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.