“William Cowper, whose poems appear in most collections of great English literature, was beset with emotional problems throughout his life. His mother died when he was six, at school he was teased and ridiculed, and his father prevented him from marrying the girl he loved. Forced to study law, he panicked when he learned he would have his bar exam before the House of Lords–and tried to commit suicide. After a year in an insane asylum, he was released into the care of a Christian couple. It seemed that hymnwriting was the best therapy Cowper could get. But mental illness continued to plague the poet, and he frequently lapsed into deep depression. You can almost see his self-portrait [below] in the ‘fearful saints’ who need to take ‘fresh courage’ in the future blessings of God. Intellectually he knew the truth of these lines, but emotionally he was still trying to grasp it.” William and Randy Peterson
“God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform;
He plants His footsteps in the sea
And rides upon the storm.
“Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take;
The clouds ye so much dread
Are big with mercy and shall 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.
“His 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.”
“Let nothing disturb you. Let nothing frighten you,
All things are passing away. God never changes.
Patience obtains all things. Whoever has God lacks nothing;
God alone suffices.”
— St. Teresa of Avila, from her bookmark
“Let all that I am wait quietly before God,
for my hope is in him.
He alone is my rock and my salvation,
my fortress where I will not be shaken.”
Moving From Head to Heart
- Both Cowper and Teresa are “talking to themselves”–like the psalmist. Do you talk to yourself? What do you say?
- “Intellectually [Cowper] knew the truth of these lines, but emotionally he was still trying to grasp it.” Isn’t that often our experience as well? And what would you say was the truth of those lines?
- The story refuses a typical happy ending. Cowper still suffered. He still struggled. Is there space in your view of the life of faith for that? …for people like that? …for yourself, when you’re like that?
Abba, thank you for the therapy of music.
For More: The One Year Book of Hymns, edited by Brown and Norton
Thanks for reading/sharing my blog! – Bill (Psalm 90:14)