Posted by: rcottrill | July 28, 2014

If Thou But Suffer God to Guide Thee

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Words: Georg Neumark (b. Mar. 16, 1621; d. July 18, 1681); English translation, Catherine Winkworth (b. Sept. 13, 1827; d. July 1, 1878)
Music: Neumark, (also called Bremen), by Georg Neumark

Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal

Note: The hymn was written in seven stanzas, in 1641. Catherine Winkworth made two English translations, the first in 1855. Many hymnals use only three of the stanzas (CH-1, 3, and 4 of what the Cyber Hymnal calls “Winkworth’s original translation”). That reduction is unfortunate, as the other stanzas also contain some good teaching.

Georg Neumark himself wrote the tune which now bears his name. In the nearly four centuries since, it has been used for about four hundred hymns! In addition, Bach used it in four different cantatas, and for an organ selection. Mendelssohn also used the tune in his oratorio St. Paul.

The hymn is actually rooted in the personal experiences of the author, and is a great testament to his faith. Many spiritual insights grew out of his prevailing hardship when a series of calamities descended upon him.

At the age of twenty, Neumark was robbed by a highwayman, while traveling to take up studies at the University of Konigsberg. All he was left with was a prayer book, and a few coins that he’d sewn in his clothing for safe-keeping. With no money to live on, let alone further his education, he was forced to turn back and seek employment. He wandered from city to city, unable to find work for some time. But it was during those days of frustrated hopes and severe privation that many of his thirty-four hymns were born.

When he was unexpectedly hired as a tutor in the home of a wealthy judge in Kiel, he was filled with praise to God for His provision. He wrote this hymn, calling it “A Song of Comfort: God will care for and help everyone in his own time.” and basing the song on a verse from Psalms.

“Cast your burden on the LORD, And He shall sustain you; He shall never permit the righteous to be moved” (Ps. 55:22).

CH-1) If thou but suffer God to guide thee
And hope in Him through all thy ways,
He’ll give thee strength, whate’er betide thee,
And bear thee through the evil days.
Who trusts in God’s unchanging love
Builds on the rock that naught can move.

This is followed by a warning against the opposite, allowing anxious cares to overwhelm us (cf. Phil. 4:6):

CH-2) What can these anxious cares avail thee
The never ceasing moans and sighs?
What can it help, if thou bewail thee
O’er each dark moment as it flies?
Our cross and trials do but press
The heavier for our bitterness.

Patient waiting on God is the answer, when we have done all that can humanly be done. He knows our need (cf. Matt. 6:31-33).

CH-3) Be patient and await His leisure
In cheerful hope, with heart content
To take whate’er thy Father’s pleasure
And His discerning love hath sent,
Nor doubt our inmost wants are known
To Him who chose us for His own.

The loving discipline of the Lord, though painful at the time, is meant to purify our motives. God will restore joy, and bring new blessing, in His good time (Heb. 12:3-11).

CH-4) God knows full well when time of gladness
Shall be the needful thing for thee.
When He has tried thy soul with sadness
And from all guile has found thee free,
He comes to thee all unaware
And makes thee own His loving care.

Though we struggle with trials, we can trust the love and grace of God (Phil. 4:19).

CH-7) Sing, pray, and keep His ways unswerving,
Perform thy duties faithfully,
And trust His Word: though undeserving,
Thou yet shalt find it true for thee.
God never yet forsook in need
The soul that trusted Him indeed.

1) What important lesson(s) do you see highlighted by this hymn?

2) What other hymns treat our trials in a practical and realistic way?

Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal


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