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Church was wonderful last Sunday. We filled the pew to capacity when Katie and Austin brought the newborn twins and two-year-old Kyla and all the paraphernalia that accompanies young kids.
Most of the service I cuddled with 6 week old Korbin and Kastin filled Bill’s arms. Holding such precious gifts, we couldn’t open our hymnal for the music. I was so glad one of the selections was a hymn classic I knew from heart: Great is thy faithfulness.
I swayed rhythmically with the music with new life in my arms, eyes closed, singing my worship and praise, “Great is thy faithfulness.”
The song continue to envelope my week. I found myself humming as I sat at my computer. Though not a normal shower crooner, I repeated it in my morning routines.
The song cast new light onto my everyday chores. God’s love does that, doesn’t it? And what better way to live but focusing on God’s unfailing love for us. Fellow blogger Phil Malmstrom wrote similar words this week in his great blog (be sure to check it out). Phil wrote, “He believes in us.”
Knowing many of our hymns have wonderful stories I wondered how did this hymn come to us? Its story didn’t rise from tragedy or awful circumstances but from an ordinary life. It’s just the fruit of a faithful man with a simple faith in a faithful God. And one I discovered I could identify with as he was also a writer.
The Man Behind the Hymn
Thomas Obadiah Chisholm was born in a simple log cabin in 1866, in Franklin, Kentucky. He sometimes described himself as “just an old shoe.” At 21, he became the associate editor of his hometown weekly newspaper, The Franklin Favorite.
He was converted when he was 27, became a Methodist pastor at 36, but had to retire one year later due to poor health. He spent the majority of the rest of his life as a life insurance agent in New Jersey. He died in 1960 at the age of 93. During his life he wrote over 1200 poems, most of which no one will ever hear.
Chisholm’s health was unstable and employment was sporadic, but he wholeheartedly believed the promises in Scripture and clung particularly to Lamentations 3:22-23: “His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness.”
He lived an ordinary life, learning that each morning he would see the greatness of God. “Great is thy Faithfulness” expresses that belief and remains his most famous poem.
When Chisholm was 75, he wrote in a letter:
“My income has not been large at any time due to impaired health in the earlier years which has followed me on until now. Although I must not fail to record here the unfailing faithfulness of a covenant-keeping God and that He has given me many wonderful displays of His providing care, for which I am filled with astonishing gratefulness
Listen to Chris Rice sing this classic hymn
Great is thy faithfulness, O God my Father; there is no shadow of turning with thee; thou changest not, thy compassions, they fail not; as thou hast been thou forever wilt be.
Great is thy faithfulness! Great is thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see;
all I have needed thy hand hath provided.
Great is thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!
Summer and winter and springtime and harvest, sun, moon, and stars in their courses above join with all nature in manifold witness to thy great faithfulness, mercy, and love.
Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth, thy own dear presence to cheer and to guide, strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside!
“Blessing all mine with ten thousand beside” brought tears to my eyes as I gazed at my three little blessings surrounding me in church.
What is your favorite traditional hymn?