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God Moves in a Mysterious Way

Updated on May 30, 2013

William Cowper, a man riddled with bouts of insanity until being overtaken by it, also happens to be the author of the hymn, “God Moves in a Mysterious Way”. It is in the moving and most beautiful lyrics of this heart born poem that one is reminded of both the struggles of man and the sovereignty of God. Such a paradox is certainly beyond the reach of faithless minds. How can it be that divine sovereignty and human struggles could be so interwoven with one another? Only in the realm of faith can this be understood as reality, for without faith one is left merely to look at the damage of the storm rather than the giver of rain.

Yet in the eyes of faith, one is quite capable of seeing the purpose in the pain and the sweetness in the struggle. This is not to imply that “everything will be okay” in the cliché like language of modern man, but rather to imply that He is In fact both good and glorious and that no circumstance will enter your life without first passing through His nail scarred hands. In fact, Cowper’s life was one of much heartache and pain and the concluding chapters of his life, according to many, was far from encouraging.

Consider the following words from one author,” In John Bunyan’s classic allegory, The Pilgrim’s Progress, the hero Christian, on his way to the heavenly city, was taken into a very dark room where there sat a man in an iron cage. The iron cage, Christian learned, is despair, and the man, once a professing Christian, had become convinced that he faced the fiery judgment of God. He believed that he had committed the unforgivable sin. The life of William Cowper, one of the great hymn writers of the evangelical revival in the eighteenth century, provides another illustration. He wrote words like these:

There is a fountain filled with blood,

Drawn from Immanuel’s veins,

And sinners plunged beneath that flood

Lose all their guilty stains.

Yet Cowper was so overcome with depression that he tried to kill himself. He became so convinced that he had committed an unpardonable sin that he stopped attending church for the rest of his life [1]

The average Christ follower may never struggle with fear of having committed the “unpardonable sin” however, all go through periods of time in which we seem to faithlessly forget the great truths which in times past were as water to a dry and parched soul. The memory, like the sandy beach, has a way of capturing the most astonishing beauty and at once falling subject to the washing away of that beauty overnight. It is no wonder that Israel was instructed time and again to erect reminders of overcoming victory. For sure, the Lord knows our struggle to hold tightly to His treasures of comfort when the entire world seems to be a marketplace of trade for the tired and troubled. The disease of short sighted faithlessness runs deep and seems to be contracted most often when walls close in, clouds grow dark, and roads get narrow. If we could only see that the walls were for our protection, the clouds were signs of rain and the road; though narrow it may be, is one that leads to the City of God. Whatever the trouble, whatever the confusion, whatever the difficulty, whatever the pain, whatever the mystery, whatever the seemingly hopeless situation may be, let us hold tightly to a simple confession of faith; namely, He is God and I am not. When moments of life seem to offer reason for doubt, let us remember that although His ways may be mysterious they are never mistaken.

Warren Wiersbe said it quite well, "We can never really understand what is going on "in time" unless we know what happened "before the world was." As Dr. A. T. Pierson used to say, "History is His story." A modern novelist has affirmed that "everything is accident," but the Christian knows better. Everything is appointment. If you and I did not believe that God was on His throne, working out His perfect will, we would sink in the storms of life.

William Cowper expressed it perfectly

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.

Wiersbe continues, "Modern self-made man with his egotistical emphasis on "do-it-my-way-living" wants nothing to do with a sovereign God. To be sure, the sovereignty of God in no way eliminates human responsibility or man’s moral freedom; but it does mean that God rules, and when He is not permitted to rule, that He overrules. [2]

May we be eternally comforted by the immovable fact that although God moves in mysterious ways, He never moves in a manner to bring gratuitous pain to His children. On the contrary, His movement will always be in accordance with His flawless character and will always be a means to accomplish your good and His glory!

[1]Emmaus Bible College. (2004; 2005). Emmaus Journal Volume 13 (vnp.13.2.181-13.2.182). Emmaus Bible College.

[2]Wiersbe, W. W. (1988). Prayer : Basic training. Wheaton, IL: Tyndale.

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