1 Thessalonians 5:18 admonishes us to “give thanks in all circumstances.” Sometimes that is easy to do, sometimes not so easy. In the last few days I have found comfort in two places: great music and good theology. By “great music” I am not referring to a style or to a particular period but rather to music that contains a solid message based on truth. When the heart is sorrowing, mere sentiment will not help us. If music is the language of the soul, then music based on truth ministers to us at a level deeper than words. I have found myself singing “A Mighty Fortress is Our God” and “Crown Him with Many Crowns.” And while riding my bike I have sung to myself “What can wash away my sin? Nothing but the blood of Jesus.” A hymn written in 1864 by William Walsham How called “For All the Saints” has been a particular encouragement to me, especially this verse: O blest communion, fellowship divine!
We feebly struggle, they in glory shine;
Yet all are one in Thee, for all are Thine.
A few days ago a friend e-mailed me some lyrics written by English pastor Richard Baxter in 1681. They were new to me and a balm to my soul:
Lord, it belongs not to my care whether I die or live,
To love and serve thee is my share, and this thy grace must give.
If life be long, I will be glad that I may long obey:
If short, yet why should I be sad to soar to endless day?
Christ leads us through no darker rooms than he went through before,
He that unto God’s kingdom comes must enter by this door.
Come Lord, when grace has made me meet, thy blessed face to see;
For if thy work on earth be sweet, what will thy glory be!
My knowledge of that life is small, the eye of faith is dim;
But ’tis enough that Christ knows all, and I shall be with Him!
I have also found comfort in good theology, especially the truth of the sovereignty of God. I have been brought back again and again to the First Rule of the Spiritual Life: He’s God and we’re not. Psalm 115:3 reminds us that “Our God is in heaven; he does whatever pleases him.” Some people don’t want a God who does as he pleases. But I rejoice in a God so great that he does what he deems best, and he does it without asking for advice and without feeling the need to explain himself.
There are many mysteries in the universe and many unanswered questions. But back of them all stands God who “watches o’er his own.” He makes no mistakes, and in that confidence we can give thanks in all circumstances.