From Olney Hymans, Light Shining Out of Darkness, William Cowper
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.
It does seem, sometimes, that the world is an unstable place, that there are storms of all different kinds, and we can become so anxious about the future. Living with the ongoing adaptations in the COVID battle, the economic and political uncertainties, other health concerns, hearing of marriages that crumble under stress, can take a toll on our frame of mind. Our children have had to learn to live with disappointment as plans necessarily have to be fluid in their schooling.
My tendency is to look at the challenges ahead to calculate the costs, forgetting to consider the positive side of a ledger. Though they aren’t necessarily momentous, they add up just the same. There are the small delights: a friend’s welcoming smile, just going out to shop, a book that surprises you with a fresh insight, the irrepressible joy in laughter, beauty as the leaves begin to tinge with the fall colours, the fields strewn with pumpkins. Sometimes I think that when we get to heaven, God will ask us if we noticed all the beauty He placed along our way: the crimson of that beautiful flower, the swoop of that murmuration of birds against the deep blue sky, the sparkling stars in the night heavens. And we will be ashamed of our blindness to His provision.
Fear tends to give us tunnel vision, and it is why it is so important to trust that God’s heart is continually loving us in this way. In 2 Thessalonians 2, Paul blesses his audience with this prayer: “May Jesus himself and God our Father, who reached out in love, and surprised you with gifts of unending help and confidence, put a fresh heart in you, invigorate your work, enliven your speech.” (The Message). Paul’s God is an interactive God, continually gifting day to day life, preparing the way with little thoughtful surprises and encouragement, leaving the light shining for you so that you can beware of danger and find your way home, bringing people and circumstances into your life for learning and growth, breathing fresh vitality into your everyday activities.
It’s the little epiphanies, the shimmering of something transcendent that can bring us hope and joy, give us glimpses of the God who is ever-present and Master of even the darkest storm. What, then, would we ever need to fear?
Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take,
The clouds you so much dread
Are big with mercy, and shall break
In blessings on your head.