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  • Writer's pictureDr. Roger D Duke

GOD'S SOVEREIGN PROVIDENCE: “God Moves in a Mysterious Way”

By William Cowper

(Pronounced “Cooper”)

William Cowper’s poems are published in many collections of great English literature. He was endowed with an extremely melancholy personality that dogged him most of his life. His mother died when he was only 6 years old. He had a bad school experience through teasing and ridicule. His father did not allow him to marry the love of his life. He was forced to study for the Bar, which panicked him. He tried to commit suicide and later spent a year in an insane asylum.

Hymn writing was the one great therapy for him. Mental illness followed “him all the days of his life.” All his life he lapsed into deep valleys of depression. “You can almost see his self-portrait in the ‘fearful saints’ who need to take ‘fresh courage’ in the future blessings of God.” He knew the truth of the hymn in mind. But in heart and experience and emotion he always seemed to grasp for the security of it.[1]

Words of the hymn:

God moves in a mysterious way His wonders to perform; He plants His footsteps in the sea And rides upon the storm.

Deep in unfathomable mines Of never-failing skill He treasures up His bright designs And works His sovereign will.

Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take; The clouds ye so much dread Are big with mercy and shall break In blessings on your head.

Judge not the Lord by feeble sense, But trust Him for His grace; Behind a frowning providence He hides a smiling face.

His purposes will ripen fast, Unfolding every hour; The bud may have a bitter taste, But sweet will be the flower

Blind unbelief is sure to err And scan His work in vain; God is His own interpreter, And He will make it plain.

[1] Robert K. Brown and Mark R. Norton, eds., “God Moves in a Mysterious Way” in The One Year Book of Hymns: 365 Devotional Readings Based on Great Hymns of the Faith (Wheaton: Tyndale Publishers, 1995), January 22. Edited for this venue by Dr. Roger D Duke.

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