Posted by: rcottrill | May 23, 2016

My God, I Thank Thee

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Words: Adelaide Anne Proctor (b. Oct. 30, 1825; d. Feb. 2, 1864)
Music: Wentworth, by Frederick Charles Maker (b. Aug. 6, 1844; d. Jan. 1, 1927)

Wordwise Hymns (none)
The Cyber Hymnal

Note: Adelaide Proctor was a remarkable woman. She was a gifted English poet, and was also a brilliant scholar, a philanthropist who worked tirelessly among the homeless and unemployed, and a feminist many years ahead of her time. Great authors of the day visited in their home, and Charles Dickens was a family friend.

One day, Dickens was visiting the Proctors. He showed them some wonderful poems he was about to publish in one of his periodicals. They were written by a woman named Mary Berwick–whom he assumed was a domestic servant somewhere. To his utter surprise he learned that this was a pen name for young Adelaide Proctor. Though she died at the age of thirty-eight from tuberculosis, her poetic insights blessed many, including Queen Victoria.

Adelaide Proctor was an Anglican, who became a Roman Catholic late in her brief life. However, her poetry and her hymns were not narrowly sectarian. Her writings focused on basic insights about life in which all can find a blessing. Another beautiful hymn, The Shadows of the Evening Hours, may well be reflections on her own approaching death. She also penned the popular ballad, The Lost Chord.

Since the beginning of human history, we have been able to communicate by conversing with one another. To send messages over longer distances, smoke signals and coded drum beats have been used from early on. Conveying written information at the hands of a messenger, or utilizing a postal system, was slower, but more detail could be transmitted that way.

Then came a big change. Samuel Morse invented the telegraph in 1837 and, with that, electronic communication began. In time, a cable was laid on the ocean bed across the Atlantic, and in 1858 the first transcontinental telegraph message was sent. Experiments with a “talking telegraph” were undertaken earlier than that. But it was Alexander Graham Bell who produced the first practical telephone in 1876. The Internet many of us use today took a century more, arriving in the 1980’s.

But there is another messenger we have all received data from many times–a very personal messenger. It’s pain. Whether we have a toothache or a toe ache it’s sending a signal that something is definitely wrong. And we have more than bodily pain to contend with. The trials of life include financial distress, interpersonal discord, conflicts within nations and internationally, these can all bring hurt and harm.

Whatever kind of pain we have to deal with, it is not pleasant. No one but a neurotic enjoys pain. But there is a positive side. Pain is the messenger telling us that something is wrong. Some treatment is called for, or a change is required. It prods us to be dissatisfied with the status quo, and seek something better. It may be a doctor we need, or a financial advisor. But we must not miss the spiritual dimension of such problems.

Pain can be the messenger that identifies a spiritual need as well. For example, conviction of sin can be very painful. David describes it this way:

“When I kept silent [i.e. hid my sin], my bones grew old through my groaning all the day long. For day and night Your hand [Lord] was heavy upon me; my vitality was turned into the drought of summer” (Ps. 32:3-4).

There is also a longer term message sent by the pains we endure. When Christians suffer, it often makes us long for our heavenly home. The Apostle Paul, who faced great hardship and persecution for his faith (II Cor. 11:24-18), said he had “a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better” (Phil. 1:23). “For our light affliction, which is but for a moment [by comparison],” he said, “is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory” (II Cor. 4:17).

In an insightful hymn published a few years before her death, Miss Proctor speaks of pain as God’s benevolent messenger, causing her to anticipate heavenly. I encourage you to check out the full hymn on the Cyber Hymnal. It’s truly wonderful!

CH-1) My God, I thank Thee, who hast made
The earth so bright,
So full of splendour and of joy,
Beauty and light;
So many glorious things are here,
Noble and right.

CH-3) I thank Thee more that all our joy
Is touched with pain,
That shadows fall on brightest hours,
That thorns remain;
So that earth’s bliss may be our guide,
And not our chain.

CH-6) I thank Thee, Lord, that here our souls
Though amply blessed,
Can never find, although they seek
A perfect rest;
Nor ever shall, until they lean
On Jesus’ breast.

1) What painful trials have you been facing recently?

2) What do you believe the Lord is teaching you through these experiences?

Wordwise Hymns (none)
The Cyber Hymnal


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