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Why Do We Sing That God Has the Whole World in His Hands?

Many people learned “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands” in Sunday School. While some hymns were specifically written for children, this song was written for both young and old. All Christians can find hope in the reminder that God is holding this world.


“He’s got the whole world in His hands.” Most Christians have heard this song, and many likely sang it in Sunday School or children’s church. This hymn was first published in 1927 but arose out of African American oral tradition.

Many musicians and artists have covered the song, including Mahalia Jackson and Laurie London. A variation of the African American spiritual has also been done by Evan Craft, Danny Gokey, and Redimi2 in “Be Alright.”

Not only is the hymn beloved by many people, but it is also rich in biblical teaching. In “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands,” children and adults alike learn about God’s sovereignty, power, and glory.

From the lyrics of this song, we are encouraged and reminded that we do not have to fear because God is the Creator and Ruler.

God Is Sovereign

One of the reasons we sing about God holding the world is because it teaches and proclaims the truth of His sovereignty. In theological terms, the sovereignty of God means that He is the Ruler and has power over creation.

As Dr. Ryrie stated in Basic Theology, “God is in complete control of all things, though He may choose to let certain events happen according to natural laws that He has ordained” (Charles Ryrie).

Hence, using the imagery of God holding the “whole world in His hands,” the hymn conveys the theological truth and significance that God is in control.

As the One who created the universe, “the Lord Most High is awesome, the great King over all the earth” (Psalm 47:2). He owns the earth and everything else in creation.

David described this truth when he penned a psalm about God’s power and rule: “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it” (Psalm 24:1). No place on earth is exempt from God’s sovereignty or holy plan for the earth.

The fact that the King of all creation would care for sinful people is amazing and humbling. The sovereignty of God should compel us to ask, “what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them” (Psalm 8:4). Scripture displays God’s ultimate rule with His choice to show grace to mankind.

Out of all the nations of the world, the Lord chose Israel as His chosen people, although the entire world belonged to Him (Deuteronomy 10:14-15). Likewise, the Lord has also demonstrated His grace toward all who believe in Him (Romans 5:8).

As the King of kings and Lord of lords, Jesus was not forced to die for our sins. Instead, He willingly laid down His life because of love (John 10:18; Ephesians 5:25).

The Lord of the heavens and earth humbly became a man, died on the cross, and rose to life so we could receive forgiveness of sins and eternal life.

God ‘Holds’ the World Is Encouraging

When we sing this hymn, we declare that the world and everything in it belong to God. Nothing is outside of His rulership. Non-Christians may find this thought disconcerting, but believers take heart in knowing that God is sovereign over all things.

The song tells us that God has the “wind and the rain” and “everybody here in his hands.” Christians find encouragement in this reminder because many things are outside of our control. We cannot control the weather, our family’s health, or the events that happen to us.

Furthermore, we do not know the future. What happens tomorrow or in the next few years is a mystery. The Apostle James even wrote, “You don't even know what your life tomorrow will be! You are like a puff of smoke, which appears for a moment and then disappears” (James 4:14, GNT).

At times, people can become crippled with fear over their lack of control over their present and future lives. We slip into fear because we think that if we could somehow control our lives, we would be happy and secure.

However, Scripture teaches us that the Lord is in control. As Christ taught His disciples, “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows” (Matthew 10:29-31).

If the Lord watches over the small sparrows, then we can trust Him with our lives.

We find rest when we surrender control to Him. God’s plans will never fail. Even if hardships overwhelm our lives, we know that God can redeem these events for His purposes (Romans 8:28).

Instead of worrying over everyday concerns, which God knows we need, we can focus on glorifying God with our lives (Matthew 6:32). Only then can we find joy.

We Can Trust God

In addition to encouraging us to trust Him with our lives and our future, the song also prompts us to entrust God with the lives of those we love. Many of the variations of this hymn for children specifically refer to God holding parents and siblings to reassure kids of God’s control.

We cannot stop our family and friends from getting sick or hurt. However, we have a God who is greater than us and to Him belongs all life (Ezekiel 18:4).

Because God is sovereign and His good purposes will prevail, we do not have to fret about our loved ones. Parents can allow their son or daughter to become a missionary in an unreached place, assured that their child is obeying Christ’s commission (Matthew 28:19-20).

Christians can encourage new believers to stand firm in their faith, even if they experience persecution, knowing that Jesus said, “Blessed are those who are persecuted” (Matthew 5:10-12).

Also, families can pray for their sick loved ones, knowing that God’s Word encourages us to pray for those who are sick (James 5:13-16).

Knowing that God holds our loved ones in His hands does not mean we cease to care about their wellbeing or safety. We should pray for our loved ones and seek to share the gospel with them. However, we do not need to think that their lives are in our hands or control. We receive comfort and peace when we entrust our family and friends’ lives to the Lord.

Why Does This Matter?

Many people learned “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands” in Sunday School or a children’s Bible class. If someone searched the internet, they would also likely find many videos of children’s choirs singing this cherished hymn.

While some hymns were specifically written for children, this song was written for all believers, both young and old. All Christians can find hope in the reminder that God is holding this world.

Because God holds the world, our loved ones, and our future in His hands, we can trust in His plan and will for our lives. As followers of Christ, we do not have to give in to despair or fear because we know who holds our lives and future. As Paul said, “I know the one in whom I trust” (2 Timothy 1:12, NLT).

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