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Have you come to the Red Sea place in your life,
Where, in spite of all you can do,
There is no way out, there is no way back,
There is no other way but through?
Then wait on the Lord with a trust serene
Till the night of your fear is gone;
He will send the wind,
He will heap the floods,
When He says to your soul, “Go on.”
And His hand will lead you through—clear through–
Ere the watery walls roll down,
No foe can reach you, no wave can touch,
No mightiest sea can drown;
The tossing billows may rear their crests,
Their foam at your feet may break,
But over their bed you shall walk dry shod
In the path that your Lord will make.
In the morning watch, ‘neath the lifted cloud,
You shall see but the Lord alone,
When He leads you on from the place of the sea
To a land that you have not known;
And your fears shall pass as your foes have passed,
You shall be no more afraid;
You shall sing His praise in a better place,
A place that His hand has made.
–Annie Johnson Flint
You may recognize the name of this poet…she wrote the lyrics to the song, “He Giveth More Grace”. She was a prolific writer, whose verse sprang from pain and trial. She lost both parents before she turned 8. She later lost both of her adoptive parents when she was a young woman, and arthritis left her a helpless cripple. Because of her love for God’s word, she claimed His promise in scripture that His strength could be made perfect in her weakness. She was able to maintain a positive outlook and a sense of humor even though her disease finally made her wheelchair-bound and she had to eventually dictate all of her writings. Annie was convinced that God desired to bring glory to Himself through her, and encouragement to many through the words which sprang from her trials. This is one of the most famous:
God hath not promised skies always blue,
Flower strewn pathways all our lives through;
God hath not promised sun without rain,
Joy without sorrow, peace without pain.
God hath not promised we shall not know
Toil and temptation, trouble and woe;
He hath not told us we shall not bear
Many a burden, many a care.
God hath not promised smooth roads and wide,
Swift, easy travel, needing no guide;
Never a mountain rocky and steep,
Never a river turbid and deep.
But God hath promised strength for the day,
Rest for the labor, light for the way,
Grace for the trials, help from above,
Unfailing sympathy, undying love.
I want to share one of my favorite hymn texts, one of what I call “hymns of desperate faith”. It was written by William Cowper, a prolific writer from the 1700’s. He was one of 7 children, 5 of whom did not survive infancy and his mother died when giving birth to his only surviving sibling, a brother named John. William was bullied in school. When he was a young man he was refused his beloved Theodora’s hand in marriage as her father deemed him unsuitable. Cowper attempted suicide 3 times and was institutionalized after being declared “insane”. He was eventually released under the care of a retired clergyman, and in his home he became acquainted with John Newton, who invited him to be a contributor for a hymn book he was compiling. William later had another bout with insanity…it makes me wonder if in reality he dealt with a chemical imbalance of some kind that could be easily resolved in our time. But he had no such resources, and so he suffered with bouts of deep depression all of his life. His anchor, as was true for Annie Flint…was the stabilizing truth Word of God.
I found this interesting connection between the two of them, who both cited the parting of the Red Sea as a source of hope and deliverance. Cowper referenced this passage from HaBAKKuk:
“Thou didst walk through the sea with thine horses, through the heap of great waters. Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls: Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation. The Lord God is my strength, and he will make my feet like hinds’ feet, and he will make me to walk upon mine high places. To the chief singer on my stringed instruments.” Hab 3:15, 17-19
Cowper used this text as a springboard for this hymn text:
Sometimes a light surprises
The Christian while he sings;
It is the Lord who rises
With healing in His wings;
When comforts are declining,
He grants the soul again
A season of clear shining,
To cheer it after rain.
In holy contemplation
We sweetly then pursue
The theme of God’s salvation,
And find it ever new;
Set free from present sorrow,
We cheerfully can say—
Let the unknown tomorrow
Bring with it what it may.
It can bring with it nothing,
But He will bear us through;
Who gives the lilies clothing,
Will clothe His people too:
Beneath the spreading heavens
No creature but is fed;
And He, who feeds the ravens,
Will give His children bread.
Though vine nor fig tree neither
Their wonted fruit shall bear;
Though all the fields should wither
Nor flocks nor herds be there;
Yet God the same abiding,
His praise shall tune my voice,
For, while in Him confiding,
I cannot but rejoice.
I’m inspired by hymns like these to ask myself, “What kind of song springs from my suffering?”
Scripture, and music based solidly upon it, as the saying goes, “has charms to sooth a savage breast”. “A light surprises” us when we sing, as Cowper wrote. We have a specific example of King Saul in scripture who would have David come and play his harp to ward off the evil spirit that had come upon him.
As you probably know, the Psalms are actually sacred songs or hymns. No wonder they minister so effectively to our hearts and minds. If you find yourself in a “Red Sea place” today, open your Bible and spend some time in Psalm 121 and Psalm 139. Let me know how they encourage you by commenting on my blog post containing this transcript, or by leaving a voice text at the podcast home page: https://anchor.fm/diane-heeney
Until next week, remember…
God always keeps His promises and is purposeful,
He never wastes time,
He’s never surprised,
And He always has the best, right answer.
See you soon!