In the Name of the Father, and of the (+) Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Psalm 55:22 – Cast your burden on the LORD, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved.
“If Thou But Trust in God to Guide Thee” - LSB 750
The video above has a beautiful rendition of this hymn.
There are some who believe that once a person becomes a Christian, all problems disappear. Holy Scripture paints a much different picture. Often, it records that those called by God endured tremendous suffering. Through their trials the patriarchs, prophets, apostles and others clung to the promises of God, knowing that He would deliver them eternally. As we cling to God’s promises in Christ, we too receive strength, protection and comfort. Jesus sanctified our suffering by entering into it when He took on our flesh. Now He uses it to draw us closer to Himself.
The writer of this hymn, Georg Neumark (1621–81), had gone through an extremely difficult time in his life. Not only was the bloody Thirty Years’ War in progress (1618–48), but he had personally lost everything. Nomadically walking the country with an uncertain and bleak future, he was rescued when the Lord brought Pastor Nicholas Becker into his life. Pastor Becker, who learned of his desperation, was able to arrange for Neumark to become a tutor for a local magistrate’s family in Kiel, Germany. This provided Neumark with stability and gainful employment. It was at this time that Neumark composed this hymn.
This hymn is truly a hymn of great hope and encouragement. The first stanza addresses the singer with a pastoral voice, encouraging him to place his hope in the Lord and His will. “He’ll give thee strength, whate’er betide thee, / And bear thee through the evil days.”
If thou but suffer God to guide thee
And hope in Him through all thy ways,
He'll give thee strength, whate'er betide thee,
And bear thee through the evil days.
Who trusts in God's unchanging love
Builds on the Rock that naught can move.
Stanza 2 speaks of the enormity and futility of earthly suffering. Our “never-ceasing moans and sighs” are evidence of the grave struggle that we endure, birthed by sin. Near its end, the stanza speaks of our “cross and trials.” In Christian theology, a “cross” is different from generalized suffering caused by sin.
What can these anxious cares avail thee,
These never-ceasing moans and sighs?
What can it help if thou bewail thee
O'er each dark moment as it flies?
Our cross and trials do but press
The heavier for our bitterness.
Stanza 3 encourages us to be “patient,” for “our inmost wants are known / To Him who chose us for His own.”
Be patient and await His leisure
In cheerful hope, with heart content
To take whate'er thy Father's pleasure
And His discerning love hath sent,
Nor doubt our inmost wants are known
To Him who chose us for His own.
Stanza 4 shows that the Lord brings gladness and allows for sadness in our lives:
God knows full well when times of gladness
Shall be the needful thing for thee.
When He has tried thy soul with sadness
And from all guile has found thee free,
He comes to thee all unaware
And makes thee own His loving care.
Stanza 5 shows us that our suffering can be great, using the words “fiery trial” to describe it. Read 1 Peter 4:12–16:
Nor think amid the fiery trial
That God hath cast thee off unheard,
That he whose hopes meet no denial
Must surely be of God preferred.
Time passes and much change doth bring
And sets a bound to everything.
Ponder the words of stanza 6 and ponder Mary’s words as she sings the Magnificat in the presence of Elizabeth (Luke 1:46–55):
All are alike before the Highest;
'Tis easy to our God, we know,
To raise thee up, though low thou liest,
To make the rich man poor and low.
True wonders still by Him are wrought
Who setteth up and brings to naught.
Sing, pray, and keep His ways unswerving,
Perform thy duties faithfully,
And trust His Word, though undeserving,
Thou yet shalt find it true for thee.
God never yet forsook in need
The soul that trusted Him indeed.
Let us pray.
Almighty and most merciful God, in this earthly life we endure sufferings and death before we enter into eternal glory. Grant us grace at all times to subject ourselves to Your holy will and to continue steadfast in the true faith to the end of our lives that we may know the peace and joy of the blessed hope of the resurrection of the dead and of the glory of the world to come; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen
*John G. Fleischmann
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