God Moves in Mysterious Ways

This past Sunday I taught through the third chapter of Lamentations, in which four beautiful verses are nestled among five bleak poems of personal (and national) grief. The prophet Jeremiah had written:

This I recall to my mind, therefore I have hope.
The Lord’s lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, for His compassions never fail.
They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.
“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I have hope in Him.” (vv. 21-24)

Often in this book, the lament is that all is lost. Speaking of Jerusalem he writes:

Her gates have sunk into the ground,
He has destroyed and broken her bars.
Her king and her princes are among the nations;
The law is no more.
Also, her prophets find no vision from the Lord. (2:9)

The “weeping prophet” is saying, “The gates are gone, the king is gone, the law is gone, and the prophets have nothing really good to say anymore. There is no worship, no leader, no temple, no nothing!” But what is most startling and shocking—is to see that God is behind all of it.

“Is it nothing to all you who pass this way?
Look and see if there is any pain like my pain.
Which was severely dealt out to me,
Which the LORD inflicted on the day of His fierce anger. (1:12, emphasis mine)

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These texts in Lamentations had reminded me of a beautiful hymn written by William Cowper (1731-1800) entitled “God Moves in Mysterious Ways.” Cowper was a man who wrestled with much “unfathomable” grief throughout his life. It began at the age of six, when he lost his mother. His father, whom he did not have a healthy relationship with, was left to raise him alone.

Cowper would attempt to be loosed from the grips of deep depression—four times—including failed suicide attempts. But God would simply not let him go. No. He was working in this man’s life; saving William at the age of 33 while he was staying in the St. Albans Insane Asylum. Really.

God moves in a mysterious way, His wonders to perform;
He plants His footsteps in the sea, and rides upon the storm.

It is no wonder that the Cowper wrote of God’s footsteps being in the sea and not upon a sandy shore. Why? Because you cannot see them in the sea. In the sand, yes, but not the sea. There’s just no way to know where God is going. We are unable to see where His next step will be. That is why the fourth verse reads “Judge not the Lord by feeble sense, but trust Him for His grace.”

For those who are dealing with difficult times this Thanksgiving, remember that God moves in mysterious ways. His Word says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding… Do not be wise in your own eyes,” (Proverbs 3:5, 7). “Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways!” (Romans 11:33).

Edwin Paxton Hood (an English Puritan) once stated, “Providence is a soft pillow for anxious heads.” Oh, how true! May you find peace, hope, and rest on the other side of the trial. May your faith in the lovingkindnesses of God be strengthened and sustained by this hymn.1

Press play to give it a listen and follow along with the words below.

VERSE 1:
God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform;
He plants His footsteps in the sea
And rides upon the storm.

VERSE 2:
Deep in unfathomable mines
Of never failing skill
He treasures up His bright designs
And works His sovereign will.

REFRAIN:
God of mercy! God of grace! Give us eyes to see!
Eyes to see Your smiling face within the mystery, within the mystery.

VERSE 3:
Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take;
The clouds ye so much dread
Are big with mercy and shall break
In blessings on your head.

VERSE 4:
Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
But trust Him for His grace;
Behind a frowning providence
He hides a smiling face.

REFRAIN:
God of mercy! God of grace! Give us eyes to see!
Eyes to see Your smiling face within the mystery, within the mystery.

VERSE 5:
His purposes will ripen fast,
Unfolding every hour;
The bud may have a bitter taste,
But sweet will be the flower.

VERSE 6:
Blind unbelief is sure to err
And scan His work in vain;
God is His own interpreter,
And He will make it plain.

REFRAIN:
God of mercy! God of grace! Give us eyes to see!
Eyes to see Your smiling face within the mystery, within the mystery.


SOURCE:
1 Hymns of Grace (Los Angeles: The Master’s Seminary Press, 2016). 88.