I was in the car yesterday when the old hymn “Great is Thy Faithfulness” came on the radio. Tears came to my eyes as I listened. Just a few days before, our friend Mark had come over for a “Sing-Along-with-Robbie.” Mark has a special love for Robbie (and the feeling is returned in abundance by Rob!) and has made it his ministry to bring his guitar over every week or two to sing and play for Robbie. We all enjoy this special time—Robbie, because he loves music and he understands Mark is doing this just for him, and Bob and I, because we love seeing our boy so happy and enjoy watching him as we all sing together.
Mark, bless his heart, had been eagerly looking forward for weeks to bringing a notebook of Scripture songs over to sing for Robbie, but it was in southern Indiana. He finally was able to get ahold of it and could hardly wait to dig into it and sing these special songs for Rob. He sang a few and then we noticed a change come over Robbie’s face. We can read it like a book. He was definitely letting us know, “Enough! I don’t know these songs! Where is that hymn book? Let’s get on with my favorite hymns!” Little pickle! Bless his little pea-pickin’ heart!
I felt bad for Mark, but he just laughed and switched over to the hymn book. We sang some of Robbie’s favorites and finally came to “How Great Thou Art”…”Great is Thy Faithfulness”…”Blessed Assurance.” The mood changed somehow with those beautiful old hymns and it wasn’t about Robbie anymore. It was all about Him—our Lord and Savior. My eyes were filled with tears as we worshipped and praised our God. Even Robbie sensed it as he tried to sing with us.
Yesterday as I listened to “Great is Thy Faithfulness” on the radio, I wept as I remembered our sing-along—the preciousness of the words of those hymns; Robbie’s joy at those particular songs; the blessed time of fellowship we had. I had no idea that as I tearfully listened and thought about these things, Mark’s mother was passing into Glory.
She had been slipping away for years from Alzheimer’s. The family knew the end was very near as they watched over her in hospice, and yet they were comforted in the fact that right up to the end she was peaceful and happy. Her favorite hymn was “Blessed Assurance.” Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine! Oh, what a foretaste of glory divine! What a comfort those words must be now!
When I received Mark’s e-mail last night telling of his mother’s passing away I thought of that time in the car earlier in the day. The words of “Great Is Thy Faithfulness” came back to me.
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,
Thine own great presence to cheer and to guide;
Strength for today, and bright hope for tomorrow
Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside.
The lyrics refer to Lamentations 3:22-23, ““It is of the Lord‘s mercies that we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is Thy faithfulness.” The author of the hymn was Thomas O. Chisholm. He wrote the poem in 1923 after seeing God’s faithfulness in his own life. Born in a log cabin in Kentucky in 1866, he suffered ill health throughout most of his lifetime—although he lived well into his 90’s! He never made much money, either, but despite his lack of health or wealth, he was overcome with gratitude at God’s faithfulness to him. In his own words, “…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.” Thomas Chisholm wrote almost 1200 poems in his lifetime, including several that were published as hymns.
I know Mark and his family have felt the presence and faithfulness of God throughout this time of watching their mother decline. It is such a blessing to know, though, that it is not only during the most difficult times of our lives that we feel God’s watchcare over us, but through each ordinary day we see and feel His faithfulness, as well. The Scripture says, “…His compassions fail not. They are new every morning…” Each day when I wake up, I know the Lord is with me, walking beside me, providing, protecting, guiding… God is faithful to His children day in and day out. Think of it—His mercies and compassion have been new with every single dawn throughout history! Great is His faithfulness!