Hymns We Should Sing More Often: “God Moves”

“God Moves in A Mysterious Way” encourages us to trust in God’s sovereignty in our lives, to cling to Christ in all our trials and sufferings

Cowper wrote “God Moves in a Mysterious Way” in 1773 before he fell into a deep depression. In the mysterious providence of God this hymn has brought comfort and hope to countless believers who, like Cowper, struggle through the long dark night of the soul.

 

This is part of an intermittent series I’ve called “Hymns We Should Sing More Often.” The aim is to remind us (or introduce for the first time) excellent hymns that are probably not included in most church’s musical canon. A few hymns–like Holy, Holy, Holy or Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing—are familiar to many congregations and get sung in conferences and other large gatherings. Unfortunately, for a growing number of churches, there are no hymnals in the pews (or on the chairs), and consequently there is little opportunity to draw from the deep well of Christian hymnody. Most of the hymns in this series are not unfamiliar, just underutilized. I hope you will enjoy learning about these hymns as much as I have and enjoy singing them even more.

**********

Psalm 88 is surely the gloomiest of all the psalms of lament and a fitting description of poet and hymn writer William Cowper’s life (1731-1800). Verse 15 says, “Afflicted and close to death from my youth up, I suffer your terrors; I am helpless.” This verse describes much of his experience, even as a Christian. Cowper is regarded as one of the best early Romantic English poets and also wrote some of the best English hymn texts, often in collaboration with his friend and mentor John Newton. But despite his literary success and friendship with one of the most warm-hearted pastors in church history, Cowper struggled with severe depression most of his adult life. Despite a powerful conversion he never enjoyed a continuous assurance of salvation and often struggled with thinking himself under God’s wrath. His life is a testimony to God’s sustaining grace and willingness to use weak vessels to glorify himself and bless others.

Cowper wrote “God Moves in a Mysterious Way” in 1773 before he fell into a deep depression. In the mysterious providence of God this hymn has brought comfort and hope to countless believers who, like Cowper, struggle through the long dark night of the soul. In this way Cowper fulfills what Paul said in 2 Corinthians 4:12, “So death is at work in us, but life in you.” The hymn lyrics remind us that God’s ways are not our ways and that things are often not the way they seem. He often works most powerfully in apparent weakness, those who may feel abandoned by God may in fact be beloved children, and there are wise and loving purposes in the suffering he ordains for his people. As Cowper writes,

His purposes will ripen fast, unfolding every hour.
The bud may have a bitter taste, but sweet will be the flower.

I am highlighting Bob Kauflin’s arrangement of Cowper’s hymn. Bob, director for worship at Sovereign Grace Ministries, wrote new music and added a refrain after the tsunami disaster in 2005. He wanted to proclaim the truth of God’s sovereignty in the midst of catastrophes and help the church to respond in faith. May Cowper’s life and this hymn encourage you to trust in God’s sovereignty in your life and to cling to Christ in all your trials and sufferings.

VERSE 1
God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform
He plants His footsteps in the sea
And rides upon the storm
Deep in His dark and hidden mines
With never-failing skill
He fashions all His bright designs
And works His sovereign will

CHORUS 1
So God we trust in You
O God we trust in You

VERSE 2
O fearful saints new courage take
The clouds that you now dread
Are big with mercy and will 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

CHORUS 2
So God we trust in You
O God we trust in You
When tears are great
And comforts few
We hope in mercies ever new
We trust in You

VERSE 3
God’s 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

Kevin DeYoung has been the Senior Pastor at University Reformed Church in East Lansing, Michigan since 2004. Kevin blogs at the Gospel Coalition. This article is reprinted with his permission.