‘Great is Thy faithfulness’ is probably one of my favourite hymns. I sing it when I am joyful because it is a song of rejoicing over God’s faithfulness to me. And I sing it when I am sad because it reminds me of the Lord’s ever loving watchfulness over me despite difficult circumstances.
Walking with the Lord in faith is not always easy because we do need to have belief in His care for us and His faithfulness towards us. Ten years ago, before we left Scotland for Bowness-on-Windermere and came to run Blenheim Lodge, my husband had been made redundant and we became solely reliant on my income to live on. With two growing boys and many expenses, we were poor as church mice and found that my income was not quite sufficient to meet all our outgoings.
At that time, I was also desperately unhappy in my job. I was ill-used and very very stressed. So stressed that my doctor prescribed time out. So, I prayed and prayed and prayed for a new job. But it did not happen. All I could do was to keep trusting in God’s faithfulness towards me and my family.
Eventually, after much prayer and research, Hubby and I decided to move to Blenheim Lodge to run the guest house. This was no quick or easy decision as we were leaving family behind, knew no one at all in Cumbria, and had two school-aged children to think about. But God was faithful to us. He helped to establish our guest house and brought some really nice people to stay with us, some of whom still visit us yearly to this day.
Of course, I am not saying that we haven’t encountered problems in Cumbria. Of course we have. However, walking with the Lord means being able to take things to Him in prayer and knowing that we do not walk alone when difficulties arise. Thus, the hymn, ‘Great is Thy faithfulness’ holds personal resonance for me.
There is a heart-warming story about how ‘Great is Thy faithfulness’ came to be composed by Thomas Chisolm, which I have reproduced below from www.faithclipart.com/guide/Christian-Music/hymns-the-songs-and-the-stories/great-is-they-faithfulness-the-song-and-the-story.html.
Thomas Obadiah Chisolm (1866-1960) had a difficult early adult life. His health was so fragile that there were periods of time when he was confined to bed, unable to work. Between bouts of illness he would have to push himself to put in extra hours at various jobs in order to make ends meet.
After coming to Christ at age 27, Thomas found great comfort in the Scriptures, and in the fact that God was faithful to be his strength in time[s] of illness and weakness, and to provide his needs. Lamentations 3:22-23 was one of his favorite scriptures: “It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is Thy faithfulness.”
While away from home on a missions trip, Thomas often wrote to one of his good friends, William Runyan, a relatively unknown musician. . . . Runyan found one of Williams’ poems so moving that he decided to compose a musical score to accompany the lyrics. ‘Great is Thy Faithfulness’ was published in 1923.
For several years ,the hymn got very little recognition, until it was discovered by a Moody Bible Institute professor who loved it so much and requested it sung so often at chapel services, that the song became the unofficial theme song of the college.
It was not until 1945 when George Beverly Shea began to sing ‘Great is Thy Faithfulness’ at the Billy Graham evangelistic crusades, that the hymn was heard around the world.
It cannot be coincidence that the title of this well-known hymn was taken from Lamentations 3, in which the prophet Jeremiah recalls God’s faithfulness to him some time after being caught up in the calamity that had befallen the Israelites in the sacking of Jerusalem (587-586 BC). In this chapter, Jeremiah is already an old man who sings this lament (verses from NIV):
I am the man who has seen affliction
by the rod of his wrath.
2He has driven me away and made me walk
in darkness rather than light;
3indeed, he has turned his hand against me
again and again, all day long.
Yet Jeremiah does not forget that His Lord loves him:
19I remember my affliction and my wandering,
the bitterness and the gall.
20I well remember them,
and my soul is downcast within me.
21Yet this I call to mind
and therefore I have hope:
22Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.
23They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
24I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion;
therefore I will wait for him.”
Lamentations 3 is also a plea for future mercy from The Lord:
25The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him,
to the one who seeks him;
26it is good to wait quietly
for the salvation of the Lord.
While Thomas’ physical situation was different from Jeremiah’s and that of the Jewish people thousands of years ago, these two men nevertheless shared some common ties: those of hardship; anxious times; belief in and dependence on God; deliverance from past difficulties and, when looking back, recognition of God’s faithfulness in the midst of personal desperation; and hope and trust in His personal love and care for them in the future. Centuries may separate the Christians of today from Jeremiah and Thomas; but, like them, we still rely on the same never-changing God who loved us so much that He sent His Son to die for us 2000 years ago.
The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms. He will drive out your enemy before you, saying, ‘Destroy him!’
(Deut 33:27, NIV)
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