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Words: Paul Gerhardt (b. Mar. 12, 1607; d. May 27, 1678); translated by John Wesley (b. June 28, 1703; d. Mar. 2, 1791)
Music: Diademata, by George Job Elvy (b. Mar. 27, 1816; d. Dec. 9, 1893)
Note: The progression of this hymn from its original to what is found in present hymnals is a matter of shifting numbers, subtraction and division. The 1656 original had twelve eight-line stanzas (96 lines in total). Wesley’s 1737 translation reduced this to sixteen four-line stanzas (64 lines). Present versions of the hymn select from these.
What is represented on this blog page is a slightly different combination than what is found in the Cyber Hymnal. In addition, I’ve chosen to use the tune Diademata (commonly associated with Crown Him with Many Crowns) which requires the combining of two stanzas to match the length. Is all of this worth the trouble? Yes, indeed! This is a great hymn by Pastor Gerhardt, and a wonderful work of translation by John Wesley.
Think of your troubles like a pile of dry leaves. Toss the leaves in the air on a gusty day, and they will fly away. That’s the imagery that introduces this gem. When they are given over to the power of a loving God, many difficulties scatter, or we are given the grace to deal with them and the Lord dispels our fears (Ps. 34:4). The hymn was inspired by the encouraging words of Psalm 37:5.
Commit your way to the LORD, trust also in Him, and He shall bring it to pass. He shall bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your justice as the noonday” (Ps. 37:5-6).
The story behind the hymn illustrates this. Because of some conflict with the king, Paul Gerhardt was forced unfairly to leave the church in Berlin where he had ministered for ten years. With his wife and family, he made his way, on foot, back to Saxony where he was born. It was a sad and wearying journey.
The family stopped at a little village inn to spend the night. Totally exhausted, his wife gave way to tears of grief. They had no home and no income. What were they going to do? The good pastor did his best to comfort her. Some say he quoted to her Proverbs 3:5-6, but I’m more inclined to believe it was Psalm 37:5 he used. He himself was greatly comforted by the words of the text, and he sat down and wrote the hymn we are considering.
Later that evening, two men entered the parlor of the inn. After some general conversation, it came out that they were on their way to Berlin to find Paul Gerhardt, the recently deposed pastor. Mrs. Gerhardt turned pale with alarm, fearing some new calamity was about to fall on the family. But her husband calmly told the travelers that he was the man they were looking for.
One of them promptly gave him a letter from Duke Christian, of Meresburg, informing him that, in view of his unjust dismissal he was settling a pension on him. Gerhardt, in the joy of that moment, quietly turned to his wife, and passed to her the hymn he had written, saying, “See! See how God provides!”
“Cast your burden on the LORD, and He shall sustain you; He shall never permit the righteous to be moved” (Ps. 55:22). “Casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you” (I Pet. 5:7). “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:6-7).
1) Give to the winds thy fears,
Hope, and be undismayed;
God hears thy sighs, and counts thy tears,
God shall lift up thy head.
Through waves and clouds and storms
He gently clears thy way;
Wait thou His time, so shall the night
Soon end in joyous day.
2) Still heavy is thy heart?
Still sink thy spirits down?
Cast off the weight, let fear depart,
And every care be gone.
He everywhere hath sway,
And all things serve His mind;
His every act pure blessing is,
His path unsullied light.
Here’s a stanza not included in the Cyber Hymnal. It concludes the hymn with a humble and fitting prayer.
4) Thou seest our weakness, Lord,
Our hearts are known to Thee;
O lift Thou up the sinking heart,
Confirm the feeble knee.
Let us in life, in death,
Thy steadfast truth declare,
And publish with our latest breath
Thy love and guardian care.
1) How is it possible to maintain our faith in severe trials, without it simply becoming blind optimism or wishful thinking?
2) What lines in this hymn are a particular blessing to you?