Posted by: rcottrill | September 20, 2017

Commit Thou All Thy Griefs

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Words: Paul Gerhardt (b. Mar. 12, 1607; d. May 27, 1676); English translation by John Wesley (b. June 28, 1703; d. Mar. 2, 1791)
Music: St. George (or Gauntlett), by Henry John Gauntlett (b. July 9, 1805; d. Feb. 21, 1876)

Wordwise Hymns (Paul Gerhardt)
The Cyber Hymnal

Note: Paul Gerhardt was a Lutheran pastor, about a century after the time of the Reformation. The motto on his portrait read “Theologus in cribro Satanae versatus” (a theologian sifted in Satan’s sieve–cf. Lk. 22:31-32).

It’s sometimes called a bedside manner. Doctor’s either have it, or they don’t. They may know all the relevant medical facts, but still lack the skill of communicating them to the patient, or of bringing reassurance and hope. Lacking this gift, they may even give the impression that the ailing person’s anxious questions are an imposition on their time.

Not all are like that, of course. Dr. Robert Kemp (our family doctor) practiced in Ontario about six decades ago–at a time when doctors still made house calls. And, when a couple we knew lost a son to illness, the good doctor went to their home, threw his arms around them both, and wept with them. That man knew how to treat the soul as well as the body. I believe a wing of a city hospital was eventually named after him.

The Bible has a great deal to say about comfort, and being a comforter. The Greek words translated into English often describe one who comes alongside a troubled individual for the purpose of bringing consolation, encouragement, and a renewed serenity of mind.

God is the ultimate Source of true comfort.

“[He is] the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God” (II Cor. 1:3-4).

The Spirit of God comforts the people of God (Acts 9:31), often through the healing message of God’s Word (Rom. 15:4). As indicated, He also works through other people to do that (II Cor. 7:6). Paul reminds the Thessalonian believers, “We exhorted, and comforted, and charged every one of you, as a father does his own children” (I Thess. 2:11), in turn urging them to “comfort the fainthearted, uphold the weak, be patient with all” (I Thess. 5:14).

Not only can we do this directly, but through our earnest prayers for those in distress. The apostle did that. He prayed, “Our God and Father, who has loved us and given us everlasting consolation [comfort] and good hope by grace, comfort your hearts and establish you in every good word and work” (II Thess. 2:16-17).

Our hymn writers also play a roll in the comforting of the saints, as they frame the thoughts and words of Scripture into lines of memorable verse. Read the inspiring words of Katharina von Schlegel’s Be Still My Soul, or the stirring beauty of Thomas Moore’s Come, Ye Disconsolate, or Joseph Scriven’s What a Friend We Have in Jesus, or the present hymn, Commit Thou All Thy Griefs, by Paul Gerhardt.

In the eighteenth century, Gerhardt’s hymn figured in a remarkable incident. A godly peasant named Dobyr lived in a little village near Warsaw, Poland. Being a poor man, he’d fallen way behind in paying the rent for his house, and his landlord said he and his family would be evicted the next day, turned out into the snow.

In deep concern, he led the family in prayer, and they sang Paul Gerhardt’s hymn together.

CH-1) Commit thou all thy griefs
And ways into His hands,
To His sure truth and tender care,
Who heaven and earth commands.

CH-4) No profit canst thou gain
By self consuming care;
To Him commend thy cause, His ear
Attends the softest prayer.

At this point there was a sharp rapping at the window, near where Dobyr knelt. A bird was pecking at it. Opening the window he found the pet raven which his grandfather had tamed, and then set free. In its beak was a ring, set with precious stones.

After a search, with the help of Dobyr’s pastor, it was discovered that the ring belonged to King Stanislaus, who sent for the peasant and gave him a reward for returning the ring. Not only that, the king had a new house built for Dobyr and his family, filling its cattle sheds from his own estates.

As a witness to all these wonderful blessings, over the door of his new home, Dobyr put up an iron plaque. It pictured a raven, with a ring in its beak, and quoted the final words of Gerhardt’s hymn:

CH-7) When Thou arisest, Lord,
What shall Thy work withstand?
When all Thy children want*, Thou giv’st;
And who shall stay Thy hand?

*”Want,” not in the sense of what we wish for or crave, but referring to times when we are in want (in need). This is the sense of the word in the first verse of Psalm 23, “I shall not want.”

1) In your own experience, how has the Lord answered prayer in a time of need?

2) In what situation has someone been a special comforter to you?

Wordwise Hymns (Paul Gerhardt)
The Cyber Hymnal


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