HOW TO USE THIS BLOG
1) The Almanac. Click on the month you want in the side-bar, then the specific date. The blog will tell you what happened in hymn history on that day.
2) Reflections. There is always a current article on a hymn. But you can find many others by clicking on the Index tab. (More being added all the time.)
3) Topical Articles are opinion pieces on many aspects sacred music.
4) To Donate. If you can help with the cost of developing and maintaining this site, click on the “Support” tab above and the page will show you how.
Also see 30+ Ideas for Promoting Hymn Singing in your church.
Words: Mary Elizabeth Servoss (b. Aug. 22, 1849; d. _____, 1906)
Music: James McGranahan (b. July 4, 1840; d. July 9, 1907)
Note: This pretty hymn, with its lilting melody, was published in 1878. James McGanahan was a major figure in gospel music at the end of the nineteenth century, but of Mary Servoss we know only a little.
Mary Servoss was an admirer of Fanny Crosby, whose hymns inspired her to write her own. (Five of these are listed in the Cyber Hymnal.) There is also the touching note there that she seems to have been a lifelong care giver, first to her disabled grandmother, then nursing her mother through a lengthy illness, and finally caring for her father until he died.
Though this is sparse information, it is telling. That she should write about God’s unfailing care, with the burdens she herself carried, is significant. There is another of her hymns, called Jesus All the Way, that represents the same trusting heart. Think of what we know of Mary Servoss as you read the words. They have the ring of a personal testimony. Anyone who has been a long term care giver will understand. The song says in part:
‘Tis Jesus when the burdened heart
Is sinking ‘neath the load;
And Jesus when the trembling steps
Can hardly keep the road;
And Jesus when the sun of joy
Has set in sorrow’s night,
For He alone can soothe the pain,
Or guide the steps aright.
The present hymn (certainly the refrain) seems to have been drawn from the beginning of the ninety-first psalm, or possibly the words of Isaiah.
“He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the LORD, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress; my God, in Him I will trust.” (Ps. 91:1-2).
“In the shadow of His hand He has hidden Me….I have covered you with the shadow of My hand” (Isa. 49:2; 51:16).
The use of storm imagery, and the need for “a place of refuge” is also familiar from Scripture–and from many of our hymns. In the days before air travel, many journeyed by sea through sudden squalls and fearful tempests. Psalm 107 is graphic.
“They mount up to the heavens, they go down again to the depths; their soul melts because of trouble. They reel to and fro, and stagger like a drunken man, and are at their wits’ end. Then they cry out to the LORD in their trouble, and He brings them out of their distresses. He calms the storm, so that its waves are still. Then they are glad because they are quiet; so He guides them to their desired haven.” (Ps. 107:26-30)
CH-1) When the storms of life are raging,
Tempests wild on sea and land,
I will seek a place of refuge,
In the shadow of God’s hand.
He will hide me, He will hide me,
Where no harm can e’er betide me;
He will hide me, safely hide me,
In the shadow of His hand.
In CH-2 there are two helpful insights about the trials Christians face. Sometimes–though definitely not in every case–we suffer as a consequence of personal sin. Sometimes it is a natural consequence of the person’s actions. Other times the Lord intervenes in another way to discipline His child. But Scripture is clear that this is done in love, for a good and constructive purpose (Heb. 12:5-11).
The other thought applies to any and all suffering. For the believer, “‘Twill but make me long for home.” “For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed with our habitation which is from heaven” (II Cor. 5:2).
CH-2) Though He may send some affliction,
’Twill but make me long for home;
For in love and not in anger,
All His chastenings will come.
Attacks of the devil are meant to harm and hinder, but God is able to turn them to our advantage and to His greater glory (CH-3). In the ultimate sense, because “Jesus for my soul is caring, / Naught can harm His Father’s child” (CH-4).
1) How has a look at this hymn brought you comfort and encouragement?
2) Do you know of someone (perhaps a burdened care giver) whom you can encourage today?