A Hard Hymn for Hard Times


A hymn I really love is “If thou but suffer God to guide thee” by Georg Neumark (1621-1681). I first learned of this hymn in my early 20’s, when I was facing personally challenging times. I often sing it during my morning prayers, especially on days when I want to encourage my heart to trust in the Lord.

Unfortunately, this hymn is hard to sing. The lyrics (in its English translation) are not easy to understand and the tune (in my opinion) is not very catchy. Nevertheless, it is one of my favorite hymns and worth the effort to learn.

Below are the lyrics to the hymn (in bold face) and then re-stated in explanatory language (in italics) by a pastor named Ligon Duncan.

If thou but suffer God to guide thee                         

If you will only trust God to guide you

And hope in Him through all thy ways,                  

and hope in Him in every circumstance

He’ll give thee strength, whate’er betide thee,     

He’ll give you strength no matter what happens

And bear thee through the evil days.                       

And he’ll carry you through bad and difficult times

Who trust in God’s unchanging love                        

The person who trusts in God’s unchanging love

Builds on the rock that naught can move.              

Builds on the one Rock (foundation) that no one can move.


What can these anxious cares avail thee                

What good can your anxiety and worry do?

These never ceasing moans and sighs?                   

What good is constant moaning and sighing?

What can it help if thou bewail thee                         

What help is it if you simply regret your situation?

O’er each dark moment as it flies?                            

Or bemoan every hard thing that comes along?

Our cross and trials do but press                               

Our crosses and trials (hard providences) only get

The heavier for our bitterness.                                     

heavier if we are just bitter about them


Only be still and wait His leisure                                

Be patient and await his timing

In cheerful hope, with heart content                        

in cheerful hope, with a contented heart

To take whate’er thy Father’s pleasure                   

to take (1) whatever your Father pleases to do

And His discerning love hath sent,                            

and (2) whatever his wise love has sent you

Nor doubt our inmost want are known                    

and (3) not to doubt your deepest needs are known

To Him who chose us for His own.                            

To the God who chose us for his own


All are alike before the Highest:                                

Indeed everyone is alike before the Most High God

’Tis easy to our God, We know,                                   

We all know that it is easy for our God

To raise thee up, though low thou liest,                   

to raise up those who lie low

To make the rich man poor and low.                        

To bring down the rich man to poverty and lowliness

True wonders still by Him are wrought                  

God still works true wonders

Who setteth up and brings to naught.                     

He sets up and brings to nothing.


Sing, pray, and keep His ways unswerving,          

Sing, pray and keep God’s ways with deviating

so do thine own part faithfully,                                  

Do your duties faithfully

And trust His Word: though undeserving,            

Trust God’s word, and though you are undeserving

Thou yet shalt find it true for thee.                           

You will find God’s word (and promise) true for you.

God never yet forsook in need                                    

God has never ever forsaken in time of need

The soul that trusted Him indeed.                             

Anyone who truly trusted him.