Songs for the Hard Times, Pt. 1

I recently heard someone comment that modern worship songs only cover about 3% of the topics found in Scripture. I don’t think that’s entirely accurate, but we surely lack contemporary songs that help the church respond appropriately to disasters and tragedies such as 9/11, the tsunami, or the recent hurricanes. Fortunately, that’s changing. Over the next few days I’m going to highlight some of the songs we’ve used in my home church to give voice to the confusion, sorrow, and hope we experience during these times.

I first heard the hymn God Moves in a Mysterious Way (William Cowper 1731-1800) at a conference sponsored by John Piper’s church, Bethlehem Baptist, a number of years ago. I thought the lyrics were a wonderful expression of confident trust in God’s unseen sovereign hand. After the tsunami this past year, we were wondering what to sing, and I remembered Cowper’s hymn. I wrote new music in an attempt to capture the quiet confidence of the lyrics, and added a chorus that responded with faith in God. We sang it the following Sunday.
(You can purchase this version of “God Moves” here). Here are the lyrics:

God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform;
He plants His footsteps in the sea
And rides upon the storm.
Deep in his dark and hidden mines
With never failing skill
He fashions all His bright designs
And works His sovereign will.

O God, we trust in You
O God, we trust in You
When tears are great and comforts few
We hope in mercies ever new
We trust in You.

O fearful saints new courage take;
The clouds that you now dread
Are big with mercy and will break
In blessings on your head.
Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
But trust Him for His grace;
Behind a frowning providence
He hides a smiling face.

His purposes will ripen fast,
Unfolding every hour;
The bud may have a bitter taste,
But sweet will be the flower.
Blind unbelief is sure to err
And scan His work in vain;
God is His own interpreter,
And He will make it plain.

Original lyrics by William Cowper (1774). Music and additional lyrics by Bob Kauflin.  Copyright 2005 Sovereign Grace Praise (BMI), a division of Sovereign Grace Music.

A few thoughts on how this song helps us lament with hope.

It assures us that God is working wisely and powerfully. “With never failing skill, He fashions all his bright designs and works His sovereign will.” We also remember that even though we may not see it, God is working for good. “Behind a frowning providence, He hides a smiling face.” In addition, we humbly acknowledge that only God knows completely why He does what He does. “God is His own interpreter, and He will make it plain.” The chorus enables us to acknowledge emotional turmoil, but respond with faith and hope in God’s mercies that are new every morning. (Lam. 3:23) On this side of the cross, those mercies are grounded firmly in our Savior’s substitutionary sacrifice at Calvary (Rom. 12:1), which is reason for endless praise. (Rev. 5:9-14)

God’s ways may be mysterious to us; but ultimately, they are always good.

(Read part 2 here.)

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