In stressful times we tend to look for comfort in the familiar. A book we love, a film that never ceases to bring a smile to our faces, a tried and tested recipe that we know we will enjoy. Sometimes I find myself humming hymn tunes I knew as a child. One in particular resonates at this harvest time.
The much-loved hymn that springs to my mind is “Great is thy Faithfulness”. Let’s start by thinking about the middle verse.
Summer and winter, and springtime and harvest,
Sun, moon and stars in their courses above,
Join with all nature in manifold witness
To Thy great faithfulness, mercy and love.
In times when we never quite know what tomorrow might bring, when we feel on shifting sands, unable to make plans, wondering when we see those who we love face to face again, we feel the need of something solid to ground us. We can take comfort in creation. We find its beauty, its peace and the sense of connection it brings a balm to the soul. But more than that we can remember its predictability. The spring will follow the winter, the stars will continue on the courses they have been travelling for unimaginable ages. Each dawn and every nightfall is a sign of the constancy of God. His hand is there in creation, with its patterns and rhythms. The hymn invites us to join with all nature and praise God for his faithfulness, mercy and love.
“Great is Thy faithfulness,” O God my Father,
There is no shadow of turning with Thee;
Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not
As Thou hast been Thou forever wilt be.
The first verse speaks of the constancy of God, his love for us and the way he never deviates from his purpose of bringing us closer to him. Sometimes that is hard to believe, when the days are dark, when we feel battered, bruised and exhausted, and we have simply had enough. It seems that God has forgotten us, but it is not so. From our tiny perspective of our own lives, at this present moment, things may seem grim. But these are just the dark threads in the tapestry of human existence. We cannot comprehend the eternal purposes of God but we know that he was with us in our mother’s womb, he will be with us when we die and he is with us now.
Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth,
Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide;
Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow,
Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside!
The offer is of peace, a lasting peace that is not dependent on what happens to us today or tomorrow. God offers not just his forgiveness, mercy and compassion, but his actual presence. With him beside us we can relinquish our attempts to stay in control, our anxieties for ourselves and others, our frustrations and our anger. We can allow ourselves to be simply loved and held, children in the arms of a loving parent. And when we need to think once again about the future, he is there to give us hope. Sometimes all we can manage is a flickering candle flame, sometimes we can genuinely call our hope bright. But we know that his faithfulness is always far greater than our wavering and doubts.
If you, like me, find yourself humming the tune then stop for a moment and let the words sink in. Great is his faithfulness, indeed.