Singing of Suffering and God's Sovereignty
One of the songs that we have recently introduced to Calvary Grace is called "My God, My Father, Blissful Name." It was written by Anne Steele in 1760. The song is a reflection and proclamation of the realities of the Christian walk. In the first verse, we reflect on the astounding position we have as children of God. It echoes Colossians 1:11-12 which says, "May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light." The second half of Verse 1 speaks of the comfort that we have in knowing God as our Father. Knowing God as our Father and the future inheritance he has for us, controls our fears, it sends our sorrows away, and it grants us confidence that God is always with us.
My God, My Father, Blissful Name!O may I call the mine?
May I, with sweet assurance, claim,
A portion so divine?
This only can my fears control,
And bid my sorrows fly:
What harm can ever reach my soul,
Beneath my Father's eye?
The first half of Verse 2 speaks of the things that God takes away or denies us. These might be small things, such as failing to get that new position at work, not getting the vacation you wanted, or a loss of some of your savings because of an accident. However, it might be that God denies you big things, like losing your job or your house, the loss of a spouse or child, or maybe it is seeing your very own children rebel and deny God. How can we "calmly resign" these things that God denies or takes away? We can do so because we know He is "just, and good, and wise". And so we pray "bend my will to Thine". Read Romans 8:26-39 and see how we can sing these words with confidence.
The second half of Verse 2 speaks about what God ordains in our life. I am afraid that most people will not understand what is meant by this verse. What is God's will for the believer here on earth? Take a look at Romans 8:16-17 which states, "The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may be glorified with him." That is why we sing "O give me strength to bear". We are to anticipate suffering in many things and we deal with it by trusting that our Father is reigning over it all and we are in his tender care. That is how Christ did it, and we are to follow in his footsteps.
What ere Thy providence denies,
I calmly would resign:
For thou art just, and good, and wise,
O bend my will to Thine.
What ere Thy sacred will ordains,
O give me strength to bear;
And let me know my Father reigns,
And trust His tender care.
The last verse is a reflection on our mortality. We are sure to face sickness and pain in this life, but it is in knowing that our Father is merciful that we can cheer our "drooping heart" in the midst of it. The cares and sorrows that may "surround us" should not define us like the rest of the world believes. Anne Steele, at age 19, injured her hip and became an invalid, and at 21 her fiancée drowned on the day of her wedding. Yet her identity was not found in her circumstances, but rather the God who ordained her circumstances.
If pain and sickness rend this frame,
And life almost depart,
Is not Thy mercy still the same,
To cheer my drooping heart?
If cares and sorrows me surround,
Their pow'r why should I fear?
My inward peace they cannot wound
If Thou, my God, art near.
So as we sing this song in the future, let us not enjoy it because of the melody, the simplicity of the language, or even for its beauty in poetry. Rather, let us sing it with hope and joy in the character of our great God and Father.
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