Posted by: rcottrill | December 14, 2011

God Leads Us Along

Words: George A. Young (c. 1855 to 1935)
Music: George A. Young

Links:Wordwise Hymns (none)
The Cyber Hymnal

Note: This is a fine gospel song, though its origins are obscure. As students of hymnology, we continue to look for more data about the author.  Information for the “P.S.” to this post comes from Al Smith’s Treasury of Hymn Histories, by Alfred B. Smith (Dickinson Press Incorporated, 1981).

George Young was a carpenter, and a preacher of the gospel. In the late nineteenth century he laboured in obscurity, serving small rural areas in the United States. Today, there is not even a reliable record of the dates of his birth and death. (A guess would be approximately 1855 and 1935, respectively.) Often his income was so small he had difficulty supporting his wife and family. Even so, he kept on diligently serving the Lord.

Finally, after a great deal of effort and years of sacrifice, the Youngs were able to move into a small house they had built for themselves. All were delighted with the new place, but tragedy soon overtook them. While George was away holding meetings in another community, some ruffians who were hostile to the gospel he preached set fire to the Young’s home burning it to the ground.

In 1903, George Young published a hymn for which he wrote both words and music. It is a testimony to his faith in God, in spite of this severe trial. It depicts different kinds of circumstances and experiences we face in life, with a reminder that the Lord provides for us in them all. The opening stanza paints a lovely picture, reminiscent of the 23rd Psalm. But the author was well aware that not all of life is like that. The song’s refrain gives a more sobering view of life’s trials:

CH-1) In shady, green pastures, so rich and so sweet,
God leads His dear children along;
Where the water’s cool flow bathes the weary one’s feet,
God leads His dear children along.

Some through the waters, some through the flood,
Some through the fire, but all through the blood;
Some through great sorrow, but God gives a song,
In the night season and all the day long.

“Some through great sorrow.” It’s believed this is a reference to Young’s own experience. He had learned, through painful loss that “God…gives songs in the night” to those who trust in Him (Job 35:10). And through it all, whether in good times or bad, the Lord continues to “lead His dear children along.”

Perhaps there are those who think that if God is our Guide, our lives should never be touched by hurt or harm. But that’s not the case. When God brought the Israelites out of Egypt, he led his people with a supernatural pillar of cloud and fire (Deut. 1:33). But He led them through a wilderness. There they experienced a lack of water, and a shortage of food, in addition to enemy attacks. God did not deliver them from such experiences. But He proved Himself strong, time and again, to meet their need.

Today, Christians are subject to all the ills common to man, and they have, as the hymn writer’s experience reminds us, the added burden of living in a world at enmity with God. Jesus warned, long ago, “If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you” (Jn. 15:20). George Young certainly knew about that!

Though there are some remarkable instances of God’s deliverance from pain or peril, they are not the common thing. We are not promised a final and full release from trials until we go to be with Him in glory. It is then that sickness, pain, and death will be forever put behind us (Rev. 21:4). More often now, rather than delivering us from these things, the Lord helps us in them, and carries us through them.

CH-3) Though sorrows befall us and evils oppose,
God leads His dear children along;
Through grace we can conquer, defeat all our foes,
God leads His dear children along.

There is an interesting P.S. to this story. Around 1942, hymn writer Haldor Lillenas (The Bible Stands; Wonderful Grace of Jesus) decided to track down George Young’s widow, and find out more. He got an address in a small town and, driving there, he stopped at a gas station to ask for directions. When the attendant saw the address, he said, “Why sir, that’s the County Poor House up the road about three miles. And mister, when I say poor house, I really mean poor house!”

Not knowing what to expect, Lillenas made his way there. He found Mrs. Young, a tiny, elderly woman, in surroundings that were far from congenial. However, she radiated the joy of the Lord, and spoke of how He’d guided her and her husband over many years. Then, she exclaimed, “Dr. Lillenas, God led me here!” I’m so glad He did, for you know, about every month someone comes into this place to spend the rest of their days….So many of them don’t know my Jesus. I’m having the time of my life introducing them to Jesus! Dr. Lillenas, isn’t it wonderful how God leads!”

1) How would you answer someone who said he could not believe there was a God, because there is so much suffering in the world?

2) In what ways has the Lord been leading you in the past week?

Links:Wordwise Hymns (none)
The Cyber Hymnal


  1. Just received this from a friend, and really enjoyed reading it, at the moment I need encouragement and I play those beautiful Hymns each Sunday in our Church, so its so nice to read the account of how they were written. May the Lord continue to bless your work as we await the coming of our dear Lord and Savour.Jesus Christ. In his Name, Evelyn

    • Thanks so much for your kind note. I’ve been studying hymns for about half a century, so the blog is a labour of love. I’ve now had over 145,000 visits from about 190 countries. Almost all of those who write share my love of our traditional hymnody. God bless you, and I wish you all the joy of the Christmas season.

  2. With the tropical storms in Florida, and the fires in Colorado, my heart turned to this song tonight. Thank you for your research, and for posting the words. What an encouragement to me as I have friends both in Florida and in Denver. Praying they will have opportunities to express God’s Love during this time to those who may not know Him. And, asking God to spare them damage from fire and flood. I am sharing this on facebook too.

    • Thanks for passing on the blessing. It’s an encouragement, making the many hundreds of hours of work on the project worthwhile.

  3. […] “God Leads Us Along” […]

  4. I heard part of the story about this song and Mr. Young on a radio station, but wanted to know more, so I searched the computer and was pleased to find just the information I needed. This is a great story and should be passed along to others to show just how God does lead his children day by day. I will be using this story when it is my turn for devotions in our weekly prayer group.

    • Thanks for writing. Drop by any time. 🙂

  5. Awesome story that’s an example of Romans 9:22-23 that GOD endures with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath that he can make the RICHES of his glory known on HIS vessels of mercy.


    • Thanks for your comment. I find the kind of faith the Youngs displayed very humbling!

      • GOD raises up people for all situations. Some are public figures like Elijah and others are behind the scenes people like Obadiah who hid the priest in caves and fed them from the king’s table. Some are called to be Billy Grahams, others are George Youngs who work with a few at a time.

  6. God bless you immensely for your labor of love posting this great hymn and its story. I was preparing a talk on “The Believers Testing Ground” based on 1Pet3:1-12 and The Spirit led me to look for this song and since it’s not a traditional hymn you will find in the everyday song books I had to go to the net and wow what a joy that filled my soul when I stumbled on this. Thank you. May God continue to increase you.

    • Thank you for your gracious words. I wrote that article some time ago, but was blessed again this morning by re-reading it. God bless.

  7. Thank you for sharing your knowledge and as you have said, your “labour of love”
    God bless you

    • Thanks for your encouragement. I keep plugging away at it. Presently working on article 1,260 and always amazed at the depth of devotion and doctrine in the old songs. God bless.


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