Posted by: rcottrill | September 28, 2016

We’ll Understand It Better By and By

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Words: Charles Albert Tindley (b. July 7, 1851; d. July 26, 1933)
Music: Charles Albert Tindley

Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal

Note: One who experienced first hand the struggles of his people was African American Charles Tindley, whose own father had been a slave. For a time, Tindley worked as the janitor of a small church in Philadelphia. Then, in 1902, he became the pastor of the church–an integrated congregation, rare, in its time. By God’s grace, Pastor Tindley built the membership to 12,500 before his death.

Tindley was also a gospel song writer of some note. His compositions not only taught Bible truths, they described the struggles faced by so many in his day, giving new hope for something better “by and by.” His song I’ll Overcome Some Day was adapted to become We Shall Overcome, a stirring anthem of the Civil Rights movement.

They called it the Fog Bowl, and fans of the Canadian Football League still talk about it. The championship game of 1962 pitted teams from Winnipeg and Hamilton, in a game played in Toronto. But, as television viewers watched, a thick fog began to roll in off nearby Lake Ontario. It became more and more difficult to see anything.

For awhile, players had a little visibility near ground level. One pass receiver reported he saw tacklers coming at him, “but only from the waist down!” Finally, when the referee was no longer able to see the players or the down markers, the CFL Commissioner, called the game, with just under ten minutes left to play.

The teams, and about half the fans, came back the next day for the finish–the only time that’s ever happened. Winnipeg won a close match, 28 to 27–though there are still Hamilton fans who claim their team’s gifted place kicker, Don Sutherin, kicked a winning field goal the referee didn’t see.

Fog. There are other kinds than what is caused by an excess of moisture in the air. “The fog of war” is a term from the nineteenth century describing the many unknowns involved in combat. A Prussian military analyst claimed, “Three quarters of the factors on which action in war is based are wrapped in a fog of greater or lesser uncertainty.”

Even in times of relative peace, there can be a kind of fog obscuring the lives of others living not too far away. Do you know anything about the personal struggles of a neighbour, or about those being experienced in a nearby town? Sometimes we live our lives in isolation and a sad insensitivity to the sufferings of others. We need to study again the Lord’s parable about the Good Samaritan (Lk. 10:30-37), who reached out to help a man in need.

In 2010, Isabel Wilkerson published her award-winning book, The Warmth of Other Suns. (I highly recommend it.) The book presents a fascinating account of America’s Great Migration, which took place roughly from 1915 to 1970. It involved the movement of more than ten million African Americans from the southern United States mainly to cities in the North.

There’s never been anything quite like it in history. It radically changed the face of a nation, but relatively few have heard of it, or are aware of what precipitated it. Wilkerson tells the true and moving story of three individuals who were involved. In the process, she gives us a better understanding of race relations, and why this huge number of people fled the south.

As the author describes it, half a century after the Civil War, and “emancipation,” black people still were terribly oppressed and abused in the South. The threat of lynching continued, even into the 1960’s. Living as a black man or women was also difficult up north, as Wilkerson documents, but it was nothing like conditions in the South.

Why do I make reference to Wilkerson’s book? Because we need to be informed about the suffering of others. Christian people need to defend, and compassionately aid, those who suffer such cruel injustice, but we can also instill hope, encouraging them to see a better day ahead. In heaven, “God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away” (Rev. 21:4). “Now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face” (I Cor. 13:12).

That is the message of this hopeful song of Pastor Tindley’s. We’ll Understand It Better By and By was written in 1905 to give hope to those he knew were struggling. It speaks of a time “when the mists have rolled away,” and we’ll understand in a fuller way what the Lord has been doing.

CH-1) We are often tossed and driv’n
On the restless sea of time;
Somber skies and howling tempests
Oft succeed a bright sunshine;
In that land of perfect day,
When the mists have rolled away,
We will understand it better by and by.

By and by, when the morning comes,
When the saints of God are gathered home,
We’ll tell the story how we’ve overcome,
For we’ll understand it better by and by.

CH-2) We are often destitute
Of the things that life demands,
Want of food and want of shelter,
Thirsty hills and barren lands;
We are trusting in the Lord,
And according to God’s Word,
We will understand it better by and by.

1) How have you been a “good Samaritan” to a stranger in need, over the past month?

2) Has someone been a “good Samaritan” to you in that time? (How did you respond?)

Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal


  1. I see I’m not the only one who writes in the middle of the night! Bless you, and thanks for the inspiration!

    • H-m-m… Well, I’m not sure where you got the idea that I write in the middle of the night. I don’t–other than perhaps occasionally jotting down a phrase that will remind me of a new idea in the morning. Of course, it is night somewhere in the world, when it’s day for me. 🙂 (WordPress posts the articles automatically.) In any event, thanks for the note. I greatly appreciated your bio, and Christian testimony. Our family is much smaller. We have one son who, with his wife are church planters in Mexico City. They have two lovely children, our only grandchildren. God bless you.


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