Monday, January 22, 2007

Hymns for hard times

A friend and her family are in an incredibly stress-filled situation that rings bells with me. I remember, I told her, some of our own tough times and the unbelievable stress. I offered her two verses from an old hymn that really, really, REALLY meant a lot to me. As I looked up the hymn in my church's hymnal, I discovered a wealth of other hymns about strength, and God's love, in tough times. Many, if not most, were written over a century ago, when times were often more difficult than I can easily imagine. I found a new favorite through my browsing.

First, my old favorite (verses 2 and 4)

"God moves in a mysterious way / his wonders to perform"

Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take;
the clouds ye so much dread
are big with mercy, and shall break
in blessings on your head.

His purposes will ripen fast,
unfolding every hour;
the bud may have a bitter taste,
but sweet will be the flower.

No. 677, The Hymnal 1982. Written sometime between 1730 and 1800.

And here's a new favorite for me.

"How firm a foundation"

How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord,
is laid for your faith in his excellent word!
What more can he say than to you he hath said,
to you that for refuge to Jesus have fled?

"Fear not, I am with thee; O be not dismayed!
For I am thy God, and will still give thee aid;
I'll strengthen thee, help thee, and cause thee to stand,
upheld by my righteous, omnipotent hand.

"When through the deep waters I call thee to go,
the rivers of woe shall not thee overflow;
for I will be with thee, thy troubles to bless,
and sanctify to thee thy deepest distress.

"When through fiery trials thy pathway shall lie,
my grace, all sufficient, shall be thy supply;
the flame shall not hurt thee; I only design
thy dross to consume, and thy gold to refine.

"The soul that to Jesus hath fled for repose,
I will not, I will not desert to its foes;
that soul, through all hell shall endeavor to shake,
I'll never, no, never, no, never forsake."

No. 636, The Hymnal 1982. Words first published in 1787.


I'm not a fan of "God meant for this terrible thing to happen," or "How could a good and loving God allow this to happen?!"

Instead, when faced with terrible things in life, I hold in my heart my belief that what is real includes more than this world -- whether that is the existence of our souls or God's love enfolding us or what have you. I believe the terrible things in life are not the end, the final word about us... this world... our lives; that, in fact, we are closely held by God, our companion in the dark valley, even though we might be unable to know it. I hold that in my heart when I read these hymns.


Melora said...

Those are beautiful. One of the reasons I would like to learn to play the piano and bought my own hymnal is so that I could enjoy on my own the hymns that I love and we never sing often enough in church! I hope those helped your friend.

Barbara said...

Melora, I love seeing my two hymnals on top of my piano, ready to be opened and played from. You will enjoy doing that, too -- and it doesn't have to be too hard; sometimes I just play the melody notes while I sing ALL of the verses :)