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Also see 30+ Ideas for Promoting Hymn Singing in your church. As others have contributed ideas, this wonderful resource has grown to over 80 items now. And, for more than three dozen reasons why congregations should still use hymn books rather than merely projecting words on the wall, see The Value of Hymn Books.
Words: Alfred Henry Ackley (b. Jan. 21, 1887; d. July 3, 1960)
Music: Alfred Henry Ackley
Note: Alfred Ackley was not only a Presbyterian pastor in the United States, but a skilled musician, master of the cello, and a hymn writer with hundreds of songs to his credit. His brother, Bentley DeForest Ackley, was also gospel musician.
Have you noticed that some big malls, or big stores, are getting bigger? Or at least it can seem like it. For those who have difficulty walking, shopping there becomes a painful chore. But benches placed strategically can provide welcome relief, a place to rest.
There’s a parallel on our major highways: rest stops, sometimes called service centres. They often provide gas pumps, washrooms, drinking water, snacks, and perhaps picnic tables. They’re a place to pull out of the traffic and take a break during a long trip, so we can return to the road refreshed and somewhat rested.
Another kind of help along the way is provided by what are called halfway houses, or safe houses. People with disabilities, or ones having come through abusive relationships, or recently released from prison, can go to a place that offers security and encouragement, as well as teaching new tools to deal with the challenges of life.
Those who supply such services should be lauded and supported. But safe houses may not be completely helpful or safe. That bench in the store may be hard to find, or not located where we need it. The rest stop on the highway may not have the particular service we require. A recent movie depicts a couple’s stop at one that proves to be a place of horror, death and spiritual darkness. It’s overwrought fiction, and not recommended, but it makes a point. The world is an imperfect place, filled with imperfect people, and no place of rest will be perfect.
Is there, then, anywhere we can go that will be, infallibly, a place to rest. Yes. It is found at the feet of Jesus, the One who said:
“Come to Me, all you who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matt. 11:28-29).
On the other hand, what if we reject God’s provision? What if we refuse and reject Him? This is exactly what many in backslidden Israel did.
“Thus says the Lord: ‘Stand in the ways and see, and ask for the old paths, where the good way is, and walk in it; then you will find rest for your souls.’ But they said, ‘We will not walk in it’” (Jer. 6:16).
Those two responses were illustrated by a father and son in the early 1930’s. To the continual grief of his parents, the son lived a wild and wicked life. Crimes he committed eventually landed him in prison for many years, and the heartache he caused possibly led to the early death of his mother. Unfortunately, I know of no happy ending for him. No repentance and rest in the Lord.
But what about his dad? “Kick him into the street!” advised a neighbour, when the young man was still living at home. “I can’t,” said his father. “He’s my son, and I love him.” Instead, he went to Pastor Alfred Ackley and poured out his heart. Perhaps his lament echoed that of King David’s wailing words at the death of his rebellious son. “The king covered his face, and the king cried out with a loud voice, ‘O my son Absalom! O Absalom, my son, my son!’” (II Sam. 19:4).
Together, the two men prayed earnestly for the salvation of the prodigal. They also claimed the comfort and help the Lord promised when we bring life’s burdens to him (I Pet. 5:7). The evening after the sorrowing father left him, Ackley wrote a song called simply Heartaches.
The song is comforting and reassuring, regarding the grace and love of the Lord. However, I do think Ackley overstated the case in the last line of the refrain. It’s simply not true that “He will take your heartaches all away.” (He might have made a more modest promise such as, “He will ease your burdened heart today.”)
This life has its heartaches, and not all of them will be removed (cf. Paul’s grief for his Jewish brethren, Rom. 9:1-3). Nor is it necessarily productive for all our burdens to be instantly wiped out in this life. Our heartaches can keep us clinging to the Lord, and sometimes nurture deep compassion for others in their trials. Nevertheless, there is relief and sustaining grace available through Christ.
1) When your heart is aching, turn to Jesus;
He’s the dearest Friend that you can know.
You will find Him standing close beside you,
Waiting peace and comfort to bestow.
Heartaches, take them all to Jesus;
Go to Him today, do it now without delay;
Heartaches, take them all to Jesus;
He will take your heartaches all away.
1) Is there a recent heartache for which you have found comfort and relief in the Lord?
2) Is there someone you know who has an aching heart, whom you can encourage and pray for (or with)?