“My Times of Sorrow and of Joy” by Ben­ja­min Bed­dome

If you strip a hymn of its melody, what you often find is a wonderful poem. Such is the case with these verses below, written by Benjamin Beddome upon his son’s death. Perhaps the most powerful lines of the hymn, to me at least, are the first two of the last stanza. How often do we forget that in this world perfect happiness is not available nor promised (Matthew 16:24)? It’s this short bout of spiritual amnesia that fuels so much our finger-wagging, our discontentedness with God and all that He’s graciously given us (spouses, friends, opportunities, oxygen, etc.); it’s this short bout of spiritual amnesia that makes us keen to what we do not have instead of rejoicing in what we do have. Though we have moments, even seasons, of happiness here on earth, perfect happiness can only be found in Christ. And it can only be sustained permanently in the presence of his glory. Until we reach that happy place, we follow our Lord’s path — the crucible — until we receive our reward: perfect fellowship with our Lord. Until then, we are sorrowful yet always rejoicing and sustained by our good, trustworthy God. 

My times of sorrow and of joy,
Great God, are in Thy hand.
My choicest comforts come from Thee,
And go at Thy command.

If Thou shouldst take them all away,
Yet would I not repine;
Before they were possessed by me,
They were entirely Thine.

Nor would I drop a murmuring word,
Though the whole world were gone,
But seek enduring happiness
In Thee, and Thee alone.

What is the world with all its store?
’Tis but a bitter sweet;
When I attempt to pluck the rose
A pricking thorn I meet.

Here perfect bliss can ne’er be found,
The honey’s mixed with gall;
Midst changing scenes and dying friends,
Be Thou my all in all.

“Do the Next Thing” (quoted) by Elisabeth Elliot

Trials and circumstances rarely greet us warmly. Especially when they shift and multiply, morphing into daunting options. This turmoil could be rendered a large part of the human experience in this fallen world; after all, no one has lived and not, at some point or another, felt completely overwhelmed by beleaguering decisions (or lack thereof) before them. Elisabeth Elliot, wife of the renowned martyred missionary, Jim Elliot, who was killed in 1956 trying to reach the Auca people of Ecuador, certainly knew this reality, perhaps more deeply than most ever will. While she didn’t author the poem below (the author is anonymous), she aided its soaring by quoting it. How many saints have taken refuge in the shadow of God’s wings because of these words? How many weary pilgrims has this poem spurred on to do all that they can do: take the next step? We believers are not commanded to know every step, but to take the next one resigning all to the covenant care of our Lord, who plans them all for his glory and our good. 

From an old English parsonage down by the sea,
There came in the twilight a message to me;
Its quaint Saxon legend, deeply engraven,
Hath, as it seems to me, teaching from Heaven.
And on through the hours the quiet words ring
Like a low inspiration: DO THE NEXT THING

Many a questioning, many a fear,
Many a doubt, hath its quieting here.
Moment by moment, Let down from Heaven,
Time, opportunity, guidance, are given.
Fear not tomorrows, Child of the King,
Trust them with Jesus. DO THE NEXT THING

Do it immediately; do it with prayer;
Do it reliantly, casting all care;
Do it with reverence, tracing His Hand
Who placed it before thee with earnest command.
Stayed on Omnipotence, safe ‘neath His wing,
Leave all resultings. DO THE NEXT THING

Looking to Jesus, ever serener,
(Working or suffering) be thy demeanor,
In His dear presence, the rest of His calm,
The light of His countenance be thy psalm,
Strong in His faithfulness, praise and sing,
Then, as He beckons thee, DO THE NEXT THING.

“GOD’S UNCHANGING WORD” by Martin Luther

My pastor often says, “feelings are good and unreliable.” So many times I’ve been tempted to make my emotions my ultimate guide; our individualistic, romanticized culture in the West doesn’t help fend this temptation. And so if something — an event, a relationship, a memory — is hard, I assume it to not be good. But this is horrid reasoning — for the cross was the hardest yet best event done by the most loving person ever. The cross is why we can trust that God will spend even our sorrows well (Rom. 8:28). Below is a piece I stumbled on written by the monolith of the Reformation, Martin Luther; it serves as a helpful reminder for what I should truly lean on: God’s Word. 

Feelings come and feelings go,
And feelings are deceiving;
My warrant is the Word of God —
Naught else is worth believing.

Though all my heart should feel condemned
For want of some sweet token,
There is One greater than my heart
Whose Word cannot be broken.

I’ll trust in God’s unchanging Word
Till soul and body sever,
For, though all things shall pass away,