to do something negative to Molly, it will only be because He is planning to use that event to help Molly (see It’s Personal: Why God Brings Problems Into Your Life). Now of course this all sounds far too simplistic at first, because we can all imagine some pretty nasty things that people do to each other in real life that don’t seem the least bit positive.

Benefiting from Negative Experiences

A ton of wonderful things are happening in this world everyday, but humans don’t broadcast the good. Instead, they focus on the bad, giving themselves the false impression that the world is only full of evil. When you hear some tragic story of assault, you don’t know the people involved. You don’t have the vantage point of seeing their inner workings, so you can’t begin to appreciate the very intricate plan God is working on with each of them. Yes, God certainly does cause all manner of terrible things to happen to us. But these things are never done at random, nor do any of us experience more than we’re supposed to. Each and every stress that God brings into our lives is precisely timed and structured to make an opportunity for fabulous things to occur. Take Molly’s situation. She is crushed and scared by realizing that the authorities in her society aren’t there for her when she needs them. Yet suppose they were. Is that really the wonderful thing that it sounds like? What’s better: to feel like your safety in life depends on humans who are as limited as you are, or to realize that you have a far more powerful Being on your side? By setting up a scenario where humans can’t help, God is making room for Molly to see Him as her true Protector and Helper in life. Does that mean He’ll never let anything bad happen to her? No, because He will. But when He does, Molly can know that God will use whatever it is to change her into an even better version of herself.

God designed humans to grow through a mix of positives and negatives. Picture yourself walking along a series of large plateaus. It takes you 200 steps to cross the first one, then you have to climb up several yards to reach the top of the next one. Climbing up the steep face of the giant stair step is a lot harder than walking across a flat surface. Once you climb up to the top of the second plateau, it takes you only 30 steps to reach the wall of the next one. Now you must climb up again, this time even higher, to reach the next plateau. But each time you reach the top of a new plateau, you find it is more beautiful than the last one. Your journey has turned into a series of fabulous surprises, and soon you’re pressing on even faster because you’re so curious and excited to see what wonders await you on the next plateau.

Now in my plateau analogy of personal growth, imagine that it is positive experiences that give you the energy to cross the tops of the plateaus, but negative experiences that give you the strength you need to climb up to the top of each new level. This is how it works in real life. To thrive, humans need a mix of positive and negative experiences. The ideal balance for each human is different, which is why we need God to choose the right blend for each of us. Positives are great, and positives are needed, but if you take away the negatives, you’ll never make it to the next plateau.

Suppose Molly has supportive friends and family. Their love and affirmation of her are feeding her need for positives that propel her forward in her own life journey. But now there’s this stalker problem. She still has her positives, but this new crisis is a negative that intimidates and upsets her. And yet if she were to see this crisis for what it actually is–an opportunity for her to ascend to a new plateau of personal growth–she would be less intimidated by it.

As you approach the end of the plateau you’re on, God will always do something to cause you to feel dissatisfied with it and start longing for something better. Back when Molly felt happy with her family and friends and confident that the police would be there for her, she was content on her current plateau. But as she nears the end of it and closes in on the next large step of growth that God has prepared for her, He starts undermining her satisfaction with her current situation. The police fail her, and her friends and family are powerless to help with this particular problem. All of this crushes Molly’s comforting belief that humans could be enough for her. Now she feels a need for something more–something that isn’t available on this current plateau. What she needs is a push to get her up to that next level, and that is the role this stalker is playing. Of course her stalker doesn’t see it like this. He is focused on his own problems and certainly didn’t enter Molly’s life to help her reach a higher level of maturity and personal happiness. But this is what is so wonderful about living in the care of a sovereign Creator: His will for you will always supersede the will of other creatures. While Molly’s stalker is focused on his own agenda, God is forcing that man to play the role that He wants him to play in Molly’s life: to be the push she needs to acquire a whole new way of perceiving the world.

Molly is really not the helpless victim of an unstable man, nor has she been abandoned by other humans and God. Instead, Molly is securely in the hands of her loving Creator, who is using her stalker as a tool to push her on to a greater awareness of what a secure position she is in. With an all-powerful God arranging all of the events of her life and fixing it so that all negatives can push her on to a better kind of existence, Molly really has no need to fear. Instead, she can learn to see this and future threats as exciting indicators that she is closing in on another plateau and that God is starting to give her the tools she needs to reach her next level of personal growth.

When God helps you deal with your stresses in life, He will always emphasize hope and turn your focus onto Him. When demons are talking (either directly or through other humans), they will emphasize fear and despair while trying to get your focus onto anything but God. Listen to God when you are going through hard times, and He will keep that pinpoint of light on the horizon for you to focus on. Bad things don’t exist in this world because God has dropped the ball or because He simply doesn’t care. Bad things only exist in this world as tools to enhance good. When we follow God’s leading in life, we end up seeing the value of all of our experiences, and appreciating what a faithful, loving Creator He is.

This post was written in response to a request.

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