Posted by: rcottrill | May 21, 2018

Happy in the Love of Jesus

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Words: Mary Jane (“Jennie”) Bain Wilson (b. Nov. 13, 1856; d. Sept. 3, 1913)
Music: Joseph Lincoln Hall (b. Nov. 4, 1866; d. Nov. 29, 1930)

Wordwise Hymns (Joseph Lincoln Hall)
The Cyber Hymnal

Note: As noted below, Jennie Wilson was disabled, and confined to a wheelchair from the age of four. She educated herself at home, through extensive reading, and went on to write 2,200 poems, many of which became gospel songs. (As of this date, the Cyber Hymnal lists 697 of them.)

Salesmen do it all the time; they exaggerate the benefits of their products. If it’s an obvious fantasy, we perhaps can accept it for what it is, and be entertained. But the closer the overstatement is to reality, the more deceptive it can be, and the more dishonest it seems.

A television commercial shows a car ploughing through a foot of snow with ease, or climbing the rocky side of a mountain. And we know it can’t. Yet advertising experts recommend this kind of puffery, asserting such commercials will be more memorable, and bring more sales.

What advertisers rarely do is face the negatives. That casino or lottery ad will never admit that almost all who gamble their hard-earned money will be losers. That shiny new car will get dirty, and eventually begin to rust. It will break down, and need expensive repairs. And that face cream will, in the end, not be able to reverse the unsettling ravages of age.

In the spiritual realm there can be a false overselling of the gospel. It may be well meaning, but it claims more than it can deliver. The notion that if you come to Jesus all your troubles will be over, that you can be happy, healthy, and wealthy all the time? No, that’s not true. The Word of God assures the Christian of new resources from the Lord to deal with the trials of life, but it doesn’t suggest an end to all pain and suffering this side of eternity.

Paul “learned” to handle both life’s abundance and its privation, by God’s grace (Phil. 4:11-13), and he says the Lord can do the same for us (vs. 6-7, 19). God promises, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect [fulfilled, shown to fullest effect] in [your] weakness” (II Cor. 12:9).

In 1897 Happy in the Love of Jesus was published, a simple gospel song with a catchy tune. The words were written by Jennie Wilson. And first we must deal with that word “happy,” as it’s used thirty-two times in the song (counting the refrains).

Some of the modern Bible versions substitute happy in place of the word blessed–found hundreds of times in the Scriptures. But are the two synonymous? Happiness tends to be more situational, an emotional reaction to happenings. But to be supremely blessed of God has both more depth in the soul and more breadth in the life. It engenders inner joy and contentment.

In any event, happiness is what Wilson is telling us about. The stanzas are fine, as they speak of the believer’s pilgrimage to Zion (the heavenly city, Heb. 12:22).

CH-1) Home to Zion we are bound,
Happy in the love of Jesus,
Peace abiding we have found,
Happy in the love of Jesus.

CH-2) Trusting we will forward go,
Happy in the love of Jesus,
Treading changeful paths below,
Happy in the love of Jesus.

CH-4) Soon we’ll reach the homeland fair,
Happy in the love of Jesus,
And shall dwell forever there,
Happy in the love of Jesus.

There’s certainly tremendous blessing, great joy, and contentment, found in contemplating that the Lord Jesus loved us enough to die for our sins (Gal. 2:20), and to realize that nothing is able to separate us from the love of God which is ours through faith in Christ (Rom. 8:31-39).

But the refrain’s absolute statements are concerning to me.

Happy, happy,
Singing all the way,
Happy all the day;
Happy, happy,
Happy in the love of Jesus.

All the way? All the day? No. And ironically, Wilson herself didn’t have that experience. She was confined to a wheelchair from the age of four, and a couple of photographs we have of her around the age of fifty show an unsmiling woman who seems well aware of the heavy burdens of life. Did she smile sometimes? Reportedly she certainly did. But it’s that “all” that does not fit life’s experiences, for Christians as well as non-Christians. It’s an oversell. Slightly better might be:

Singing on the way,
Happy day by day.

Even Christ Himself wasn’t happy all the time (Isa. 53:3; Mk. 3:5; 14:33; Lk. 19:41; Jn. 11:35). But through life’s journey the believer has access to the throne of God, through Christ, where we can “obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb. 4:14-16).

1) What is your own view of happiness, and whether any unhappiness in a Christian’s life is somehow a sin, or shows we are out of step with the Lord?

2) Can you think of other hymns or choruses that seem to misrepresent the Christian life in this way?

Wordwise Hymns (Joseph Lincoln Hall)
The Cyber Hymnal


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