Words: Frank Ellsworth Graeff (b. Dec. 19, 1860; d. July 29, 1919)
Music: Joseph Lincoln Hall (b. Nov. 4, 1866; d. Nov. 29, 1930)
Note: J. Lincoln Hall, composer of the tune, was a well-known and accomplished contributor to the field of sacred music.
For Frank Graeff, the question he asks is not simply a matter dry theory. Though he had a generally upbeat and positive personality, he went through a number of severe trials. He knew what it meant to say “the burdens press, and cares distress,” and his song is a personal testimony to his faith.
But the victory did not come without a struggle. We do not know the trial that precipitated it, but for a time he lost sight of the Saviour and he tells us his “whole attitude had become one of despair and defeat.” It was the song of another hymn writer that lifted his spirits. In his extremity he began to sing the well known words of Joseph Scriven:
What a Friend we have in Jesus,
All our sins and griefs to bear;
What a privilege to carry
Everything to God in prayer.
As he turned to the Lord again in prayer, his faith was strengthened, and the words of a new song were born. Of approximately two hundred that he wrote, it is the only one in common use today. He said later of it: “The hymn seems to carry comfort and hope to troubled hearts, and I am glad I had the inspiration to write it.”
CH-1) Does Jesus care when my heart is pained
Too deeply for mirth or song,
As the burdens press, and the cares distress
And the way grows weary and long?
Oh yes, He cares, I know He cares,
His heart is touched with my grief;
When the days are weary, the long nights dreary,
I know my Saviour cares.
That is the joyful response of faith. But when the question is found in Scripture, other feelings lie behind it.
One time when the Lord Jesus travelled across the Sea of Galilee with His disciples, a great storm arose. In terror, the men roused their sleeping Master. “He was in the stern, asleep on a pillow. And they awoke Him and said to Him, ‘Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?’ (Mk. 4:38). What a question! The irony of it is striking. Why had He come to this earth? To save those who are perishing and destined for eternal ruin (Lk. 19:10; Jn. 3:16).
On another occasion, the Lord was visiting in the home of Mary and Martha. Mary sat at His feet, absorbing His teaching. But “Martha was distracted with much serving, and she approached Him and said, ‘Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me’” (Lk. 10:40).
If the first example represents fear’s mastery over faith (Mk. 4:40), the second strikes at the root of values and priorities (Lk. 10:41-42).
We all struggle with both of these. It’s so easy for anxiety and fretful worry to cloud our vision of who Christ is, and of His loving concern for us. Or, we become so busy (sometimes with perfectly legitimate concerns) that we allow the good to rob us of the best. At such times the Lord seeks to remind us of what really counts for eternity. In the words of Pastor Graeff, “Oh yes, He cares.” The song addresses four examples of things we wrestle with in our Christian lives.
In CH-1, it’s the general category of the burdens and trials we face day by day. In CH-2, it’s a “nameless dread.” That can be most insidious. We feel anxious, and can’t pinpoint any particular cause. In CH-3, the song speaks of times we stumble into sin, and grieve because we have failed the Lord. Finally, in CH-4, we have the painful separation that the death of a loved one brings. In all of these, and more, the Lord cares for His own.
“I would have lost heart, unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the LORD In the land of the living. Wait on the LORD; be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart. Wait, I say, on the LORD!” (Ps. 27:13-14). “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God” (Phil. 4:6). “The eyes of the LORD are on the righteous, and His ears are open to their cry” (Ps. 34:15). “[Cast] all your care upon Him, for He cares for you” (I Pet. 5:7).
1) What particular worry or anxiety have you been struggling with in recent days?
2) What has been an encouragement to you? (Or where will you turn to find encouragement?)