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Words: Lucy Booth-Hellberg (b. Apr. 28, 1868; d. July 18, 1953), and Mildred Duff (b. ____, 1862; d. Dec. 8, 1932)
Music: Lucy Booth-Hellberg
Note: Years ago, I spotted this thoughtful gospel song in the Living Hymns hymnal. Editor Alfred Smith simply gave the author and composer as M.D. and L.M.B. respectively. For some time, I knew no more about the origin of the song. Gradually, I’ve picked up more information.
Smith edited the words and arranged the tune of the original. He changed a word in line three of the second stanza. Instead of “But in the hardness…” Smith has “But in the testings…” Better, I think, but less fortunate is his omission of a secondary chorus that goes with the second, third, and fourth stanzas. Rejoicing in the Lord is a great step of faith, and the original has:
Keep on rejoicing, Jesus is near,
Keep on rejoicing, there’s nothing to fear;
Keep on rejoicing, This is the way,
Songs in the night as well as the day.
Lucy Milward Booth (L.M.B.), pictured here, was the daughter of William Booth, the founder of the Salvation Army. In her teens, Lucy developed some kind of serious lung infection. Those were the days before drugs to treat such things, and it was a great worry, especially to her mother. The doctor had been summoned to their home. It was an anxious time, but Lucy was determined to keep trusting in God.
While the doctor was speaking to her mother, Lucy went to the piano and apparently created the tune for this hymn. She also worked on the writing of the words. It was the first song she had ever written. Later, Commissioner Mildred Duff (M.D.) helped her with the rhyming of the words but, Lucy Booth says, “The thoughts contained in them was quite my own, and sprung from the incident [i.e. her illness].”
In October of 1894, Lucy married Salvation Army Colonel Emmanuel Daniel Hellberg. As was the custom of the Booth family in those days, they took a hyphenated last name, Booth-Hellberg. They went on to have five children. The Booth-Hellbergs were appointed to France and Switzerland, and ministered in India for a time. After the death of her husband in 1909, Lucy became the territorial commander for the Army, for Denmark, Norway, and South America.
In 1933, Lucy Booth-Hellberg was given the Salvation Army’s most prestigious award, the Order of the Founder, “for long and exceptional service under peculiarly difficult circumstances, together with her readiness at all times to answer to the call of duty.”
The song is honest about the struggles Christians go through in life. There’s nothing here that smacks of such false reassurance as, “Just trust in Jesus and all your troubles will be over.” When problems mount, our faith can sometimes waver. The feelings of the moment may cloud our spiritual sight. But even when we falter and feel we’ve lost our way, the Lord has not. The Bible says, “If our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and knows all things” (I Jn. 3:20).
What are some certainties the believer can cling to in times of trial? One is that God answers prayer (Heb. 4:15-16), and we can trust Him either to deliver us from the trouble, or give us the grace needed to sustain us through it (II Cor. 12:9).
A second confidence we can have is that God will bring good from our difficulty in some way. The Lord is the supreme master of turning seeming disasters into blessing (Rom. 8:28). The cross of Christ is the perfect example of how God can turn a seeming tragedy into a triumph.
Third, we can be assured that no trial we face will last forever. There is no pain or death in the heavenly kingdom (Rev. 21:4), and with the dawning of eternity we’ll also see our troubles in a clearer light (II Cor. 4:17), and praise the Lord for what He did through them.
Finally, we can keep on believing these things because God is God. “A God of truth and without injustice; righteous and upright is He” (Deut 32:4; Jn. 17:17).
1) When you feel weakest, dangers surround,
Subtle temptations, troubles abound;
Nothing seems hopeful, nothing seems glad,
All is despairing, often-time sad.
Keep on believing, Jesus is near,
Keep on believing, there’s nothing to fear;
Keep on believing, this is the way,
Faith in the night, as well as the day.
4) Let us press on then; never despair,
Live above feeling, victory’s there;
Jesus can keep us so near to Him,
That nevermore shall our faith grow dim.
1) Have you had the experience of deep discouragement and faltering faith? What did you do about it?
2) Check out the full hymn on Hymnary.org. What expressions in it are especially meaningful or helpful to you just now?