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.