Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Gleanings from the Pastor's Perspective: Singing in Trial

The Pastor’s Perspective
“Singing in Trial”
First Published: September 18, 2007

This coming Lord’s Day, then, we’ll be looking at the moving words and music of the great hymn, “If Thou But Suffer God to Guide Thee.” It is a glorious and realistic and emphatically Christian and spiritual meditation on God’s providence. It is also worth memorizing.

The Cyber Hymnal™ (a resource you really should bookmark on your web-browser favorites – at www.cyberhymnal.org) says: “It was composed in 1641 with the heading ‘A Song of Comfort. God will care for and help everyone in His own time,’ under the text Psalm 55:22. The author was robbed by highwaymen near Magdeburg as a student and left destitute with no prospect of earning a living. At last he unexpectedly received an appointment as tutor in the family of a judge, ‘which, he says, . . . greatly rejoiced me, and on that very day I composed to the honor of my beloved Lord [this] hymn.’”

In this hymn, we profess our confidence in God’s goodness and guidance, even in the midst of trial. As noted above, the author wrote it after being robbed of almost all his possessions (except a prayer book) and enduring extended unemployment, so when you sing it, you are singing with a fellow Christian who personally understands about destitution and hard circumstances. How encouraging a thought that is. We are never alone in our hardships, and even when we come with great burdens and fears to church, we can sing in a fellowship of suffering, with brothers and sisters from over the ages, who personally understand what we are going through. Isn’t God kind to us?

Here’s a taste of the first stanza, and my translation of it. The song is written in the form of a testimonial (like so many of the Psalms), but is utterly God-centered.
If thou but suffer God to guide thee
If you will only trust God to guide you
And hope in Him through all thy ways,
and hope in Him in every circumstance
He’ll give thee strength, whate’er betide thee,
He’ll give you strength no matter what happens
And bear thee through the evil days.
And he’ll carry through bad times
Who trusts in God’s unchanging love
The person who trusts in God’s unchanging love
Builds on the rock that naught can move.
Builds on a the one Rock that no one can move.

Your friend,

Ligon Duncan

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